To read other parts of the series, go here.
In the first four parts of my God vs Wealth series, I’ve presented why I am convinced that Christians shouldn’t be rich. Now, I will discuss some counter arguments against that thesis.
1. There’s nothing wrong with being rich as long as you value God more than your money
This theory, which I’ve mentioned in some of the previous posts in this blog series, is basically saying that as long as your money doesn’t affect your relationship with God negatively, you can be as rich as you want. The problem is not owning money, the problem is if the money owns you. However, Jesus does not agree with this:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-21).
In other words, it’s wrong to argue that you can be rich as long as your money doesn’t hinder your relationship with God, because where your treasure is your heart will be also – you cannot have treasures on earth and your heart in Heaven! The word “treasure” is used in James 5 as well where wealth also is criticised. We have to get rid of it to attain full devotion to the Lord.
Furthermore, the poor needs our money independently how we believe that they affect our relationship with God. 200 million people are affected by natural disasters each year, one billion live in extreme poverty. If we have resources to change this, we have to do it.
2. There’s nothing wrong with being rich as long as you aren’t greedy
This theory is similar to the previous one. It argues that the amount of money is not important, what we should avoid is greed. And poor can be greedy and rich can be generous, according to this theory.
However, I argue that if the rich are truly generous, they won’t be rich for so much longer. Generosity shouldn’t be measured with what we give but with what we have left. Jesus spoke about this in Mark 12:41-44, when He stated that the poor widow who gave two copper coins gave more that the rich who gave large amounts of money. It’s not about how much you give, but how much percentage and how much you have left.
Furthermore, it is problematic to talk about poor greedy people. If you suffer from disease, malnutrition or oppression because of poverty, I wouldn’t say that you are greedy if you want to get rid of it. And even if you are greedy and only wants Jacuzzis and PlayStations for yourself, it won’t get consequences as long as you are poor. The poor cannot spend thousands on luxuries even if they would want to, but the rich can, and when they do so they neglect the humanitarian needs of the poor.
3. Rich people make investments and manage capital in a way that produces growth and benefits everyone.
This is a common counter argument against equality. The rich are seen as generally wise and smart people who know how to make the best out of the resources they have. Is is a popular argument outside the church as well, but among Christians the thesis is surprisingly often backed up by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. I say surprisingly, because I think it is really strange to believe that this parable has an economic message.
The parable says that a man went away giving portions of his money to his servants. All but one invested the money and gained profit. When their master comes back he rewards those who had gained profit, but he takes the talent from the guy who didn’t invest and kick him out “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30).
Now, if the parable had an economic meaning, that is if the money symbolized money, the message would be that people who don’t make profit go to hell. Salvation is then not achieved through grace and faith but through business. We could also in the same manner argue that the parable right before this one is telling us that all Christian virgins should have oil when Jesus comes back to enter Heaven.
This is of course ridiculous. Both the parable of the oil and the parable of the talents tells us that we should bear fruit for the Kingdom of God – spreading the Gospel, healing the sick, helping the poor and so on – and not hide our faith. It’s not about capitalist investments, it’s about spiritual gifts and virtues.
So Matthew 25 cannot be used as an argument for defending inequality. Furthermore, to say that a rich elite should have most of the money because they are smart is very undemocratic. The same argument could be used to defend authoritarian regimes if we apply it to power.
The poor didn’t choose inequality. They didn’t elect the white men that predominantly own most of the world’s wealth. The poor are wise and smart as well. To strive for global equality is the most fair, just and rational thing to do.
Here’s part 6.