“And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15, ASV).
So, how do we look upon our possessions? Seems there are four areas of thought…
1. Prosperity Theology
The idea is that God wants you to have health and wealth. Passages are brought out (frequently out of context) to prove that we should not only have prosperity but should expect it. Some speak of the “name it and claim it” (“Blab it and grab it”) premise. This is tailor-made for our materialistic consumer culture. If we are not healthy and wealthy, it’s because our faith is deficient.
But, then, what of Luke 12:15 (above)? Prosperity theology’s weakness is it is the Gospel of Greed. True, there are passages that speak of prosperity, not all commend it.
2. Franciscan Ideals
This emphasizes Francis of Assisi’s passion for the poor, arguing that Christians ought to live more simply in order that others might simply live. It takes note of those who have little or not enough, asking what we as Christians should do? We are reminded that God abhors injustice – including economic injustice – and simply ignoring the poor is not an option.
The positive side of this is the motivation to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). But the poverty of the poor cannot be explained by the wealth of the wealthy. When America went into the last recession, folk lived more simply, the result was fewer products bought including those from underdeveloped countries, making things worse for them. In practice many become so involved in the social movement that the cross of Christ is replaced by the banner of economic justice.
The faults of capitalism are more generally found to be those of capitalists who abuse the system. Many have documented the problems to the point that they cannot see the positive aspects of the system. The problems generally lie in the tendency to blur the lines between Christ and capitalism. Often we tend to overlook what our response to the poor should be, settling for explanations for why the poor are poor, but doing little to relieve their suffering.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? “(James 2:13-16).
4. Scripture as Financial Advisor
Materials are available to assist with finances, budgets, and such things, but while helpful they often are little more than secular ideas jacked up with some Scriptures and Bible stories run under them.
How should we view our possessions? Like Solomon? “Vanity, Vanity all things are vanity.”(?) Or as gifts from God, to be shared?
In the movie, “Jersey Boys” they are arguing over whether or not to add a fourth member, when Frankie says, “If it works, there will be plenty to go around, if not, what’s the difference?”
What I have is a result of good and bad decisions, some mine, some those of others. If we view our possessions as gifts from God to be shared, there will be enough to go around. If we don’t, see Matthew 25 and the great judgment scene. Lord willing, we’ll explore this some more.