Thursday, October 26, 2006

The problem with money

I think it's worth some time to talk a little about money and its place in our society. For all you liberal anti-capitalists out there, that's not where I'm going with this. Money is not bad. I will say again, MONEY IS NOT BAD. The problem with money is this, while we own money, money tends to own us. Its the same problem as with any other material thing with the exception that this material thing allows us to get other material things. I'm sure all Christians are saying right now "But what about the rich young man in Matthews gospel?" Well I would suggest that Jesus isn't condemning him because of his possesions but showing a point about materialism and how it can hurt.

The gospel reading is Matt 19:16-26

"[16] And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I
do, to have eternal life?" [17] And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about
what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the
commandments." [18] He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not
kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear
false witness, [19] Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your
neighbor as yourself." [20] The young man said to him, "All these I have
observed; what do I still lack?" [21] Jesus said to him, "If you would be
perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have
treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." [22] When the young man heard this he
went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. [23]
And Jesus said to
his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of heaven. [24] Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [25] When
the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be
saved?" [26] But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is
impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Notice that the rich man asks "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" and Jesus replies (please ignore the Yoda sounding translation) "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." Jesus tells him to keep the commandments hmmm... Next the young man tells him that "All these I have observed..."

Now what has Jesus required of this man for eternal life? Keep the commandments. Next the young man says "what do I still lack?" and Jesus replies "If you would be perfect (emphasis mine), go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Let's summarize this so far:
1) Jesus in this situation requires the keeping of the commandments for eternal life
2) The young man has done it, not worried about that anymore, so he wants to know what else he can do
3) Jesus says that to be perfect he should sell all he has

They key to enterpretting why this makes him perfect comes next- "When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful (again emphasis mine); for he had great possessions."
The key is that he couldn't give up what he had in order to reach perfection because of his attachment to it. Jesus asks for him to sacrifice his possesions because He knows how high he places them, above God.

With this in light consider the following: Is money the root of all evil, or is human imperfection (in this case the disordered attachment to material things) the root of all evil? We must conclude that it is our own disordered attachments. Material things, money included, are not inherently evil. They are things given by God for our use and enjoyment. They were given to us and we "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Gen 1:26)."

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel.We are disordered but God reached out in human form, Jesus, to give us his unbounded grace so that we might overome our disordered attachments through Him. Jesus, because of the stain of original sin says "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And we like the apostles ask "Who then can be saved?" Thank God that "Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Money certainly does not give meaning to our lives, but it is only a material thing and so neither does it remove meaning from our lives. I am not good with money, and I am too attached to material things. But this means that I have to look for the Light of the World in my darkness to save me.

"With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

1 comment:

Ash said...

I hate to sound like a Brady Bunch episode, but I never thought of it that way before. Nice analyzation.