“There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy, but there is something wrong with making your wealth the most important thing in your life. Money is neither good nor evil, but the use to which it is put determines how it is perceived.”
Isaac Carter challenges Christians to re-evaluate their negative attitudes towards the rich; develop a deeper understanding of wealth, and explore ways to generate finances to help the world’s poor
Whilst telling a parable to His disciples, Jesus declares, “To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not, the little that he hath shall be taken away” (Mark 4:25). Whilst the complete understanding of this Scripture cannot be fully understood without reading the full text, the literal words spoken would seem to be unfolding before our very eyes in 2012.
For many people, the economic turmoil of the last few years seems to have borne out the above saying, that the rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer. Indeed, the recent Budget measures, which included reducing top rate tax for the rich whilst axing allowances for pensions, seem only to reaffirm the economic prejudice that many believe already exists.
Add to the above the inflated bonuses that bankers appear to be getting for nothing, and the fact that the wealthy appear to have been relatively untouched by the ongoing economic woes (high end property in Central London is still climbing by over £250,000 in value per annum), unemployment and poverty are actually rising in real terms, and it appears that, increasingly, we have a society divided along financial lines.
In this atmosphere, it is easy to lump all wealthy people together and label them as “greedy, selfish and lacking compassion for those less well off than themselves”, but is this necessarily true?
In the traditional church where I grew up, the Scripture, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) was preached with such ferocity and regularity that, after a while, it was unclear to me whether it was actually money, or the love of it, that was evil. As a consequence, I continued to believe – in total ignorance – that concerning myself with things like saving, investing and managing my money was somehow not something that a Christian should be preoccupied with. I say this only to suggest that I believe there is still a bit of this kind of thinking when we view wealth and the wealthy in the current economic climate. Are we really concerned about the disparity of wealth and the economically-deprived in our society, or are we just a tiny bit covetous that we are not as well off as those we criticise?
Some critics of the Church would say that there exists an equally stark division of wealth between different ministers and the laity in some mega-churches today. Furthermore, many churches are, quite rightly, encouraging their members to pursue wealth through education and investment. Are we therefore not guilty of being a bit hypocritical?
The reality is that many, not all, of the most successful and wealthy people in our society today got there because they were willing to work hard, take risks and make sacrifices that others were not prepared to do. Their wealth is their reward, and we cannot begrudge them that.
In a recent article, published in the Financial Times, the resigning head of the British Banking Association (Angela Knight) bemoaned the fact that the banks are an easy and big target to hit, and that everyone criticises them without looking at the contribution they make – maybe she has a point.
I think it is important that we don’t miss the bigger picture when looking at this issue. Jesus never actually criticised money or wealth per se in His teachings; He was more concerned about the relationship the individual had with it. When Jesus told the wealthy young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor in Matthew 19:21, He was not condemning wealth, but rather testing that young man to see whether his wealth meant more to him than a much more valuable relationship with the Son of God.
There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy, but there is something wrong with making your wealth the most important thing in your life. Money is neither good nor evil, but the use to which it is put determines how it is perceived. Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world, has set up a foundation for the elimination of certain diseases within the Third World. To fulfill this mission, he requires hundreds of millions of pounds, and so he is challenging all the multi-millionaires and billionaires in the USA to pledge funds to his foundation. Ask yourself how long would it take to achieve that goal if there were no wealthy people for Bill Gates to call upon?
In conclusion, I would say that we should all want to be rich and wealthy; not so that we can lead a Hollywood lifestyle, but so that we can help others less fortunate than ourselves to escape the trap of poverty. So you see, it doesn’t necessarily follow that THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET POORER!
Isaac Carter is the author of ‘Go To The Ant’ a guide to money management. Visit www.gototheant.co.uk for more details