Money and Politics

In the face of all the money being spent in politics, even by those who insist ours is, or at least was, a Christian or a "Judeo- Christian" nation, it might be instructive to review where the Bible stands on the question of wealth.

It seems that to begin with in the Old Testament, riches were seen as a blessing, a kind of nod of approval by God. In contrast, poverty was seen as a curse. Yet, later on in the Old Testament, especially under the influence of the Prophets and the Wisdom writers, a definite shift in thinking began to occur. In the Book of Proverbs, attributed to King Solomon -- reputedly the richest man in the world in his time -- we find the warning: "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath", that is, when Judgement Day comes, all the wealth in the world won't be worth a cent! Then further on in the same book we find this prayer: "Give me neither poverty nor riches: grant me only my share of food for fear that, surrounded by wealth, I should fall away and ask 'God -- who is God?'..." In other words, too much money is apt to bring arrogance.

The New Testament, especially the Gospels, continued in this vein. "Do not lay up for yourselves earthly treasures... You cannot serve both God and riches... Blessed are the poor..." (or at least "the poor in spirit") and "How hard it will be for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!" The Letter of St. James contains a scathing denunciation of rich Christians who would lord it over the poor. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the first converts sold whatever they owned and shared all things in common.

But even if that experiment didn't work out very well, Christian antiquity was no less suspicious of wealth. Preachers like St. John Chrysostom did not hesitate to warn their hearers that "The only riches you can take to heaven are those you have given away" or even to go so far as to say that "Whatever we have beyond what is necessary is stolen from the poor!"

Extreme? Perhaps. But in a world population that has now passed the six billion mark, a lot of these dire warnings begin to make even more sense. Indeed, it is because of our misuse of wealth and with it, the world's resources, that what we so casually call our "lifestyle" has become a moral issue of no little consequence. How much longer can the wealthy squander the lion's share of the world's resources or how much longer can the rich (including the rich nations) get richer while the poor get poorer, before the whole house of cards comes tumbling down?

If money is not exactly the root of all evil, still, the love of money -- and the special privileges and the political power that money can buy -- certainly goes a long way towards explaining what has corrupted what were once our biblical values and American way of life.

R W Kropf 10/31/2000                                          Money.doc   00-10-31.html