This post is Part 5 of the Christians and Money Series. Suppose you have followed from post 1, congratulations on reading about 5500 words. It is a praiseworthy effort worthy of admiration.
The above visual illustrates “Where” and “How” of wealth and coping among Christians and non-Christians presented from post 1 to post 4. To frame the 4 posts into one sentence, Man has a RELATIONSHIP issue with God, within themselves and between men. Money is the battleground, the context where Man wages their wars. This war consumes most of their lifetime and energy with significant and, at times, irreparable collateral damage to the RELATIONSHIPS.
This post 5 examines both non-Christians and Christians’ current direction to address the wealth gap. This direction correlates with the internal and external factors that sustain the growing wealth gap. With this emerging understanding, the post will connect the direction’s shortfalls and these factors to the core issue of RELATIONSHIPS.
Finally, this post will account for the covid-19 pandemic as a relevant event and God’s RELATIONSHIPS models revealed in the new testament.
Mindful of the word limit, the personal applications that address the RELATIONSHIPS issue will be in post 6.
Humanity’s Challenge with Wealth
This post asserts that governments and religious groups’ primary strategies to combat wealth inequality are overwhelmed by the task’s enormity and the strategy’s innate flaws. This observation is not a statement of condemnation but to draw attention to the humanities’ helplessness. The statistics are grim and glaring in contrast. At the poverty end of the spectrum
- About 15,000 children (2016 data) below age 5 die daily from malnutrition.
- About 800 million hungry, and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency.
- About 785 million do not have basic clean water, with about 829,000 deaths annually due to health issues arising from this lack of clean water access.
One needs to bear in mind that these grim numbers have already benefited from China’s effort to lift most of her population from poverty. In comparison to the poverty-related data, globally, at the affluent end of the spectrum, about 600 million adults have diabetes. About 1.9 billion adults fall within the category of overweight and obese.
For the above data, see links- https://www.worldhunger.org/world-child-hunger-facts/#:~:text=In%20spite%20of%20the%20importance,%5BWHO%5D%2C%202016) and https://globalnutritionreport.org/reports/2020-global-nutrition-report/inequalities-global-burden-malnutrition/#section-2-2
Three aspects frame the effort by both governments and religious groups to fight poverty. There is the system, the process, and strategy. The system builds on the institutionalization approach. The process is fronted and executed by representatives of the impersonal bureaucratic institution where the decision-makers in these institutions and the aid recipients are strangers. These institutions can be governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, charitable organizations, and the like.
For the sake of efficiency and expediency, broad-brush policies dominate this landscape. They also share the associated coping strategies by kicking the can down the road and avoiding the problem head-on by varying degrees of compromises, denial, and indifference.
This post objective is not to cast a negative light on these institutions’ excellent and necessary work. They remain necessary. However, the statistics are symptomatic of more serious underlying issues than just a failed redistribution of resources from the wealthy to the poor.
This post posits that humanity needs an alternative system, process, and strategy that operates alongside these existing ones.
Internal and External Factor Sustaining this Growing Wealth Gap
Before delving into this alternative, it is needful to appreciate the underlying internal and external factors that perpetuate this wealth inequality.
Post 4 revealed this internal factor. This internal factor is the privilege of the wealthy that their wealth status is a sign of divine blessings, while the poor and their poverty status are a sign of divine chastisement-curse. From henceforth, this internal factor is called Bias. This Bias is an intrinsic value adopted by the wealthy and poor to legitimize the coping mechanisms of hypocrisy-condescension of the wealthy and self-victimization of the poor and reconcile their conscience.
Post 4 also mentioned this Bias emerges as a social behavior rather than verbalized. This social behavior creates gates to separate-insulate Man from the ugly and inconvenient realities. The social behavior of cliques and crowds make invisible gates formed along social-economic status lines, often in symphony with racial, cultural, and religious notes. These invisible gates blind the wealthy and poor from seeing beyond their immediate biased realities and the spectacle of their coping mechanisms.
Steinberg (2017) sheds light on cliques and crowds’ nature. Cliques are small groups between 2 to 12 bonded by a common interest, shared activities, and personal relationships. Jesus and His inner circle of the 12 apostles barely qualify as a clique by this definition. Clique dynamics drive the wealthy and poor to intragroup behavior and pull away from one another. It is noteworthy that the inclination to join a clique is more persistent over time than the tendency to join crowds.
Crowds are large groups that comprise groups of cliques that aggregate because of shared identity such as race, religion, culture, and social-economic status. The relationship is impersonal, and the crowd identity bonds people together.
The combined effect of cliques and crowds social behavior perpetuate, promote and sustain the Bias. Thus, the Bias may not be verbalized as often but lived out in the social behavior of clique relationships and crowd identity.
This Bias is a RELATIONSHIP problem with God-Man and Man-Man. There is a misalignment between God and Man. While Man’s conscience is under the spell of a self-inflicted enchantment (see post 4 for the 1st and 2nd Commandment discussion)
The external factor is the diminished human solidarity underpinned by the shared destiny that values interdependency fostering trust, compassion, and empathy. Man’s short life expectancy in the late 30s until the late 1800s sustained this shared sense of mortal destiny and healthy interdependency.
Instead, the current life expectancy of the 70s to 80s in 125 countries out of 185 created the rise of social solidarity underpinned by the individual’s desire for independence that is profit-seeking fostering mistrust and indifference. See link for the research that shows trust between man in decline – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/ctx.2005.4.1.40
See link for life expectancy by country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy#:~:text=Worldwide%2C%20the%20average%20life%20expectancy,according%20to%20The%20World%20Factbook
Social solidarity has eclipsed human solidarity, as seen in the following. A simple internet search would reveal these observations to be true.
- Deepening and multiplying forms of discrimination,
- The incursion of the rights of the few over the majority’s rights,
- The observed overall trend of rising divorce rate, rising crime rate, especially in the severe categories, and increasing domestic violence are evidence of the breakdown of human solidarity.
- Celebration, and even worship an individual’s obscene wealth.
Social solidarity and social comparison are bedfellows that have created a shift of Man’s wants to become Man’s needs. Recall in post 2; the social comparison is an engine of hedonic adaptation? Man’s needs traditionally are food, water, shelter, and air. However, now Man’s needs include personal liberties, internet connectivity, right to inheritance, and healthcare. Some wants that are morphing into needs may consist of online social approval, getting the latest gadgets, or fashion. These new needs are alien to God’s intention to free Man from the slavery of Mammon. Any goal to weaning Man from these newfound needs is a pipedream.
It is noteworthy that this Christian and Money series was never under the illusion of offering solutions to humanity’s problems. The conclusion section will cover this aspect in more detail.
Social solidarity is a problem between men related to the 2nd Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. It is a form of institutionalization of the human relationship creating a social caste system. It has a relationship, but this relationship is impersonal, indifferent, and profit-seeking.
God’s alternative seeks to address the above factors embedded within the institutionalized relationship system and restore broken relationships.
The recent global event has turned the world upside down or instead locked down the world. The current covid-19 pandemic has attacked the heart of social solidarity. The mantra of social distancing has thrown a wrench into the gear works of the unstoppable social solidarity. No one country could derail globalization at this scale and pace until this virus did the impossible. Border closures and airlines facing their extinction events are daily realities.
Due to the harsh economic fallout, humanity is suffering the double jeopardy of worry about their future and withdrawal symptoms of diminishing social solidarity. The lockdowns have hollowed out the once much desired social comparison experience and cast a giant shadow of mortality over the sparkling lure of wealth. Where are these observations and narrative headed? The conclusion section will elaborate on this.
God’s Alternative Offer
God’s alternative can only attend to the broken state of the 2nd Commandment. The 1st Commandment is more cut and dry. Man has to decide to value what God values or to pursue value framed by worry and lure of wealth. The 4th post listed the 7 appeals of God to Man to value what’s essential from His perspective. Failure to do so brings self-harm and face the risk of eternal consequences of not winning the faceoff against God.
God’s alternative offer seeks to reinstate the near-extinct human solidarity. Jesus offers three relationships that restore human solidarity, the Neighbour, Jesus’ Model, an Inn Keeper (Luke10:25-37). God recognizes that Man needs to draw boundaries between themselves to create a functioning society. God Himself defines His roles in both the new and old testament to creating these boundaries Himself. These boundaries give the form that stabilizes the relationships with each other.
Thus God is supplementing the impermeable barrier of social solidarity with a semi-permeable barrier of human solidarity. The use of the metaphor of form and substance is useful to support clarity. The social solidarity barrier is the form component of the relationship. This form provides the structural stability of boundaries. In comparison, human solidarity is the substance component of the relationship. The substance comprises of sincere dealings between parties. A relationship with all form is sterile and profit-seeking. A relationship with all substance is overwhelmed with emotions and starved of reason. Both are required for the relationship to flourish.
The organized institutions can and should continue to operate predominantly form-based while individuals engage primarily substance-based. Notably, whether it is the organized institutions or individuals, the goal is to get the appropriate proportion of form-substance commensurate with the context.
Incidentally, collectively the 3 relationships, the Neighbour, Jesus’ Model, and Inn Keeper, are described as the Wayside Ministry. It is a wayside because the relationship occurs within the chance meeting or encounters, by a lot of life, in the ordinary course of daily living along the wayside.
- The Neighbour
Luke10:36-37 provides the guideline to be a neighbor. The essential requirements are:
- The neighbor can find the person in need of help within his life circumstances.
- The neighbor offers help despite His rejected social status and to love another without expectation of reciprocation. His help offer is sincere (1Pet1:22).
- The neighbor is in a position (resources) to offer actionable mercy and kindness.
- The neighbor develops a committed patron-client relationship.
- Jesus as the Model
Jesus went about doing what His Father presented to Him (John5:19). Jesus developed the relationships on the go, in His daily dealings. The relationships usually honored the downcast and people rejected by society.
They were brief but meaningful relationships such as the Samaritan woman who had 6 male relationships at the well (John4), Zeccahues the Tax collector (Luke 19), His relationship with Nicodemus the Pharisee (John3), and the woman caught in adultery (John8).
The type of help rendered by Jesus’ model is occasional and circumstantial. There is no long term commitment. The support is sincere, and there is an open and respectful relationship between the patron and the client.
- The Inn Keeper
The Bible is scarce on details about the Inn Keeper. Luke10:25-37 offers the following.
- The Inn Keeper has presumably located his Inn along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. The Inn is situated deliberately to attract patronage.
- The Inn Keeper has a formal relationship with the Samaritan and injured Jew. The Samaritan is the patron who pays for the Jew’s stay in the Inn. The Jew has to abide by the terms of stay in the Inn where Inn Keeper cares for him. This formal relationship endures as long as the other two parties stand by their commitment.
- The Inn Keeper and the Inn have public visibility. A certain level of appearance upkeep is necessary to remain in business.
In practice, the Samaritan, Jesus’ model, and Inn Keeper roles do not exist in their pure forms. Post 10 dealing with the application will explore how these 3 roles are blended.
Table Comparing the Status Quo Against God’s Alternative
The above provides the comparison between God’s alternative that goes in tandem with Man’s status quo. God’s option restores the human solidarity aspect of Man’s relationship with each other; God is restoring Man’s humanity.
The failing RELATIONSHIPS is at the core of the wealth inequality issue. It may be within reason to claim that this is also at the heart of Man’s general challenges.
Christian faces double jeopardy when dealing with money compared to non-Christians.
Firstly Christians and non-Christians contend with the worry of the future, and the lure of wealth, which arouses Man’s lust and pride.
Christians also have to contend with their sense of entitlement that comes with salvation by grace, apart from works, that encourages them to behave morally worse than non-Christians. See post 3 for the scriptural evidence. A carnal Christian odd as it sounds, is the central struggle of Christianity today.
These challenges are insurmountable in and of themselves, whether for Christians or non-Christians. Christians live a life trusting Jesus’ salvation work to reconcile continually in their backslidings until death. The exact dynamics of this reconciliation process is complicated and exceeds the scope of this post.
In summary, the realizations emerging as the result of these 5 posts cannot abate the forces that sustain and expand this wealth gap. In-fact God has recognized this outcome and presented the bitter solution in Mat24:7 and Luke21:10-11. Jesus said these events need to occur before the appearance of His return to start the 1000 year rule.
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[fn] and earthquakes in various places.
Then He said to them, the nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
“And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
This solution is bitter to Man because it ushers in the age of acute mortality by war, hunger, plagues, and natural disasters. God has recognized that the gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit, since the death of Jesus can only go so far in its efficacy. Tragically only the ominous sentence of imminent death will shock Man out of His collective self-delusion of deification and Masters over their destiny.
Why may one ask the purpose of this Christian and Money Series since the bitter end appears inevitable? The next post will reveal the answer.
- Steinberg, L. D. (2017). Adolescence (11th). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.