This post is part 4 of the Christian and Money Series. Cultural, racial, religious, and social factors create a bias that stereotype people to explain their wealth or poverty statuses.
In Jesus’ times (Scott, 1990), two such biases stem from cultural, social, and religious factors. Poverty was viewed as “divine chastisement“ due to sin, while the “ambiguity of wealth” was a sign of divine blessings. When Jesus shared the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, it offended the rich of His day. The conclusion of the parable ran counter to the two biases. The poor beggar, Lazarus, had a reversal of eternal fortunes after his death while the rich man suffered in Hades.
These biases have held captive Man’s heart till today. I have heard accusations on specific groups of people that they deserved their poverty because of their cultural, racial, religious, and social disposition. They are poor for these reasons and deserve their lot.
Most people do not publically promote these private thoughts that dwell in their hearts. However, telltale signs betray these secrets found in Man’s social behavior. Post 5 will elaborate on the details of this social behavior. Suffice to mention, and for now, they are underpinned by hypocrisy’s coping mechanism in condescension forms, making light of the suffering poor. Conversely, the poor reciprocates by the coping mechanism of self-victimization mentality.
This 4th post in the series has two objectives. The first objective is to build the narrative to clarify man’s position and beliefs, using wealth as the context. This narrative is expansionary and inclusive of non- Christian’s beliefs and values. The second objective is to glean the new testament scriptures identifying God’s appeal to man concerning wealth.
Man and Money
Man has a conscience that is part of the soul. This conscience is man’s innate sense of right and wrong without formal instruction. Man’s conscience spans across the world’s belief systems. See link – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscience
Environmental factors such as cultural, social, and religious factors contribute to determining its unique expression forms, but the underlying elements are common. For example, man values loyalty, community spirit, self-sacrifice. Likewise, Man condemns betrayal, discord, and self-seeking behaviors.
See the following link for the above illustration – https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/01/09/trends-in-income-and-wealth-inequality/#:~:text=The%20wealth%20gap%20between%20upper,has%20grown%20wider%20this%20century.&text=From%201983%20to%202016%2C%20the,from%2032%25%20to%2017%25.
Why then does man’s treatment of wealth or money seem to violate the conscience’s rules to accept such objectionable outcomes? One may ask, where is the evidence of this claim in this question? Part 2 of the post shared proof of the glaring wealth gap between the rich and poor. This wealth gap is only growing wider. The above illustration takes the USA data are emblematic of the rest of the world. In Jan 2020, the Guardian reports that 70% of the world’s population experiences this growing wealth gap. See link – https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jan/22/wealth-gap-widening-for-more-than-70-per-cent-of-global-population-researchers-find
This post posits that other factors have overridden Man’s conscience in the area of wealth. These factors are
- Worry about the future, and the need to control that worry through wealth accumulation.
- The lure of wealth is innately addictive. Remember the hedonic race in part 2? Wealth brings pleasures, such as enhanced social status, power, influence, physical enjoyments, and control over others.
The irony is that both the rich and the poor have embraced these factors as shared aspirations. For this reason, the world does not descend into a brutal war between the poor and the rich, culminating into one global French revolution, or witnessing a global embrace of Marxism.
Both Christians and non-Christians, barring a minority in both groups, are mostly helpless to avoid violating their conscience to address this reality. The following posts will explore the application aspects of this minority group. For the majority, unless there is a shift of the motivating factors away from focusing on earthy goals to cope with fears of the uncertain future and to wean off the wealth addiction, money reigns as Master over Man in the constant battle against God’s supremacy.
The following section of this post shares the Christian God’s offer of these alternative motivating factors.
God’s Alternative Offer to Wealth
God has two main goals in mind when He offers solutions to Man’s slavery to money. God seeks to fulfill His two commandments: the source of His purpose and will (the Law and the Prophets, Mat22:40). Both commandments are concerning RELATIONSHIPS. This relationship focus is a clear indication that God values relationships above all else in His economy.
The first commandment is the relationship between God and Man. In comparison, the second commandment is a relationship between man and man (Mat22:37-40). The commandments bear the following intentions.
- God is appealing and demanding from Man their believing loyalty towards Him. (1st commandment)
- God expects Man to show love to their neighbor as oneself in contrast to indifference to their neighbors’ plight. (2nd commandment).
Believing loyalty is also known as loving-kindness, “checed” in Hebrew, which also renders faithfulness a more familiar term in the new testament vernacular. See the link for the word meaning of checed- https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H2617&t=NASB
The scriptures relating to wealth, especially the parables, are shared to support Man’s understanding of God’s salvation offered as a means to realize the 1st commandment. E.g., is the Good Samaritan (Luke15:11-32), the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price (Mat13:44-45), the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32).
The scriptures also reveal God’s expectation to love one’s neighbor, the 2nd commandment, in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke10:30-37 and the unforgiving servant’s story in Mat18:21-35.
God does not leave man without resources and guidelines to motivate Man to choose the love relationship as their new focus and abandon their old focus of worry and addiction to money. God’s motivating factors address both the worry of the future and the issue of the lure of money.
God Supplies His Motivating Factors
1st Motivating Factor – Solution for Worry
Both Christians and non-Christians worry about the future. God recognized valid worries, categorized as needs. In this day and age, the needs of Man has grown to include wants. The final post will address this aspect. Nevertheless, God recognized man’s worry to meet his needs when Jesus identified this as the reason for Man’s shifting loyalties between serving God and Mammon in Mat6:24.
God promises that He will supply all Man’s future needs when he focuses on His will for Him and his identity in Him (Mat6:32). God designs His will into the life circumstances presented to that person. It includes the opportunities, the challenges, the waiting, the people in your life, the victories, the setbacks, the miracles, and the tragedies. God promises to supply what Man needs, even as he experiences His will. Man is to reciprocate in an active faith relationship with Him.
The other less recognized reason and solution offered by God in Mat6:34 is that the present has sufficient troubles on their own that demands attention. God wants to partner Man to address present challenges and appeals to him not to be distracted by worrying about the future. The experience of partnering with God in this active faith in the present is not straightforward and exceeds this post’s scope to explain.
At this juncture, the imagination of what God supplies can run pretty wild. The Bible does offer some guidelines to understand what God supplies. The following post or posts will cover this in more detail. Suffice to say. God supplies wisdom, “time and chance” that relieve the pressure that would have exceeded the breaking point, His divine power, and circumstances to support His will for Man.
Mind-blindness (autism) handicapped my social and emotional perception until age 49. God had shown and proven His loyal faithfulness as Father over my life since my dad passed away when I was 11 years old.
These handicaps lead to situational unawareness. I grossly underestimated the environment’s harshness and overestimated my capacity and capabilities. I recklessly resigned from full-time employment and was self-employed twice, at age 29-30 and 32-50. Due to personal reasons and adequate resources, undeservingly, I have decided to retire at age 50, 2020. God has protected me from the hostile business environment and my foolish unawareness for the past 25 years as a working adult.
My lack of awareness blinded me to future worries. Given a temperament that is resilient and determined, I do not complain and worry about my future. The “success” did not come by fervent prayers, never fasted, and was never diligent in reading the Bible (this only started in 2019). In-fact until 2019, I have never read a complete book in the Bible.
God’s mercies have protected me from an unreasonable environment and marauding competitors. The material success came because I blindly did whatever was presented to me and did the best of my abilities every time without worrying and complaining. Unknowingly just by attending faithfully to my lot in life, I did God’s will.
2nd Motivating Factor – Shift in Values
In today’s materialistic culture, the motivating factors offered by God has lost much of its luster. It is not the fault of God, for Man has chosen to deify themselves by proxy. Elements that supported man’s deification are mainly due to their sense of mastery over their destiny. The following fostered Man’s sense of mastery over their future and shifted Man’s values away from God’s values.-
- Man has more than doubled the life expectancy from the late 30s in the late 1800s to beyond 70s by the early 2000s. Singapore’s life expectancy is in the 80s. See link – https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/SGP/singapore/life-expectancy#:~:text=The%20current%20life%20expectancy%20for,a%200.26%25%20increase%20from%202017.
- Man has mastered their physical environment (notwithstanding the irreparable damage done to nature) and a pseudo mastery over their biology. Genetic engineering is one of the new frontiers for humanity.
- Man’s sense of personal agency has shot through the roof, bolstered by the relentless rise of individual liberties.
Tragically, This pandemic of self-deification affects both Christians and non-Christians alike.
God beckons Man with seven appeals to support Man’s shift from the additive lure of money-wealth to fulfill the two commandments, to restore the RELATIONSHIPS-
- God is appealing to Man’s senses to value His Fatherly love, offered to save humanity in the form of the death and resurrection of His only Son, the Lord Jesus. (John3:16, Rom10:9). The Father’s heart is appealing for His children to return to His bosom, the prodigal son narrative offered on an epic scale.
- God appeals to Man’s senses to value the true incorruptible treasures more than the temporal earthly pleasures, relationships, and possessions. The true treasures are the relationship with Him, His eternal rewards, the gloried incorruptible body, the eternal glory, and reunion with Him and all the loved ones that have embraced the family of God. Valuing the true treasures is the crucial battleground of the soul. For where the treasures are, there, the soul will take residence (Mat6:21).
- God appeals to Man’s senses to recognize that their body is temporal, suffer aging, physical death, and eternal death. What will it profit to Man to accumulate and hold tightly to things that lose all value in the afterlife? (Mark8:36)
- God is appealing to Man’s senses to recognize an afterlife where judgment and sentence await (Mat25:46). This appeal to many seems like a threat. God’s hands are bound in this regard and helpless to circumvent His sense of justice. God’s justice demand this outcome (Rom2:12-16,1Pet1:17).
- God is appealing to Man’s sense to choose forgiveness apart from the works pathway in Christ (Eph2:8-9), where the favored judgment is merciful, and the verdict at worst is forfeting the eternal rewards and the soul’s eternal glory (1Co5:5, 1Co3:15, 2Co4:16-18).
- God appeals to Man’s sense to avoid the impartial judgment pathway, where the sentence is likely an eternal staycation in Hell.
- God appeals to Man to choose His Son. By doing so, He frees Man of worry of the future on earth, as Man finds rest for their soul on earth in the work of His Son (Mat11:28-30, Heb4:11).
The world operates by the power paradigm. The powerful determines the Laws of the land and wields the power of life and death over others. Humanity recognizes this Law and obeys the rules set by the powerful. Democracy veils the ordinary senses to this Law, enchanting the human sense of agency with an illusion that the power lies with the individual because they vote the powerful into power.
Such naïve notions are put to naught when the next crisis hits. The covid19 pandemic is but an appetizer of the Law in operation. War seems a distant memory since the last World War in 1942. It seems to escape notice, but the elements that catalyzed such atrocities are the same; humanity is the source of these atrocities.
It seems inconceivable while Man can recognize and subject themselves to human authorities, Man dares to taunt God by spurning His appeal and invitation.
Christians deem the Christian God as the most powerful entity across all time and space. But this God is dismissed as the King of charlatans by other religious beliefs and non-existent by an atheist or a choice, among other valid alternatives.
It may turn out that these reasons to ignore God are correct. Still, the stakes appear unacceptably high for a reasonable person to place a wager against God, who has offered such favorable terms to achieve divinity. The only cost on Man’s part is the belief in Jesus and after that best effort at obedience until death. This free lunch for Man exacted an unspeakable price from God the Father who paid dearly for this offer.
This post ends on this note. The next post will explore further how Man’s attempts to solve this wealth gap have failed, why it has failed, and the root cause behind these failures. Post 5 will also examine God’s alternative to address this failure.
- Scott, B. (1990). Hear then the parable (1st ed.). Fortress Press.