Some popular theologies insist that good Christians (ie. Heavy donors) are blessed with “prosperity.” Money and luxury are seen as signs of God’s blessing and you get God’s blessing by giving, no matter how poor you are, a substantial donation to their “ministry”. If your bank account doesn’t start bulging and your diseases start healing it is because you are not doing it right and or enough. So give more and you will be abundantly blessed with money, power and goodies. Apparently for this way of thinking God only loves the rich and the poor and sick are cursed by God. Apparently too, God has no love for the poor because they don’t have enough to donate to earn his favour. Churches that promote these highly questionable if not totally repugnant ideas about God and faith end up with massive amounts of money to go on TV and ask for more, proving to themselves and their followers that God really does love only the rich.
On the other hand, in many more traditional, mainline churches, too many think that God really doesn’t love the rich. After all the rich are spoken of as the One Percent – a small group who have amassed a massive, excessive portion of the world’s wealth (more that 80 percent) and appear to be causing or aggravating most of the worlds problems. It does make sense that if the economics of the world have enabled you to have multi-billions that you would want to maintain that system even if it is harmful to others and the environment. So how could God possibly love the rich? Aren’t they supposed to give their wealth away or have a tough time getting into heaven?
The Bible does have a story about Jesus telling a rich man that in order to enter the kingdom of God he would need to give away all his wealth. This was not just any wealthy person. This was one who is being very strict about obeying all the commandments and yet still feels alienated from God. On hearing the man’s frustration, the Bible tells us that “Jesus loves him.” Here was someone who wants a close relationship, a right relationship with God but finds that playing by the religious rules and banking a fortune has left him feeling more distant, not less. Jesus knows that the man’s wealth was giving him a spiritual problem. Much to the man’s chagrin, Jesus tells him that the antidote to his problem is to free himself from his wealth by giving it away. A pill too tough to swallow.
Easily we find ourselves agreeing, “Right on! The rich should give all their wealth away!” The unspoken subtext often being “So I, and of course those like me, can have more!” However – and it is a big however – most people living in First World Countries like Canada are by world standards fabulously wealthy. We may not all be in the top one percent but we are all in the top 10 percent. And, if we are honest, we don’t want to have any less than we have. More would be nice, right? Not to be greedy, but just a small fortune would be great. How much is that mega-lottery this week? The real question needs to be, “Does God love me as wealthy as I am” or, more acutely, “Is what I am doing with my wealth creating distance from God or bring me into right relationship with God and all God’s creation and creatures?”