Author Topic: Is Wealth actually Satanic?  (Read 920 times)

Terry W Culler

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Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« on: August 29, 2021, 05:26:25 PM »
Pondering today the difference between the state of the church in the US and western Europe and the growth of the church in Africa and Asia despite persecution.  My wife has said for years that all Americans will have to stand before God and answer for how we have prospered off the labor of exploited people.  I suspect that everyone who reads these words is probably wearing something or sitting with something around them that was made by people exploited and ill treated, some of whom are slaves.

Jesus spoke of how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom.  And the state of the Church in the West shows again our Lord's truth.

People have often said that the riches of the USA are a sign of God's blessings.  Maybe, wealth is a sign of God's wrath on those who love their stuff more than their God.
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2021, 06:27:46 PM »
Pondering today the difference between the state of the church in the US and western Europe and the growth of the church in Africa and Asia despite persecution.  My wife has said for years that all Americans will have to stand before God and answer for how we have prospered off the labor of exploited people.  I suspect that everyone who reads these words is probably wearing something or sitting with something around them that was made by people exploited and ill treated, some of whom are slaves.

Jesus spoke of how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom.  And the state of the Church in the West shows again our Lord's truth.

People have often said that the riches of the USA are a sign of God's blessings.  Maybe, wealth is a sign of God's wrath on those who love their stuff more than their God.
While the prosperity Gospel is indeed a curse in disguise, to view material wealth as a sign of God's wrath would turn the first article of the creed on its head. "All this He does only out of divine wrath and displeasure, of which we are worthy and surely have merited..."

Dan Fienen

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2021, 08:47:10 AM »
Satan is an equal opportunity seducer. He will use wealth to tempt, seduce, addict, and subvert people. He will use poverty similarly. Poor people can be as greedy as the wealthy.
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Charles Austin

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2021, 08:59:01 AM »
Terry W Culler:
People have often said that the riches of the USA are a sign of God's blessings.  Maybe, wealth is a sign of God's wrath on those who love their stuff more than their God.
Me:
“People” are wrong. And misguided.
Like our spiritual ancestors, we stand under God’s judgment for how we treat the poor and how we handle that “wealth“ which God has given us.
Nationally, in enacting laws, administering justice, and providing for our neighbors, we constantly favor the rich. And in recent years, we favor the super rich even more.
Retired ELCA Pastor: We are not a very inter-Lutheran forum. Posters with more than 1,500 posts: ELCA-6, with 3 of those inactive/rare and 1 moderator; LCMS-25, with 4 inactive/rare and 1 moderator. Non-Lutherans, 3; maybe 4 from other Lutheran bodies. 3 formerly frequent posters have gone quiet.

Terry W Culler

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2021, 09:36:26 AM »
Pondering today the difference between the state of the church in the US and western Europe and the growth of the church in Africa and Asia despite persecution.  My wife has said for years that all Americans will have to stand before God and answer for how we have prospered off the labor of exploited people.  I suspect that everyone who reads these words is probably wearing something or sitting with something around them that was made by people exploited and ill treated, some of whom are slaves.

Jesus spoke of how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom.  And the state of the Church in the West shows again our Lord's truth.

God provides for our sufficiency.  No argument about that.  However, we, as a people, do not seem to seek sufficiency but much more.  I'm not advocating for socialism or anything like that, it's been proven wrong far to often to be considered.  Rather I'm wondering if those of us who say we trust in and follow the Risen Lord, all the while trying to put as much wealth away as possible while taking expensive vacations and changing out the closets of our 3000 sq. ft. house every two years, aren't really denying the call to aid those in need, thereby bringing forth God's wrath upon us.  I once had a parishioner who asked when I was going to stop preaching about caring for the poor.  I said I'd stop when I couldn't find anyplace in the Bible where God told us to do so.

I guess my real question is not whether we have a flawed economic system but whether our choices within that system are not pleasing to God.










People have often said that the riches of the USA are a sign of God's blessings.  Maybe, wealth is a sign of God's wrath on those who love their stuff more than their God.
While the prosperity Gospel is indeed a curse in disguise, to view material wealth as a sign of God's wrath would turn the first article of the creed on its head. "All this He does only out of divine wrath and displeasure, of which we are worthy and surely have merited..."
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2021, 10:20:55 AM »
Terry W Culler:
People have often said that the riches of the USA are a sign of God's blessings.  Maybe, wealth is a sign of God's wrath on those who love their stuff more than their God.
Me:
“People” are wrong. And misguided.
Like our spiritual ancestors, we stand under God’s judgment for how we treat the poor and how we handle that “wealth“ which God has given us.
Nationally, in enacting laws, administering justice, and providing for our neighbors, we constantly favor the rich. And in recent years, we favor the super rich even more.
The key is that the U.S. is not ancient Israel. The wealth God has given "us" is not the gross national product but our own first article gifts. Christians know that all they have is a gift intended to be enjoyed (received in Thanksgiving), to fulfill various vocations (provide for one's dependents), and to share with those in need. It has nothing to do with voting for progressive taxes, redistributing wealth, etc. as though the government were in charge of charity. As was said on the other thread about forgiveness, some incredibly important things just aren't the federal government's job. 

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2021, 10:37:44 AM »
It was during the dark days of Liberation Theology during which one of our early ELCA bishops in the Bay Area proclaimed at a Synod Assembly, “Money is the root of all evil.”

Poor scriptural scholar, but was known widely for his huge episcopal desk.

Peter (I heard someone say, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich- rich is better.”) Garrison


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Dan Fienen

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2021, 10:52:43 AM »
Every so often when I consult Wikipedia there is a banner on the screen soliciting donations, usually there is a suggested donation and the assertion that if every Wikipedia user were to donate a small amount, less than a Café Grande, Wikipedia would be fully funded. Similarly with PBS' periodic fund drives. If everybody were to contribute a small amount, then much could be done.


If everybody were to give a reasonable amount to charity, then charities would be fully funded and much, much good work could be done. But there is no way to get near universal contribution to charity. Or is there? How about it not being voluntary but mandatory, like a tax? I am not going to argue about whether some sort of social safety net is a legitimate concern for the government and its compulsory fund raising. I merely point out that quite a bit of what at one time would have been charity is now tax funded governmental activity. And that the nature, object, and amount of this charity has been largely handed over to others in some form of majority rule for determination. For good or for ill.
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Dave Likeness

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2021, 10:58:01 AM »
Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of  God.
He is implying that wealth makes it more difficult to trust God..  The temptations of wealth include the idea that a rich man
 will think that he is self-sufficient and does not need God.

Dave Benke

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2021, 11:08:33 AM »
The long-standing maxim has pertained for my entire lifespan, and there's no reason to believe it's changing soon - "The rich get richer, and the poor pay taxes."
 During COVID, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/07/covid-19-crisis-boosts-the-fortunes-of-worlds-billionaires.

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Dan Fienen

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2021, 11:13:58 AM »
What is wealthy? If we are going to talk about whether wealth is Satanic, it would be helpful to define just what wealth we are talking about. Compared to slum dwellers in Sao Paulo, Brazil or even inhabitants of homeless encampments in San Francisco, I am fantastically wealthy. Compared to many inhabitants of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, or millionaires row in Beverly Hills, I am quite poor.

Studies have been done to try to determine what level of income is needed for optimum happiness and life satisfaction. Turns out, that for the USA and Canada, greatest life satisfaction is achieved with an average income of $105,000. Hardly one of the 1%s, more like upper middle class. Is that wealthy?
« Last Edit: August 30, 2021, 11:16:10 AM by Dan Fienen »
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Terry W Culler

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2021, 12:41:24 PM »
What is wealthy? If we are going to talk about whether wealth is Satanic, it would be helpful to define just what wealth we are talking about. Compared to slum dwellers in Sao Paulo, Brazil or even inhabitants of homeless encampments in San Francisco, I am fantastically wealthy. Compared to many inhabitants of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, or millionaires row in Beverly Hills, I am quite poor.

Studies have been done to try to determine what level of income is needed for optimum happiness and life satisfaction. Turns out, that for the USA and Canada, greatest life satisfaction is achieved with an average income of $105,000. Hardly one of the 1%s, more like upper middle class. Is that wealthy?


Yes, that is wealthy.  Virtually everyone in this country is, by any sort of global perspective, wealthy.  A friend visited a congregation in Africa which was in an ongoing relationship with the one he served.  There he met an elder in the congregation who was a retired school teacher.  His income was about $100 a month, but he considered himself well off because he owned a small parcel of land where he could grow food for his family.  It was 10 miles away from his home and he rode a bicycle there to tend his garden.  Americans have an inflated idea about what constitutes "enough".  (And I include myself in this.  Until 9 months ago we owned a vacation home in SC.  We also own two cars and we each have enough retirement money saved to continue our relatively modest lifestyle.  Sure we give to the homeless whenever we see them, we help at the Rescue Mission, etc.  Still, we are by any reasonable definition "wealthy".

Christians celebrate those who give care to the needy, but we don't contribute enough to alter our lifestyles.
The press honors the wealthy (Bill Gates, etc.) who give millions to various charitable activities, but I doubt any of them had to give up something to do that.  I have always believed Christ has called His people to lives that reflect His, to truly live as if Jesus is Lord. 

Maybe I'm making too much of this, but, as I have aged, I've started trying to look with a clear eye at where I have failed my Lord. 
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2021, 01:04:13 PM »
Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of  God.
He is implying that wealth makes it more difficult to trust God..  The temptations of wealth include the idea that a rich man
 will think that he is self-sufficient and does not need God.


Does that analogy make it "more difficult" for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, or impossible? I believe that those who come up with possible ways for a camel to go through the eye of a needle are misreading the analogy. (Y'all, or many of you, will have a chance to preach on this on October 10 when it is the assigned Gospel in the Revised Common Lectionary.)


Some attempts at making the impossible possible. Some later manuscripts make a one letter change in the word for camel from κάμηλον to κάμιλον, (which means “rope”). (Both Greek words would have been pronounced the same kah-mee-lon.) The online Liddell-Scott-James Greek lexicon suggests that κάμιλος is a word that was created to try and “correct” the difficulties in this text.

Another interpretation says that the “Needle’s Eye” was the name of a small gate into the city of Jerusalem. This was the way one had to enter after the main gates were closed. In order for someone to get a camel through this small gate, the camel would have to be unloaded and bow down to get through the small door. There is no evidence that such a small door was ever called “the needle’s eye”. R. T. France (The Gospel of Mark) goes on to state:

But worse than the lack of evidence for this conjecture is its effect in actually undermining the point of the proverb. That which Jesus presented as ludicrously impossible is turned into a remote possibility: the rich person, given sufficient unloading and humility, might just possibly be able to squeeze in. That was not what Jesus’ proverb meant, and it was not how the disciples understood it (v. 26). (p. 405)

These are attempts to “water” down the impossibility of getting a camel through the eye of a needle. We want to make the impossible possible for us to do. It could even be possible by dicing up a camel into very small pieces that we could shove it through the eye of a needle or pureeing (liquefying) the animal; but I don’t think that that is what Jesus is talking about. Ben Witherington (The Gospel of Mark) suggests that Jesus is “contrasting the largest animal and the smallest hole that an early Jew in Israel would likely think of” (p. 284).

The answer to “how hard?” is “It’s impossible.” Whenever we make it “possible” to do with enough work or sacrifice, we miss the radical nature of Jesus’ comments; which were especially revolting because (1) it was naturally assumed that the wealthy were closer to God and were more likely to be saved than the common people and (2) it was naturally assumed that those who kept the commandments were closer to God and were more likely to be saved than the common people. The man in our text fulfilled both requirements – but doesn’t enter the kingdom – at least not based on his righteousness (of keeping commandments) or wealth.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Dan Fienen

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2021, 01:32:13 PM »
What is wealthy? If we are going to talk about whether wealth is Satanic, it would be helpful to define just what wealth we are talking about. Compared to slum dwellers in Sao Paulo, Brazil or even inhabitants of homeless encampments in San Francisco, I am fantastically wealthy. Compared to many inhabitants of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, or millionaires row in Beverly Hills, I am quite poor.

Studies have been done to try to determine what level of income is needed for optimum happiness and life satisfaction. Turns out, that for the USA and Canada, greatest life satisfaction is achieved with an average income of $105,000. Hardly one of the 1%s, more like upper middle class. Is that wealthy?


Yes, that is wealthy.  Virtually everyone in this country is, by any sort of global perspective, wealthy.  A friend visited a congregation in Africa which was in an ongoing relationship with the one he served.  There he met an elder in the congregation who was a retired school teacher.  His income was about $100 a month, but he considered himself well off because he owned a small parcel of land where he could grow food for his family.  It was 10 miles away from his home and he rode a bicycle there to tend his garden.  Americans have an inflated idea about what constitutes "enough".  (And I include myself in this.  Until 9 months ago we owned a vacation home in SC.  We also own two cars and we each have enough retirement money saved to continue our relatively modest lifestyle.  Sure we give to the homeless whenever we see them, we help at the Rescue Mission, etc.  Still, we are by any reasonable definition "wealthy".

Christians celebrate those who give care to the needy, but we don't contribute enough to alter our lifestyles.
The press honors the wealthy (Bill Gates, etc.) who give millions to various charitable activities, but I doubt any of them had to give up something to do that.  I have always believed Christ has called His people to lives that reflect His, to truly live as if Jesus is Lord. 

Maybe I'm making too much of this, but, as I have aged, I've started trying to look with a clear eye at where I have failed my Lord.
The parable of the widow's mite needs to be kept in mind when we talk about giving to charity. C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity:
Quote
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Is Wealth actually Satanic?
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2021, 01:53:54 PM »
What is wealthy? If we are going to talk about whether wealth is Satanic, it would be helpful to define just what wealth we are talking about. Compared to slum dwellers in Sao Paulo, Brazil or even inhabitants of homeless encampments in San Francisco, I am fantastically wealthy. Compared to many inhabitants of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, or millionaires row in Beverly Hills, I am quite poor.

Studies have been done to try to determine what level of income is needed for optimum happiness and life satisfaction. Turns out, that for the USA and Canada, greatest life satisfaction is achieved with an average income of $105,000. Hardly one of the 1%s, more like upper middle class. Is that wealthy?


Yes, that is wealthy.  Virtually everyone in this country is, by any sort of global perspective, wealthy.  A friend visited a congregation in Africa which was in an ongoing relationship with the one he served.  There he met an elder in the congregation who was a retired school teacher.  His income was about $100 a month, but he considered himself well off because he owned a small parcel of land where he could grow food for his family.  It was 10 miles away from his home and he rode a bicycle there to tend his garden.  Americans have an inflated idea about what constitutes "enough".  (And I include myself in this.  Until 9 months ago we owned a vacation home in SC.  We also own two cars and we each have enough retirement money saved to continue our relatively modest lifestyle.  Sure we give to the homeless whenever we see them, we help at the Rescue Mission, etc.  Still, we are by any reasonable definition "wealthy".

Christians celebrate those who give care to the needy, but we don't contribute enough to alter our lifestyles.
The press honors the wealthy (Bill Gates, etc.) who give millions to various charitable activities, but I doubt any of them had to give up something to do that.  I have always believed Christ has called His people to lives that reflect His, to truly live as if Jesus is Lord. 

Maybe I'm making too much of this, but, as I have aged, I've started trying to look with a clear eye at where I have failed my Lord.
It is in an interesting question about the nature of charity, though. Yes, we're all wealthy in America. But everyone's hopes and fears, problems and hurts are as real as anyone else's. Calling something a "first world" problem may bring needed perspective, but it can also dehumanize people who live in the first world, as though once you have food, clothing, and shelter your problems are all imaginary.

I once envisioned writing a short story (still might) about retired pastors in a nursing home arguing this point. Essentially it would be a morality tale with both sides of the equation going away convinced their answer was correct.

There is a teenager who works in the nursing home doing menial tasks whom they both have come to love as a granddaughter because she is so sweet and charming. She is working there in part to support her family, but they both know/suspect she would love nothing more than (in Cinderella fashion) to go to the school dance, but she is putting a brave face on the fact that she can't miss work or afford a dress. So one of them talks to the director and makes sure the girl has the night of the dance off of work, and then buys her a dress. She is thrilled, and all is well, except that the other pastor then points out that the money his friend just squandered on an overpriced bunch of fabric could have gone to genuinely needy people in the third world, that it will be worn once before becoming a costume in somebody's garage sale Halloween box anyway, that fancy dresses for school dances glorify opulence and are an absurd, ostentatious appeal to mere glamour and vanity, the dress was probably stitched together by child laborers working for pennies, etc. and that instead of doing something kind for a neighbor, buying that girl a dress was an unconscionable extravagance that merely built up a whole system of waste, exploitation, and injustice, and so on. The one who bought the dress responds that loving one's neighbor as oneself deals with one's real neighbors, not humanity in the abstract, and stands by his decision. The girl relates that she had a wonderful time at the dance and was invited to some future events, too. The pastor thought the dress an irresponsible purchase points out later that all the act of "charity" accomplished was to feed her addiction to such waste, and she will either be miserable not going to future events now or else endlessly buy useless garbage. The one who bought the dress still disagrees and is pleased that the young girl who serves them so well got to go one big dance even if the cost of the dress could have fed a family of starving villagers somewhere else.