When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.
The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.
The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. Continue reading Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK→
Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory.
In this blog post I want to address another argument rich people use when defending their wealth, namely that all consumption is good for the economy and in the end also beneficial for the poor; there is really no need to point out consumption of superfluities as something bad, since the money one pays eventually trickles down to the poor.
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social. Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28.Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism→
However, I have noticed that many Christians who defend their personal wealth do not just use the Bible, but also theoretical arguments that are based on economics, ethics and experience. Most of them are quite easy to counter with other arguments in the same field for why wealth is wrong. So in a couple of blog posts, I would like to discuss some of these arguments for and against wealth, while also connecting them to the Bible.
The first argument I often hear is “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or, alternatively, “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich.” Now, I could agree with the first statement if we define rich as “having an income that exceeds one’s own/family’s needs” because then, per definition, only rich people will be able to give money to the poor without harming themselves or their families.
When I was picking up my son from school the other day, his teacher informed me that he and this other kid called Bob Carlsson had become hostile towards one another. They called each other names, threw stuff at each other and had even started a fist fight during the lunch break that day.
Happy Pentecost! I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in Sweden, Pentecost is hardly celebrated at all. We’re must more eager to celebrate National Cinnamon Bun Day or Waffle Day (yeah, we have those). This is a pity. Pentecost is worth celebrating; it represents an amazing power-boosting of the church by the Holy Spirit, needed to perform its divinely commanded mission to save the world.
The book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit baptized all of the early Jesus followers – men and women alike – and gave them the miraculous gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and preaching an epic sermon that leads to 3000 people accepting Jesus as their Saviour and receiving eternal life (Acts 2). It’s dramatic, it’s fantastic and it’s very supernatural.
Pentecost is repeatable – we can also experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and be equipped with His miraculous gifts to spread the word about eternal life in Jesus. Pentecostals have always emphasized this: they often talk about preaching the “Full Gospel” – both salvation and Spiritual baptism – and the early Pentecostals said that they had restored the “Apostolic Faith”.
You know what’s awesome? Miracles! You know what’s also awesome? Social justice! Let’s combine the two, like Jesus did. The Spiritual gifts that God has equipped His church with are supposed to be used to serve others (1 Peter 4:10), and obviously our activism for a more equal and just world will be even more effective when the Holy Spirit empowers us with supernatural abilities. A couple of years ago, I held a lecture on this idea of charismactivism:
It’s obvious that miracles and social justice go hand-in-hand in the Holy Scriptures: the Old Testament prophets exercised many miraculous gifts while promoting the rights of the poor and marginalised (see for example the book of Amos); Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons right before His famous Sermon on the Mount about social ethics (Mt 5); and as the apostolic church was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues they eradicated the gap between rich and poor through community of goods (Acts 2).
In the lecture, I go through these and other relevant Bible passages, as well as sharing testimonies from people today who combine miracles and social justice, like Simon Adahl and Heidi Baker. I also bring up and criticize theologians and philosophers who deny the existence of miracles (or at least its presence in the life of the ordinary believer), like David Hume, Rudolf Bultmann and John MacArthur. Enjoy the video!
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!