“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Often in my childhood growing up in a Pentecostal and Charismatic setting I heard teachings that connected faith with prosperity. Somehow, if I had the right amount of faith and I never really knew how much was really enough, well then I could obtain health or wealth. Having enough faith also included having one’s relatives saved. And I see where these ideas come from in the scripture as the Bible often uses the words faith in connection with healing and the supplying of our needs. But something always seemed a bit off for me. Continue reading A Faith That Rings Hollow
Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.
In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”
The moral argument for why wealth is wrong, on the other hand, is brilliantly summarized by the apostle John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17). As I explained in my article about a Christian World Vision, Jesus-followers should without doubt apply the same moral standpoint on non-believers as well. Continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Wealth for Yourself as a Christian
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.
Continue reading Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work
In my God vs Wealth series and God vs Inequality E-book, I’ve mostly based my arguments for why Christians shouldn’t be rich on Bible study, as well as a bit of early church history.
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.
Continue reading Why Wealth is Wrong: The Mathematical Argument
“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today he wouldn’t be riding a donkey. Think about that for a minute. He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”
— Jesse Duplantis
Recently, Charismatic televangelist Jesse Duplantis said that God wants his congregation to raise tens of millions of dollars for him to buy a private jet. Unfortunately, this mentality is not unique to Duplantis. Creflo Dollar got himself a $70 million jet, and Kenneth Copeland recently got himself a new jet. In the following video, both Duplantis and Copeland talk about the multi-million dollar jets they have had over the years, and why God allegedly wants them to have them:
Unfortunately, this mentality is not new in the Charismatic world, and it is quite widespread. It is especially common if you turn on a Christian television station. There are far too many examples of these preachers — from Joel Osteen to Mike Murdock.
The theology that these preachers build upon is known as “prosperity theology” or the “prosperity gospel”. The major distinction between this school of thought and mainstream, orthodox Christianity is the claim that God wants his people to have material wealth and prosperity. Health and wealth are seen as evidence of God’s blessing in your life. So, Duplantis buying a mulit-million dollar jet isn’t a sign of greed, but of God’s blessing. Continue reading Jesse Duplantis’ Jet Dream is Unchristian.
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!