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.
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.
“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!
Jesus’ mom rocks. In Luke 1, Mary has the nerve to say that, because God is at work in the world, “The hungry have been filled with good things and the rich sent away empty-handed.” Very few people have the courage to say that God is at work to send the rich away with empty hands. Neither Democrats nor Republicans dare talk this way about rich people. (Full disclosure: I am rich.)
When a young Palestinian Jewish girl in occupied Galilee is filled with the Spirit to carry, birth, and rear the Messiah, amazingly bold things get declared. This teenage phenom from the backside of the Roman Empire made a claim that can be reacted to in at least two ways. Continue reading Mary and Money→
Shane Claiborne’s Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia, was a success. Not only did it gather 300 people celebrating Jesus and justice, but it also caught a lot of media attention thanks to Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University.
It’s ironic, to say the least, that a Christian University will arrest and prosecute those who pray – I’m telling you, pray – at their campus. It’s also ironic that Falwell Jr. killed the campus newspaper story about the Claiborne incident while claiming that free speech is a core value of his school.