Poverty is one of the most pressing issues in the world today. Despite our best efforts we still have a very long way to go. Children continue to die of hunger, people still make the choice between food and education, some will never have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, simply because there’s not enough.
In an era when it has been reported by the bank, Credit Suisse in November 2017, that the world’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, the other side of the coin is that the 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, own just 2.7% of the global wealth.
None of us can fail to notice that there are crises at the gates of every culture and nation. War and famine produce refugees in numbers that are untenable. Our broken economies are driven by the greed of those for whom the almighty dollar has far greater value than the life of one small child, one refugee, one trafficked woman, one homeless person.
Not the least of our problems is the lack of good leadership. When the prophet Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about his future insanity, he pleaded with him to change his ways (Daniel 4:27) in order to avoid the catastrophic effect of his pride. His key point was that he ‘break from his wicked past and be merciful to the poor’. Integral to really good leadership is mercy for the poor. Continue reading Living Generously
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
by Paul Alexander. Originally posted at Evangelicals for Social Action.
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
by Bram Cools, originally published on his blog.
Recently I’ve been finishing an older collection of songs with titles like ‘sell everything you have and give it to the poor’. (downloadlink to Safe Happy Christian Music for the Conservative Middleclass).
People have asked me before why I wrote the song, and what I think about the bible verses that it’s based on, so maybe it’s a good idea to clarify a bit with some bible study about Christ and money, or riches in general.
Let’s start with the song, which can be listened here. Music-wise it’s basically a very simple folk song in an American style, so simple that anyone who has had a few lessons on a guitar can easily play it (please do! It’s only G, C and D). The lyrics are a simple retelling of a story in the gospels that is often called ‘the rich young ruler’ in English, a passage found in all three synoptic gospels (Mark 10:17-27, Matthew 19:16-22, Luke 18:18-34): Continue reading Sell Everything You Have, and Give It to the Poor!