Week of Proper 19: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  U.S. $10,000 Bill, 1934

(Note:  $10,000 in 1934 = $163,000 in 2010.)

Images of U.S. currency, especially old banknotes, are in the public domain.

Greed, the Root of All Evil

SEPTEMBER 22, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Timothy 6:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

All slaves “under the yoke” must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute.  Slaves whose masters are believers are not to think any less of them because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.

This [the contents of 1 Timothy prior to this paragraph] is what you are teach them to believe and persuade them to do.  Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching, which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit–with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words.  All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, and wicked mistrust of each other; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a prophet.  Religion, of course, does not bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have.  We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that.  You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good faith of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

Psalm 49:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

3 I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

4 Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

Luke 8:1-3 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now after this he [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.  With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments:  Mary surnamed the Magdalene, form whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who had provided for them out of their own resources.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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“If you want to make a little money, write a book.  If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

–L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Church of Scientology

Wealth and money, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad.  The good and the bad originate from one’s motivations for seeking to acquire them and how one uses them when one has them.  Wealthy women financed the work of our Lord.  That was a good use of wealth, certainly.  Likewise, philanthropy is always a worthy cause.  But basing one’s identity on socio-economic status is foolish, for our identity ought to be in God alone.  And he who dies with the most toys does not win.  The haunting final scene of Citizen Kane returns to my memory at this time.  Charles Foster Kane had many possessions and a mansion, but nothing could make up for his lost childhood.  And his things, for lack of a better word, were useless to those cleaning up after him.

There is part of 1 Timothy 6 which I must address before moving forward.  The chapter opens with two verses concerning slavery but not condemning it.  Many Christians of the First Century C.E. expected Jesus to return any day, week, month, or year, so social reform took a back seat to personal holiness in the name of preparing for our Lord’s parousia.  Of course, he did not keep their schedule.  Another issue informing this chapter and much of the rest of the New Testament is how to be a good Christian and a good Roman.  Rocking the socio-economic boat by trying to abolish slavery, on which the Roman economy depended, was not on the agenda.

Here I must argue with more than one author of a New Testament text and side with Jesus.  Slavery is incompatible with following the Golden Rule.  I approach this issue from the perspective of a history buff.  For many centuries in Europe secular leaders oppressed the peasant majority of people while church leaders told the peasants that God had made them peasants.  So resisting the social order was allegedly a sin.  And, in the U.S. South, preachers used to quote the Old and New Testaments chapter and verse to defend racial slavery.  They said that those who used the Bible to condemn slavery were heretics.  Illustrative sermons are available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/, among other places.  There are also excellent books, such as In His Image, But…, by H. Shelton Smith, on the subject.  And the 1865 Journal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States reflects honest confusion about how the Confederacy could have lost the Civil War, for many white Southern Christians believed that God condoned slavery, and perhaps even commanded it.

But the Golden Rule is concise and unambiguous.  And this slavery served to benefit the masters, not the slaves.

Saint Laurence of Rome (died 258) was a deacon who became a martyr during the Valerian persecution.  The Empire tried to confiscate the wealth of the Church.  So Laurence, the treasurer, distributed the funds to the poor.  When captured and questioned, he said that the poor were the wealth of the Church.  He was correct, not that this fact spared him from a gruesome death.

He understood the true value of wealth, which is that its best use is meeting the needs of people.  We came into the world with nothing, which is how much we will take with us when we die.  How we care for each other with the time and other resources we have matters far more than how much money or many “toys” we have.  Following the Golden Rule is far more valuable than any amount of gold.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/greed-and-the-golden-rule/

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