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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wealth Growth

Today's newspaper has an article about the fact that the rich are indeed getting richer ... and they're doing it faster than ever. The growth of the wealth of rich people is accelerating. Wow! That is sobering and perplexing news for any of us that aren't rich. But what does it mean?

Will the rich become more generous? Will investment capital for economic growth become more available? Will income tax revenues go up enough to start reducing the size of the national debt? Another article in Business Week magazine last week says that older workers are getting the best raises in the country too. So the rich tend to be older. Will they still be inspired to use their wealth to make the world a better place? Or will they just invest it in a better beach house?

Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that I had a bias against rich people. Nothing in particular, mind you; I just had to confess that I didn't understand them and perhaps wasn't loving them as God calls me to. I had to deal with that character defect in my life. In doing so, I had to understand wealth a whole lot more. I think I'm still on that quest. Mostly I'm trying to understand the perspective of rich people. It seems to be quite unique indeed.

Paris Hilton is quoted as having said from her jail cell recently that she has "become grateful for everything." Is she? Could her gratitude be the same as yours or mine? Does that mean the same thing as the single mother who was able to get some extra work to pay for shoes for her kids? Is it that kind of gratitude that Paris Hilton has acquired? Somehow, I suspect it's different. But I can't really find any evidence to confirm or deny my suspicions. I just observe that gratitude in the poor seems to look different than gratitude in the rich.

Christians talk a lot about money. Preachers talk a lot about money. And of course there is the controversy. We get into the what some call "prosperity theology," and hear the views that God wants me to be wealthy. I believe this is one of Satan's easy shots ... to confuse us about the truth when it comes to money. Rather than argue or try to justify what I already believe though, I decided it was most important to seek the truth. Today I'm going to talk about what I've come up with.

Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us, "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today." Now that seems simple enough. It even seems obvious. So what's the controversy about?

Material wealth, its creation and stewardship, is a topic which stirs great emotion and generates much consternation and misunderstanding throughout the church. Prevalent attitudes among the saints regarding wealth tend to run in bi-polar extremes.

On one hand, conservatives (like me) who believe that Christ is separate and against culture are predisposed to view wealth with suspicion and as a hindrance to their perfection-istic notions of "spirituality." We tend to view the material world as evil and that which is unseen as virtuous. But I fear we are eschewing biblical concepts of wealth creation.

At the other extreme, are the those whose view of the nature of God is so skewed, perverse, and just plain wrong that God's very existence is reduced to something of a divine blessing dispenser. I suspect these poor fools have been deceived somewhat through the "church growth movement" and the "positive confession-positive thinking movements."

Invariably, these radicals exhibit a naive magical view of the Scriptures, nindlessly ripping verses out of context to "confess" their every whim and desire into existence. But their paradigm is a fanciful notion that true spirituality will be marked by uninterrupted growth and success without the inconvenience of conflict or tribulation. The Bible tells us quite a different story from what I can discern.

The biblical pattern of wealth creation is clearly articulated in Deuteronomy 8:18. While God is the creator of the earth and of all things visible and invisible, He is not the direct disburser of wealth. Rather, it is God who gives His children the power, or ability and gifting, to produce wealth. It has a specific divine purpose in God's economy--chiefly, to establish His covenant in the earth.

The power and abilities which God gives His children to "get wealth" are not "get rich quick schemes," but, rather, diligent, purposeful work, investment in the kingdom of God, and the principle of covenantal inheritance.

So as the rich get richer, faster --- what are we to do about wealth?

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