Archive for the ‘Money’ Category
Making a whip of cords, he drove them out of the temple… And he told the pigeon-sellers, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” John 2:14-16
USA Today reported in 2009 that American retailers “sell about $4.6 billion worth of Christian products annually.”
One cannot help but wonder how big that figure is today and how big it would be if the rest of the globe were included in the statistics.
According to the report, you can now wear a “Jesus Christ wants to be your friend” Facebook shirt and an “iPray” hat while listening to your iPod. Preachers can buy material for sermons based on the popular television reality series “Survivor”.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Christian merchandise include dolls, jewelry, stationary and a host of items sporting designs that are oftentimes trademark rip offs of well known brands like Coca-Cola (“Jesus Christ—Eternally Refreshing”).
Other designs are totally original, like the one that has Jesus dressed as a hockey goalie accompanied by the words “Jesus Saves!” And then there is the rubber Jesus duck for your bathtub, and the “Wash away my sins bubble bath” to accompany it.
I still have my three-decades-old coffee mug with St Francis’ Peace Prayer on it. And I have joyful memories of buying my first Christian bumper stickers shortly after my conversion. But I think we have lost it somewhere between the Jesus revolution of the early seventies and today. The new vision of a culturally relevant Messiah, expressed joyfully and colorfully by Hippies who had become “Jesus People”, appears to have become a corrupt money-making machine.
In fact, I am quite convinced that we would see a repetition of the events described by John above if Jesus were to return today.
The Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35
One of the strangest peculiarities of the human race is the hoarding habit. When it gets out of hand, psychologists call it “disposophobia”. The rest of us speak of the “packrat mentality”.
Different people hoard different things. Minimalists may frown at being called packrats, yet their bank accounts or foreign investments would usually confirm that that is exactly what they are. The rich are in fact the greatest hoarders, but we forgive them as it is more interesting to watch someone hoard Louis Vuitton handbags than what it is to stumble over your husband’s junk in the attic.
The sin of covetousness, which underlies the hoarding habit, is humanity’s most aggressive effort to compensate for the distinct sense of loss we experience without God in this world. It makes perfect sense, and explains why any effort at filling the hole in our soul is always met with further disillusionment.
As Rockefeller famously answered when asked how much money is enough: “Just a little bit more.” Centuries earlier Solomon said: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Jesus challenges the fallen and conventional wisdom of this world by pointing out that the ultimate answer for our ailments is not to keep on receiving, but to start giving. This teaching runs like a golden thread throughout the New Testament.
The words of Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, is worth quoting here: “When someone steals a man’s clothes we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
Think about this for a moment. If the absence of God leads to covetousness, and covetousness to acquisition (let’s not use the word “hoarding” here, just in case you do not relate), then the presence of God should lead to contentment, and contentment to divine forfeiture (a.k.a. giving).
It is a huge subject, and one I have been contemplating since the early seventies. I had not yet turned ten when my mom took me to the drive-in to see Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun Sister Moon, and my life has never been quite the same. It remains my all-time favourite movie, and also the one that has inspired me the most.
Early this morning I received a notification of a post from one of my favorite bloggers, David McAnulty. It addresses the issue of the poor from a contemporary perspective, and I found it extremely meaningful. David says it so well that I prefer him to speak for himself. You can find it here.
Blessings to all.
(A few paragraphs of this post has appeared in Bloemnews.)
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house…” Exodus 20:17
The past week’s international news headlines were dominated (yet again) by the current global financial crisis.
This time it is the Spanish economy that is wobbling. Whilst many are hoping that a massive bank bailout will resolve the problem, an increasing number of economists are warning that it won’t. They are predicting a “broader Eurozone catastrophe.”
That sounds rather grim, and so many people are asking the obvious question: “How did we get into this mess?” Google an answer and you will be overwhelmed by an array of articles filled with highfalutin economic terms that are pretty incomprehensible to Joe Soap and his family.
But there is something that you may notice while you’re at it: The recurrence of the term “housing bubble”.
It would appear that an inordinate amount of people bought an inordinate amount of houses with money that they never had but manage to borrow from banks who had inordinately liberal underwriting standards, causing real estate value to skyrocket in an inordinate way.
You don’t need to be an astronaut to understand why the whole thing was destined to pop.
This brings us to another question: Why on earth would anybody with a sound mind want to get involved in this? (Keep in mind that you will have to explain to your grandchildren why you helped destroy the world economy.)
The answer is simple: We never thought that God was serious when he told us not to lust after our neighbour’s house. And so we wanted bigger and better than the Joneses, and used every opportunity to get it.
Of course that made Mr & Mrs Jones feel terrible, and so they had to catch up.
We got into this mess because of greed. That’s the correct answer.
Will we get out of it? God alone knows. So let us focus on what we do know: That the Biblical definition of “gain“ is contentment, not accumulation.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. Luke 16:22-23
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs is estimated to be worth about 6 billion US dollars. This makes him one of the richest people in the world. Jobs is the co-founder of both Apple and Pixar (the studio who brought us the Toy Story movies) and, as a result of the latter, The Walt Disney’s Company’s largest single shareholder. He has (quite understandably) been named the CEO of the decade by Fortune Magazine.
A truly successful man by all measures. And enviable. In a 2009 survey he was selected the most admired entrepreneur among teenagers. Everybody wants to be like Steve, it seems.
Until now. Jobs announced this week he is resigning as CEO from his company, and the reasons are well known. He has been battling with pancreatic cancer for some time. The announcement caused Apple stocks to plummet and many to wonder if his successor will be able to fill his shoes.
In the face of death we have a tendency to reevaluate things. I suspect Steve would be happy to rid himself of all his possessions (and fame) if he could be given immortality in return. The point is: If he fails to find it, then in the bigger scheme of things, the one who does find it will be a much greater success than he, even if such a one has lived his or her earthly life as a beggar in the slums of Calcutta.
That is exactly the point of Christ’s well known story from which the above verses come. And it raises a question: How do you define success?
(This is an update of a column that appeared in Bloemnews earlier this year when Steve Jobs took indefinite medical leave)