I was reading Sarah Vowell’s Wordy Shipmates and, while reading about the religious fervor of the Puritans, I couldn’t help but wonder: how does a Christian living in the U.S. reconcile their wealth with their beliefs?
I contrain the question to just the U.S. because if they live in the U.S and are earning $50,000 income/year, they are already richer than 99% of the rest of the world population. Yet as I see “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets proliferate, or attend rock concert-like Sunday services, I can’t help but think he wouldn’t be spending so much money on a Sunday service spreading his message. But I’m guessing here.
Before we progress, some background. I used to be a pretty devout Christian. I was raised Catholic. If you asked what I wanted to be in the future, I would say priest. In my teens, my family moved to The Bible Belt and I attended a private Baptist middle school. I witnessed a plenty. By the end of that experience, I was quoting scripture and carrying a leather bound NIV Bible.
But I was conflicted. And how richly one should live was one of the concerns. I just didn’t know how much I needed to walk the walk in order to certify my ticket into Heaven.
So, I’m back at wondering once again how/why do wealthy Christians exist. The concern is that if one is wealthy, they aren’t 1) helping out others enough, 2) are too focused on wealth or the making thereof, or 3) spending too much time with their material and not enough with their Messiah.
A friend reminded me that the Bible doesn’t concern itself with the ambiguities of how much wealth you should/shouldn’t keep. I agree. The Bible, New Testament at least, is notably ambiguous to specific amounts of wealth. However, the Bible in general is a qualitative not quantitative piece of literature.
I think the lack of dollar or percentage amount has more to do with not buying your way into heaven (1 corith 13:3) and less about it being OK to be wealthy/rich. Some state that their wealth is a sign that they are blessed. But Matthew 13:22 warns of the concerns of wealth, Mark 10:23 states the difficulty of the rich going to heaven, Luke 16:13 discusses how wealth detracts from God.
Is it OK for a Christian to be wealthy? As Palin says, you betcha! But let’s be honest, with so much scripture warning of the concerns of being wealthy and it detracting you from God, it would take a really, really, I mean REALLY devout Christian to be both wealthy and on the course. And I just don’t believe that most American Christians are this devout.