November 17, 2006

Calling All Christians

A woman from my writer's group asks how those who live a religious life reconcile taking a vow of poverty with the relationships all Catholics have with Rome, and its concentration of wealth.

I'd also put the same question to Protestants whose denominations are particularly prosperous: hwo do you process the Lord's admonitions about how dangerous wealth is, and justapose that with some members of the clergy living large? What about the pastor who ministers in a poor neighborhood, and lives as his congregation does, versus the minister in a wealthier area, whose fundraising activities demand that he eat at nice restaurants, etc.?

Posted by Attila Girl at November 17, 2006 02:01 PM | TrackBack

In our faith group (the Church of Christ), we simply let the careers of those who become too wealthy or famous be our object lesson; whether in the brotherhood or without, when their heads get turned by money or fame, their souls get turned away from the Lord's ways.

Posted by: John at November 17, 2006 05:18 PM

It isn't the money. It's the love of money that corrupts. There's nothing wrong with being filthy stinkin rich. It's how you live your life that counts.

Which ought to include a generous portion of charity if you are, in fact, quite comfortable materially. No hard and fast rules here, it's just how the universe works. You let your head get turned by wealth, and your soul suffers.

As to wealthy ministers, they are suspect by default in my book. If you're living better than your flock, you are a thief, and no true shepherd. That goes for big name telly-e-vangelists as well as rich denominations like the Catholic Church. It doesn't matter if you're an individual or a worldwide organisation, we were admonished to not store up our wealth on earth.

On the other hand, if you're a habitual giver, it is very likely that God is going to bless your stinkin' socks off, because he's found in you a conduit through which to bless others.

And if your pastor is doing fundraising by hosting wealthy parishioners at expensive restaurants, I...words just fail me. That's wrong on so many levels. First, parishioners spring for the *pastor* not vice versa. Second, fundraising ought not be a separate activity from preaching, teaching, and ministering. Once your congregation gets hold of the truth that you can't out-give God, then support for the church becomes a mostly non-issue.

Posted by: Desert Cat at November 17, 2006 06:23 PM

Purveyors of Poverty Vows are immediately suspect of simply being on the opposite side of the same
corruption coin. Pride in poverty vows is a virtue?
Or is it simply sinful pride, the handmaiden of envy?

I am not a Catholic, but an old Catholic priest once told
me that material abundance always follows Spiritual
abundance (witness Job and Abraham). As does healing,
etc. "By their fruits ye shall know them." No fruits, no Spirit. That simple.

On a decidedly non-Christian note,
I appreciate the way Wallace Wattles dismissed poverty:
"WHATEVER may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich. No man can rise to his greatest possible height in talent or soul development unless he has plenty of money; for to unfold the soul and to develop talent he must have many things to use, and he cannot have these things unless he has money to buy them with."
"There is nothing wrong in wanting to get rich. The desire for riches is really the desire for a richer, fuller, and more abundant life; and that desire is praise worthy. The man who does not desire to live more abundantly is abnormal, and so the man who does not desire to have money enough to buy all he wants is abnormal."

"To live fully in soul, man must have love; and love is denied expression by poverty."

The excerpts from are "The Science of Getting Rich",
(decidedly non-Christian)
the book may be read online at .


Posted by: Bob at November 17, 2006 06:59 PM

Oops, that last bit should have been
"The excerpts are from ..."

Also the " (decidedly non-Christian)"
was a cut and paste error that snuck in, and should have
been omitted.

Posted by: Bob at November 17, 2006 07:28 PM

Relationship Catholics have with Rome? Wealth? Where? The buildings? The art and other things created by artists(or commissioned by patrons)designed to glorify God and donated to the Church for safekeeping and to be enjoyed by all for generations to come? That wealth isn't what economists call liquid(closeness to cash). You got to see Pope John Paul II's quarters last year in his final hours. A simple room, no larger than an average master bedroom, with a plain double bed, a small plain desk and a couple of chairs. He was known to have simple tastes as well--familiar food for him-country-style Polish and Italian food.

The question itself is based on anti-Catholic sentiments. No religious organization has ever given more to the poor than the Catholic Church. If the buildings/land/art had been sold when originally donated to the Church, defying the givers' wishes, very little money would have been raised and that money would have been long gone. And I would be willing to bet, so would the buildings and art. And, yet, the poor would still be with us. Funny how that works. The clergy and other religious devote their lives to helping others--I've known many. Sixty years of always being there for others with no compensation other than daily meals and a new shirt and a pair of pants every year. And a pair of shoes every couple of years. Oh, and five dollars a month for stationery and postage to keep in touch with family and friends. Wow--now that's a life of luxury!

Let every religious group sell all their assets and hold Sunday services under the viaducts and expressway overpasses. See you there! If Father John isn't up yet, give his cardboard box a nudge...He'll appreciate it.

Posted by: Darrell at November 17, 2006 09:09 PM

It isn't the money. It's the love of money that corrupts.

THANK YOU. DC, everyone always loves to misquote that - and in the process, miss the whole damn point.

Posted by: k at November 17, 2006 10:18 PM

And Bob - I disagree with you and Wallace Wattles, absolutely, totally, completely.

Posted by: k at November 17, 2006 10:23 PM

Darrell makes a point that can be broadened to a point that eludes the Left to this day. If we simply grabbed all of the wealth of the US and gave it to the poor, it would serve to feed them for only the briefest time, and also increase the number of the poor by 300 million.

Posted by: John at November 18, 2006 06:46 AM

"Vows of poverity" is not Biblical. Roman Catholics equate poveity with piety and holiness, which have no basis in the Bible.
While Fundamentalists view properity as a ministry. To be good stewarts of what God has given you.
Many men of faith were wealthy, and they were able to use that wealth for good.

Posted by: Bloggermouth at November 18, 2006 09:37 AM

"Blessed are you poor; the reign of God is yours" (Luke 6:20).
"None of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his possessions" (Luke 14:33).
"Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Luke 9:23-24).
"To labor to earn one's own keep is right, to desire more is covetousness."The Rich Fool(Parable).
"Why so large a cost, having so short a lease
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend? . . . within be fed, without be rich no more."Shakespeare's take on the above.

And so many more. The point is possessions in themselves are neither inherently good or bad; it is the choices that one makes concerning them that determines their significance. Two basic strands of thought permeate the gospels- renunciation is absolutely necessary for a disciple because possessions can be an obstacle and a danger in the spiritual life. And the proper use of material goods that are nonessential to the disciple is to be manifested in the positive act of helping those in need.

That being said, if we all had nothing-if we gave it all away-the only help we could give would be good intentions. And Luke might have invented communism. Putting a number on what John(above) said, if we took away the wealth of everyone in the world who was "rich"(I think defined as a $million or more)and divided it up among everyone remaining--each person would receive a grand sum of $600, according to the last calculation I recall. And that doesn't factor in all those possessions hitting the market at the same time--which would deflate their value immensely. Not to mention the lack of buyers that situation would create.

Posted by: Darrell at November 18, 2006 10:26 AM

Malachi 3:10
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Job 42:10
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.

Genesis 18:18
Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

Matthew 7:9
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.


Posted by: Bob at November 18, 2006 04:53 PM

"Vows of poverity" is not Biblical. Roman Catholics equate poveity with piety and holiness, which have no basis in the Bible.

Oh, contraire. I would say that it is very Biblical.

A man may have two masters. He will hate one and love the other.

For that reason, most Catholic priests are not married.

A matter of...rendering to God what is God's.

Posted by: I R A Darth Aggie at November 18, 2006 06:30 PM

Hm. I do think the person who posed that question may not have thought it through completely.

But the degree to which wealth is/can be consistent with spiritual growth is an interesting one.

My own emotions are mixed: on the one hand, I think some detachment from the pursuit of wealth is a sign of mental health/spiritual strength.

On the other hand, idolizing poverty can, in practice, have disastrous results: producing things people want and need often leads to prosperity, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The attitude that prosperity is evil in and of itself is simply wrong-headed.

I guess I believe in material comfort as a positive thing, provided it isn't pursued single-mindedly and without ethics.

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