The danger of riches

  • Sumo
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The danger of riches is a wrong explanation.

That is, when we own ‘stuff’ we also hold to an explanation of why we have it and where it’s from. It is a simple matter to be completely wrong.

The book of Hosea provides clear example of this (even though the prophet Hosea says less that his contemporary Amos about the rich exploiting the poor). The middle of the eighth century BC was quite prosperous in Palestine. Israel and Judah both were rife with Caananite cults, the Baals. It seems these cults took credit for fertility and abundance.

And she [Israel] did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.
(The Lord speaking in Hosea 2:8)

Later on we hear that the people of Israel took the credit for their own riches. (In the following, ‘Ephraim’ is another way of referring to Israel.)

Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;
I have found wealth for myself;
in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
Hosea 12:8

Despite superficial differences, these are the same explanation. Religion is a human creation. The Baals are like every god: made up concepts and made up figurines. And the practice of ‘religion’ depends entirely on the worshipper: he or she must make the right moves to ensure success. In other words, giving credit to Baal is the same as taking credit for oneself, for one’s own efforts are always at the centre.

This explains God’s judgement announced by Hosea. Immediately after each of the above verses, God proclaims that the riches will be taken away.

Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season,
and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. (2:9)

I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt;
I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast. (12:9)

The Lord proves that he provides all good things (James 1:17) by taking them away from the evil and ungrateful. ‘How useful are the Baals now? How productive is your claimed good work?’

I think this also explains how Hosea idealises Israel’s time in the wilderness, after the exodus from Egypt (see 2:14; 9:10; 13:5). It’s not that the people were less sinful back then. No, but in the wilderness the only explanation for their provision was the goodness of the Lord.

We all own stuff. In Australia, we’re rich. It matters little what we have. It matters immensely who receives the credit.