Tag Archives: Riches

Does ‘love’ equal ‘good’?

In Australia, it is beyond argument to say, ‘Love is good.’

If we love, we must be permitted to love to the utmost. Those who place an impediment to love are nothing but mean-spirited misanthropes. It’s easy to create slogans for the modern view of love.

Love must be free.

All love is real love.

Keep your hate away from my love.

[Between drafting this post and publishing it, I saw the perfect T-shirt. It said Do what you love.]

My automatic tendency is to agree with these ideas. After all, it’s none of my business, is it? If that’s ‘your thing’ but not mine, surely we can co-exists peacefully. In other words: Yes, I am an insider to the modern Australian culture.

God’s word breaks through such silly sentiment. Not all love is good. And the major love of many Australians is a deadly poison. There is a love we are to oppose! Such love is a risk in churches. And a danger to the wider community.

Here are some of the warnings:

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
(Proverbs 28:20)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:11)

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. … You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.  (See the whole of James 5:1-7)

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  (To the church of Laodicea, Revelation 3:16-17)

Loving money is awfully dangerous. It makes for the tragedy of turning away from Jesus with sadness (remember the rich ruler of Mark 10). It makes our eyes blind to needy humans we could help (remember the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16).

Love of money is far from neutral. It switches mastery. Instead of us mastering money to serve others, money masters us to serve self.

‘Love’ equals ‘good’. No!
With this example of money, it’s easy to see that love is not enough explanation for action. Quite the contrary, in fact. Love’s danger is that it can blind us to the wrongs inhabiting our own hearts. Love might lead us – willingly, eagerly – along a path of destruction. The modern cries (and T-shirts!) tell us to freely flow along the river of our passion. With real wisdom, the Bible urges us instead to pause, and practise humble self-awareness.

It’s not Follow your love. Much more it’s Beware your loves.



The danger of riches

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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.