Monday, September 5, 2011

"Thou Shalt Not Tax the Rich?" I Don't Remember Where That One Is. In Fact...

I can't help, considering today's holiday, giving a thought to the primacy of money in my country. The alarming thing to me is not that politicians err on the side of wealth, since politics is not a moral business, but that presidential hopefuls have linked the interests of the very rich to a tradition that calls for humbleness and self denial: Christianity. And ordinary people believe them.

Those who subscribe to what is called Bible-based belief seem to ignore the scriptural evidence. It was Michael Douglas in Wall Street who preached the gospel, "Greed is Good," not Jesus. I'm by no means a fundamentalist of any type, but it's hard to miss glaring contradictions.

See, when I look at an image of the crucifixion, I never really think "lots of money." When Jesus tells us to take up our crosses, I'm not sure that he means the burden of wealth.

In fact, the evidence against riches in Jesus' teachings is overwhelming. Those who struggle financially have been led to believe not only that catering to the rich serves their own interests, but that doing so is somehow transcendentally moral. They really need to dust off those Bibles. It was for such a purpose that people like William Tyndale risked death, and often received martyrdom as thanks.

Or why don't I make it easier? Here's a collection of quotes....

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" - Matt 19:21-23

"...He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." - 1 Tim 6:4-10

"Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Luke 12:27-34

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." - Acts 4:32

"There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." - Acts 4:34-35

"You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." - James 4:2-3

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'"- Luke 12:15

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." - Phil 4:11

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

   'Never will I leave you;
   never will I forsake you.'"

- Heb 13:5

"For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." - Eph 5:5

"They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely." - Mark 12:40

"Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here’s a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?" - James 2:2-6

I don't see any guarantees of happiness though tax breaks for the rich in there. Do you?

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