My E-pistle last week focused upon the two contrasting attitudes about money: what I called the Scarcity/Accumulation model where we each try to get our “piece of a shrinking pie”- versus what I called the Abundance/Responsibility model where we live in gratitude for God’s abundant provision and accept responsibility as good stewards to work for a just provision of God’s abundance for everyone.
I have received a lot of responses to that E-pistle, mostly positive, but a few asked me, “Are you showing favoritism to the wealthy?” My answer is “Not at all.” There is some evidence in the Old Testament that the rich are assumed to have God’s blessing, but even in the Old Testament, especially the writings of the prophets, those who have many blessings are called into accountability to provide justly for those who are poor. In the New Testament the case can be made that there is actually favoritism for the poor, along with warnings to the rich.
I believe that there is a kind of “Crisis of Abundance” which comes when we are blessed. The crisis is not about money, however, it is about our own spiritual attitude toward that money. The crisis of abundance is that we can start to believe that we deserve our blessings, that we have earned our wealth on our own, and that we don’t need to be good stewards who care about the needs of others. Moses warned the Israelites way back in Deuteronomy 8 that when they cross into the Promised Land, grow into a great and powerful country, and accumulate wealth – that they must not forget the Lord and believe that they have accomplished this by their own power. That is the crisis of abundance. That is the same attitude I wrote about last week – when we turn God’s abundance into our own “game” of accumulation.
It seems to me that the so-called preference toward the poor in the Gospels is not about money either. The point of Jesus (in places like the Beatitudes) is that the poor are blessed because they know they are dependent upon God. The rich are endangered because they can start to believe there are independent from God. It is a spiritual issue, not really just a money issue.
So, no, I do not believe God treats the rich preferentially, and neither should we. Rather, we should remind the rich (and all of us in America are among the wealthy of the world) of our stewardship responsibilities: first to be thankful to God, second to be careful stewards of our wealth and not fall into the accumulation trap, and third to be extravagant in our own generosity toward others, especially those in need. It is really not about the money, it is about our relationship to God and one another. Will we live with an attitude of Abundance/Gratitude/Responsibility/Justice/Generosity? Or will we live with a selfish attitude of Accumulation/Scarcity/Greed?
Once again, I invite us to live within the abundance of God’s blessings as good stewards of that grace.