The church has long been haunted by a dualism … But the Bible eschews every dualism and asserts the materiality of creation over which God generously presides. That pernicious dualism has readily produced a religion that is disconnected from public realty and has sanctioned predatory economic practices that go hand in hand with intense and pious religion. Thus the earlier robber barons were card-carrying Christians in good standing; and in our time the church is mostly silent in the face of a predatory economy that reduces many persons to second-class humanity. That deceptive misreading is aided and abetted by a lectionary that mostly disregards the hard texts on money and possessions. xxi
So begins Walter Brueggemann in his new book Money and Possessions.
The quote above reveals a big concern of this book: the church has generally ‘bottled it’ when it comes to speaking of money and possessions within a highly acquisitive culture. To do this requires putting on blinkers in how we read the Bible because from Genesis to Revelation the Bible has an enormous amount to say on the material world.
Do you agree that Christianity tends to be dualistic when it comes to money and possessions? Heard any good sermons on money recently?
He outlines 6 theses concerning money and possessions in the Bible and further proposes that at each point the Bible flatly contradicts the global market economy which now so totally dominates our lives.
I’ve cannibalised what he says along with bits of my own commentary into a wee table:
The greatest achievement of capitalism’s advance is that somehow it is seen as ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’.
It also has claimed to be the best way for economic and social progress – but endless crises and crashes tell another story – one we know rather a lot about in Ireland. Over 8 years on from the crash of 2008, the EU is still trying (and failing) to fight its way out of insurmountable debt.
The Bible certainly envisages a different way of handling limited resources. Capitalism is simply a man-made construction – it is not natural and it is certainly unsustainable.
God’s will is for justice and for his people to embody a different way of life. As Brueggemann says his will “contradicts much of our preferred, uncritized practice.” 13.