God, not riches

Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (Psalm 62:10-12).

As I was preparing to teach on John the Baptist last week, I was struck (as always) by the blood and guts thunder of John’s message of repentance. But, when push came to shove, the repentance he required was relatively modest: to live fairly. Tax collectors were to collect no more than they were due; soldiers were to not use their office for personal gain through oppression; those who had were to share with those who did not. Some would argue that I’m understating John’s requirements, but I think it is possible, without going overboard, to be a disciple in the mode of John without moving to the desert with John; you don’t have to eat locusts and honey–just be sure to pay a fair price for the food you buy.

Today’s passage has to do with wealth, and with God. We are warned not to place our trust in the small riches we have; God is the one who is strong, and it is his love that we must depend on. God pays attention to how we spend our money, and the real rewards of having money will be in its wise use for kingdom purposes.

I rejoice in the way some people follow a radical path of renunciation of wealth. But I also rejoice when I see wealth well-spent for kingdom purposes. Try telling the friends of the Open Door in Atlanta that only capitalism will save them. Try telling those who have received clean water and HIV medicine through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that capitalism will only kill them.