Sunday, 16 March 2008

God versus Mammon

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mark 10:25)

This old chestnut, over-used and cliche-ridden has been the mainstay of bible-bashers the world over. It's the ace of scriptures designed to trump all arguments about poverty, wealth and the hereafter. But could this brand of salesmanship be no more than an insidious five-card trick? Is there a genuine case for the idea that living in poverty guarantees a ticket to life everlasting, or are the evangelists merely using the bible to their own ends?

What is 'Rich'?

There is a big problem with the above scripture. It's the word 'rich'. How can this word possibly be defined objectively. I have my own view of what constitutes 'rich' and no doubt you, the reader, have yours. To a member of the Rothschild family, I would definitely not be considered rich, but to the jobless, the displaced and the dispossessed, I am a wealthy man. So, according to what criteria does a person have the right credentials to pass through the pearly gates, all other things being equal?

Pennies to Heaven

The fact that double standards exist within the church may not come as a surprise. The following scripture should, by rights, have settled the matter of privilege, but alas they have studiously ignored it.

"Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." (Acts 8:20)

This scripture highlights the deeply embedded tradition of rich people buying their way into heaven. This was done on the basis that sins could be forgiven by giving donations, or indulgences, and the larger the donation, the cleaner the slate. The donor was lighter in the pocket but could now sleep peacefully. That is until the next sin. The Catholic church quickly realised the wonderful potential of this. Wow! What a nice little earner! What power they had and still do have!

Guilt Trip

The donations, as you would expect, swelled the coffers of the church making it the richest institution of all time. In modern times we have the famous (or do I mean infamous?) collection plate and for the fundamentalists, the added principle of tithing, ensuring a regular flow of money. And if the congregation should, by circumstance, default in this endeavour, you could guarantee a hell-fire and brimstone sermon next Sunday. This is the ultimate in guilt trips.

Root of all Evil?

The old saying that 'Money is the root of all evil' is a misquote. Money is an inanimate object. It has no power of itself but relies upon a universal belief that it represents a certain value at a certain time and place. For this reason alone the exchange of money is really an exchange of energy. You give energy in the form of the currency of your country, and you receive energy in the form of goods or services. In July of 1914, the German mark was a relatively stable currency but by January 1919 you needed 2.6 of them to buy the same thing. By November 1923 you would have needed 726,000,000,000 of them to buy that same thing.

If you've aver tried to sell something you considered quite valuable and had no takers, it's not the fault of money but simply the market forces at work. The trouble is that we have mostly been taught that having money is bad. How often have you heard the following statements?

  • Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • Money is filthy and dirty.
  • Rich people are crooks.
  • Only people who cheat have money.
  • Poor people can never get out from under.
How we Think about Money

This list is not exhaustive but it highlights the kind of indoctrination we have mostly grown up with. Louise Hay tackles the problems of money from the inside by saying that we always have a choice. To make a different choice from the ones we have been making all our lives requires a decision to change our thoughts about wealth and I can do no better than recommend her books which explain this in detail. She offers a totally new and refreshing view on money. For example, do you resent paying bills? Do you treat bills as punishments, or debt as a life sentence? Do you treat money as a friend or an enemy to be avoided?

If we can remove ourselves from the negative teachings about money and adopt positive thinking, we can throw off the guilt attached to it and begin to prosper. The prosperity which comes from this will be a genuine prosperity, not one which goes the way of the German mark. It has worked for me. It can work for you.

If you want to know more about this 'new' thinking, get Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life". It makes mincemeat of camels and needles.


JayPeeFreely said...

Just mentioned something about the German currency in my last post...

I don't think I ever cared that much for money until I didn't have enough to pay those pesky bills!!! :)

(Course, I stopped that. And I don't have a credit card anymore.)

Richard Webb said...

Thanks for the comment Jason.

The adjective you used for your bills is a classic example of how we have been taught to think, though a gentle one compared with the ones I used before realising that it wasn't going to solve my problems.

I used to hate my creditors too, until it finally dawned on me that hating them only damaged me, not them. As soon as I started to feel OK about them and the bills, things improved almost overnight. Now, I bless my bills. After all, the senders have trusted me with the responsibility of paying. I like being trusted and I honour that trust. Now, I don't get any hassle from anyone to whom I owe money.

Incidentally, I don't have a credit card either. I think it's better that way.