I have always called for an even approach to sin. We need to define just what sin is (well, it’s the chapter I’m working through on my book right now, so maybe it’s just me!). Then once we have established that, we need an even-handed approach by not suggesting that any one sin is any worse in God’s eyes than another. I truly believe the 21st century church is guilty of such unevenness, and maybe the most prevalent example is the zero attention to greed.
I’ll not take the time here to outline all the Bible verses where it is condemned alongside the other ones we always hear decried from pulpits, like drunkenness, adultery, deceit, lust, nor do we hear the greedy person condemned alongside the sexually immoral or the slanderer, yet this is exactly what I read in my Bible! Here’s just one example:
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)
Did you notice that little hidden word there? Greedy! Just that it’s not exactly hidden, is it? Some preachers, who may be millionaires themselves, and are telling their congregations that they too can become millionaires just by faith in God, seem to miss it when they read from their Bibles to proclaim their truth. And I have never come across it as a sermon topic!
“This is my truth, tell me yours.”
– Aneurin Bevan.
Problem is that we all have a truth that is ours alone, and we all like to find the scripture that fits that personal ‘truth’ and ignore the others. I have yet to meet anyone who genuinely does not do this – it is a human trait and is practically impossible to throw off and be 100% subjective. However, when faced with an overwhelming amount of scripture that repeats the same thing, we must allow it to shape our truth, must we not?
Recently much of our media attention has been directed at a book & film that just should not have amassed an overnight fortune for its author, since it is so badly written (from practically every review that has been written about it). I am not fuming jealousy at the idea of a bad writer getting all the money… no, maybe I am, if I’m honest enough; if this book of mine only makes one percent of what that book/film made, I could retire a very contented man! Nor am I accusing the author of greed – she could not have known just how much she would make from a piece of sleazy chick lit, and I am sure she must have some idea that she is no Shakespeare! It wasn’t her fault that our media moguls fawned all over it, and Holywood came calling! Reports are that it has outstripped even Harry Potter in book sales and film revenues!! Whatever you may think of the Harry Potter stories, very few would try to say that JK Rowling is a bad writer!
If you’re still not sure which book I am referring to, it’s ’50 Shades of Grey’. Did you not even see my title? Now this is a book I have never set eyes upon, nor do I wish to, and I have no desire to see any more of the film than has been shown in trailers. Fortunately, a brave female fellow Christian blogger has read and watched it, just to be able to critique it properly, so I’ll take her word for it. She’s a good blogger and writer and I have no reason to challenge her opinion (and it is refreshing for once to not find a Christian voice condemning something without actually having looked themselves!).
Here it is if you wish to read it:
A Missionary’s Position on 50 Shades of Grey.
The basic conclusion is interesting; this is a book about a stalker! Had anybody else acted as creepily obsessive over the woman in the story as Mr. Grey, they would have had an exclusion order slapped on them! It is just bad, for our 21st century emancipated women – the poor woman in the book is the pawn of a control freak! Just why and how does the male protagonist get away with his behaviour? Because he’s a handsome billionaire!! He’s such a great man, so successful, so wealthy, so revered by society, he just couldn’t really be a nasty criminal type, or any sort of mentally ill wacko! Surely not! However, that is the problem: with everyone falling over themselves to promote this work of crass sordidness, and throw their investment money at it, is it any real wonder when it is billionaires who are the ones who like what the book is stating?
Can I be allowed to cast a stone? While I am trying to promote a ‘condemn the sin, not the sinner’ attitude, there are times when it becomes pretty clear that a stone or five could be chucked. For instance, were I to meet a man who had cheated on his wife about half a dozen times, I would be justified to say “you’re an adulterer!” No? Really? I would try to understand just why they would come to behave in such a way, if I could, and offer counsel if asked, but I should be safe to say; they are an adulterer! Likewise, I think I should be entitled to say to a billionaire “you’re a greedy person!” The aforementioned JK Rowling was a billionaire, but she has now given most of it away! If such wealth is such a burden, as some of them try to make us believe, then let us relieve them of some of that burden… please!
We have got to stop revering greedy people, as a church of followers of Jesus: He, as our example, had “no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20). We are called to “not conform to the pattern of the world” (Rom. 12:2), so let us renew our minds and recognise sin where it lies and be the example of ‘betterness’ – just as we should not be sexually immoral, so we should not be greedy.
“But,” you may object, “this is just a work of fiction, that’s not true in the real world! Billionaires are not given any more respect than the rest of us. They don’t have any real higher ‘status’!”
Really? My reply to that is that you’re living in cloud cuckoo land! A judge once said “the rich get justice, the poor get the law” since they can always afford the best lawyers. If you have enough money, you can get one of them to go through your arrest report for drunk-driving and search for the smallest mistake that can see you avoid court! Still not convinced that there is a culture of reverence for the rich and famous? Why was it that many called for Paris Hilton to not be sent to prison for a crime she committed? Is that just stupid uneducated people? No, it occurs in the well-educated judiciary too: Read this news report and then come back to me and try to say we don’t have a major cultural problem that the church is failing to address!
I am not saying in any way that all super-rich people are like this lowlife, but I am saying that we have allowed ourselves to disassociate greed from any taint of sin or wrongdoing and have in fact allowed people who suffer from this sin to not only go unchecked but to be exonerated in churches as much as they are in society.
Grace be with you.