Quick Reflections on Money, Greed and Race

greedIn America, we tend to often operate between two extremes. On one side of the spectrum, we are driven by austerity, Pharaoh-like ideologies, feeling like there is not enough. On the other side of the spectrum, we are driven by mass consumption, Solomon-like dreams hoarding more and more and doing so by any means possible. Both ideologies drive racial and socioeconomic inequities to a large extent mostly because the underlying principle that governs this broken society is that money needs to be made.

To understand this principle, we must remember our history. We have to remember that racism, a myth and human concept that has only existed since the last couple of hundred years, came about to justify the maltreatment of African Americans and American Indian people. White people needed a reason, a biological reason, to point to why it was okay to steal labor and land for the sake of growing the economy and making this “new” nation prosperous. And it worked and has been working for centuries. This is why even in the absence of slavery and Jim Crow (at least the Jim Crow of the early 1900s), racism is still alive and kicking our behinds pretty hard. It doesn’t need these institutions to thrive – it thrives because of greed.

The love of money is the root of all evil.” This is a biblical truth that has continued to be true from the beginning. But of course, God knows what He is talking about and has always known what He is talking about. Still, we don’t trust Him. And we think He is kidding or is only half serious when He says that this mammon thing will destroy us. And it has. Literally. Millions, if not billions, of lives have been lost through slavery, colonization, war, genocide, and so many other vices all because of the love of money (although it often gets masked differently.)

To be clear, money in and of itself is not the problem; it’s the love of it that causes all of these horrible things. But the human heart is incredibly weak, we fall in love way too quickly. And that love leads us down a thousand paths, all of them leading us to destruction and away from God.

If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Jesus’ words may sound extreme but once again, He knows what He is talking about. If money and all of the possessions that it brings makes us stumble, we must cast them off. It would be better to be broke (not that I am advocating for monasticism) then to lead millions of people astray, including ourselves, because of ungodly material pursuits.

But if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” According to the Apostle Paul, this is all we need (and of course housing and a job, too). If we have any hope of ridding this place of racism and other socioeconomic inequities, this is what we need to get to. These are the terms that we need to redefine our society by, and even our churches by – basic human necessities that provide for all of us because contrary to common perception, there is enough for all of us.

In God’s economy, there’s no need to denigrate or marginalize each other to compete for what should be equally accessible to all of us. In God’s economy, this idea is simply ridiculous and so far from what He had in mind. He designed this world to be a place for all of us to enjoy. It’s a shame that because of greed so many people haven’t.

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