Jesus or Mammon?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. James 2:1-9

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep a wink, I began thinking about a recent conversation. While I can’t divulge the specifics, I can share what thoughts the conversation sparked within me. Let me explain. I don’t come from a rich family nor do I have connections. On the contrary, I grew up poor and somewhat isolated–in a rural area. While I wasn’t naive concerning the sins of the flesh and spirit, I was naive concerning Christian churches and institutions–the ways of the world within the Church and American Christian culture. Let me get to the point.

While Jesus through Scripture teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evil, that we can’t serve God and Mammon (money), and that our hearts will be where our treasures are, I’ve been implicitly taught by the American branch of the Church that money matters (there are exceptions of course, I am just talking about widespread Christian practice).

Who gets the important positions on church councils, organizations, and school boards? The rich and influential (influence is tied to money believe it or not). They are courted because of their donations. Now, many of these rich people are godly. Because of his wealth, Joseph of Arimethea was able to provide a tomb for Jesus’s body prior to the resurrection. But isn’t it interesting that studies show that the poor give a bigger percentage of their money away than do the rich?

But let us not be deceived into thinking that those who court the favor of the wealthy and influential aren’t looking for some money for their church or institution–money in exchange for power. The rich  and influential often call the shots.

At one point in my life, someone said to me, “Marlena, I’d love for you to be a trustee at this institution.” When I asked what qualified someone to be a trustee at that particular institution they said, “Money and influence.” “Well” I said, “I have neither money, nor great enough influence.” He laughed knowingly. So while someone might have widsom and integrity, they are disqualified because of lack influence and money.

The same thing is true with Christian publishing. It is a business, they are looking to sell their books. What books? Those whose authors have a big enough platform or influence. Those who are famous. Christian celebrities. The best writers? Not necessarily.

The bottom line in many of these Christian churches, insitutions, and Christan media is money. And believe me, I know we need money to function. And I do not in any way discount the godly who are rich and influential. However, we are showing preference for the rich. We are playing favorites. We do court those who can put up the money for our organizations–the givers. We court the influential even if they lack substance. That is natural I guess, but when they get to call the shots because they give more than others, or because they’re recognizable–that’s favoritism. How many poor, wise, godly people full of integrity are on the boards of churches and institutions?

I am sad about the disparity between what Jesus teaches and what the Church teaches in practice. I used to be naive about these things but I am not any longer. It’s the way of the world within the Church. It seems that in this case, it the Christianized Mammon that we are worshiping.

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