Sunday, April 27, 2014

Whose Wealth Is It Anyway?

Spending most of my days among books means that I am constantly being made aware of all the literature that I am not reading, and that I will never read. I don't like that there are books that I haven't read. So every now and then I'll pick up a book that catches my attention and read some of it. This is what free time looks like for a theology student. Well, that and watching football.

Yesterday it was Jacques Ellul's Money and Power.

The opening two chapters contain two interesting points.

The first is Ellul's critique of the notion of "stewardship," which is an ethic based on God's ownership of the world and his handing over of the things of the world to humans as stewards. I don't think Ellul goes far enough with his critique, but he at least forces us to ask the question: whose wealth do own?

In reality men and women get wealth unfairly; they willingly strip God of it and appropriate it to themselves; they are not stewards. They are unfaithful trustees, and they take care of Satan’s wealth.

"Satan's wealth." What a brilliant phrase. It reminds me of Bill Hicks's rhetoric:

People often ask me where I stand politically. It's not that I disagree with Bush's economic policy or his foreign policy; it's that I believe he was a child of Satan sent here to destroy the planet Earth. Little to the left.

The second point is something I have thought about for a while. It concerns the tension between the Old and New Testaments on the topic of wealth. According to Ellul,

There is no more apparent radical opposition between the two covenants than the one concerning wealth.

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