Saturday, May 24, 2014

Could This Growing Threat Divide Our Church?

Greed: wanting more than is needed
This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but did not help the poor and needy.
- Ezekiel 16:49 (NASB) 

While the Mennonite church is in the midst of multiple conflicts and deep divisions over what to do with gay and lesbian members who want to be in committed relationships, there's another equally sobering issue we need to address.

I refer to the question of how we respond to greed-oriented persons who seek to become members of our fellowship.

I'm aware of a growing number of Mennonites who have quietly come out as multi-millionaires, and have begun to live accordingly. They may represent fewer than 3-5% of us, but that's still a lot of people. In addition, an untold number of members, while not yet living an openly multi-millionaire lifestyle, nevertheless have a strongly greed-based and consumer-driven orientation. All of us face the danger of becoming far too attached to money and the abundance of things money can buy.

Not everyone who stewards large sums of money or manages enterprises that produce large amounts of wealth is necessarily greed-driven.  I know business men and women who operate with integrity, provide decent jobs at fair wages and don’t assume that managing more capital wealth entitles them to a greater share of consumer wealth. In other words, they continue to live simply and frugally and share sacrificially with those in need.

But Jesus repeatedly warns us of the danger of greed and of pursuing wealth for selfish ends rather than solely for the good of others. And what should make this a grave concern is that if one takes scripture seriously it is clear that no greedy person can be considered a part of the rule of Christ. Note:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.
- I Corinthians 6:9-10 (NRSV, emphasis mine)
So what do you think? Should the church begin to do some major house cleaning based on this growing concern about the love of Mammon, one to which Jesus gives more attention than to any of his other teachings?

Clarifying note: The Merriam-Webster definition of greed is "a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed."
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