Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Faith and Finances or God and Mammon

Dr. Leon Kass, described in 2002 by U.S. News and World Report as the President’s Philosopher, has written several articles exploring the philosophy of the Old Testament, particularly the book of Genesis. He has recently issued a word to our recession-gripped culture. He writes that it is no accident that humanity’s ancient foe first appears in the Bible as a snake – an image that follows through the canon of Scripture to the Revelation. Kass writes: “For the serpent is a mobile digestive tract that swallows its prey whole; in this sense the serpent stands as pure appetite.”

Scripture warns humanity to beware of the appetite, where one can consume oneself to death. Even the image of the serpent has been stylized as a circle as it consumes itself, further emphasizing its sin of gluttony for power and mammon. The serpent reminds us that we humans are prone to greed and faith in wealth rather than reliance on God. It is ironic that even on our money we remind ourselves that it is “In God We Trust,” while at the same time winking to one another with a gleam in our eyes, believing that comforts and security are assured through our money, not our faith.

This time of recession and economic turmoil has hurt a certain population in our nation and around the world. Although the steel workers of America may not have lost much in their stock portfolio, they have lost their only means of survival, their jobs. As one homeless wanderer who frequents First Christian Church for a bit of food remarked to me, “I haven’t really noticed a difference. I’m still hungry during the day and cold at night.” The truth is that ultimately, the health of our economy will impact everyone. It is a clear sign of how the action of one really does affect the life of others. We will survive. Our nation will bounce back. Thousands may be irreparably damaged, but Americans are resilient.

Pain, tragedy and bad times can be servants of us all. It is in those moments we rediscover our core values of dignity, respect, hard work and family. It is in times of uncertainty when we realize that our control of the universe is an illusion and we are humbled to bend the knee before the King of kings. It is in these times that we have the chance to reflect on how we have been seduced by the serpent that consumes itself. Wall Street and Main Street call you and me “consumers.” Even the very word reminds me of our ancient foe. Thank God for Church Street that reminds us that we are really servants of the One who owns the Golden Streets. Our true security is not in power, might or mammon. Our true wealth is God’s love through Jesus Christ and it was you and me that God deemed so valuable that he gave his only Son.

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