One of the things I have learned by hanging with Quakes and other fringeworthy Christians — is the difference between “power-over” and “power-with”.
Wealth is about control. It is buying power. And when we have enough of it we get to buy people too — literally or figuratively. Power-with is about mutual aid and mutual empowerment.
I start with that comment because I think it has something to do with being a gospel people. This passage from James makes us want to dwell on the spiritual message. So does the story in the gospels about the rich young man Jesus told to give up his wealth. We want to spiritualize it. If we have detachment from our wealth its alright to be wealthy. When the plain sense of these scriptures is that to have wealth is to have a kind of power contrary to the gospel.
On other websites I rail against Bush’s foreign policies. I’m sure folks read me as a Republican-hating Democrat. I’m not. I can’t even vote in American elections. If we take this passage and others like it seriously, then no President of the United States can be a Christian — by definition.
The best and most righteous President ever imaginable, must still exercise the power of office of the world’s most powerful nation to preserve and protect that power and privilege that belongs to that office and nation. A Christian would be obligated to give that power away to empower those who are yet enemies. And a Christian in the role of Prime Minister of Canada, or Britain, or even of some small, African nation is in no better position.
So what do I do with that?
Well. I waffle.
I have a retirement fund. I’ve dipped into it during my recent unemployment. And I collect government funds during this unemployment. And when I was working I made decisions that affected other people’s lives.
And I know that there were followers of Jesus who did not abandon ALL their wealth but used some of it to support the ministry of Jesus and other travelling prophets.
So now what?