Money Is Addictive and Causes Brain Damage.

Here’s the first obstacle: Just about everyone reads this story and says, “Who, me?”

We are rich in our hearts. And thus Matthew’s evasive amendment: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” doesn’t soften things nearly enough. In our hearts we’d still like the blessings of security, sufficiency, and a large estate to play in. What’s wrong with that?

There’s nothing obviously wrong with finding an elegant hand-crafted ring that makes the bearer invisible; but when you read _The Lord of the Rings_ and see how the Ring twists people’s minds, you stop thinking of it as a pleasant convenience and recognize it as intrinsically evil.

“Well, that’s just a story. And money doesn’t have to twist our minds! I know some perfectly nice rich people!”


I know perfectly nice people who like to drink too much. Personal factors determine whether they take to parroting talk-radio concepts or merely go heedlessly driving over pedestrians, but there’s no question it’s a barrier between us, and limits them.

“Yes, but poor people aren’t any better than anyone else, and I don’t really have all that much, and people in my family need things too!”

See, where there’s guilt there’s evasion. Maybe there’s even more evasion than there needs to be, because few of us are that guilty. Few of us can imagine, much less actually intend the various horrors that have been routinely inflicted in the process of safeguarding our privileged position. (Which position is not, as we know, an unqualified blessing–but is as hard for us to leave as for an addict to do without his fix.)

Money is a good thing; it helps us escape the painful and crippling effects of poverty, an evil much more common and obviously debilitating. Who can deny this?

Should we strive for moderation? No, recognize the tension. Tension holds us upright against torques that would otherwise flop us forward on our faces or back onto our butts. Awareness of opposing forces helps us balance ourselves in a comfortable position. But it’s hard to sense the forces accurately when one is terrified of falling.

Is this really about “going to Heaven when we die?” Well, no, it isn’t. But it is about Judgement. Our civilization has screwed things up on a vast scale, and continues to harm people on a vast scale, and we shouldn’t either forget that or dwell overmuch on it. When our present way of life collapses–that fall will be our only possible escape from overwhelming, growing evils, and it will also be traumatic. We can do this the easy way–or cling to what we have, and take a hard fall.

The Kingdom is not in the sky. You don’t have to die, you don’t even need to give your money away and go on the streets to get in. But it does cost all you have.

And then you have everything you need. But it’s harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one person to enter the Kingdom alone.


3 responses

  1. And the choir said, “Amen!”Then slunk away to munch on a candy bar while going through didgital pics taken at a week vacation spent on the otehr side of the continent.No, I don’t feel rich. But yet I consume resources at an unconscionable rate. And I carry that tension you speak about in my pants pocket right next to my mastercard. I take it out every once in a while to ogle it like a fine jewel. Indeed that tension becomes one of my riches. See me, I’m way smarter than those prosperity preaching folks in the church down the street where the pastor drives a new BMW each year on the back of their tithes.Yes. The tension is there. And I am better for it. But soemtime or other it has to start craeting something real in me. The whole point of tension is as a vehicle for the creation of soemthing new and good. I’m still waiting.

  2. If you’re saying that knowing this is merely an emotional indulgence… I think people can use their insights as a source of ego points, but that’s a side issue, a criticism other people may use to fend off their reality. The tension is there, and the awareness of that tension is important. We’ve got this prejudice that “Only action matters.” If what we consider important is the effect on other people, that even implies that only successful actions matter.But truly, only God matters, and is creating something new and good: you.You can kick that creation around: “What a useless baby it is! Just lies around buying itself airline tickets! Take that! Bad baby!” And God will continue creating the possibility of something better, but it won’t do anything “real” until you let it be. Not kicking it, for a start.You could give up your car and merely become a pain to yourself and others. Yes, we need to give up cars, and someone has to begin, but that may not be your task.Only listening matters. What, right now, does God want? Listen. Look about. Let your mind renew; then see what needs done.

  3. See, this is getting into my quarrel with the traditional Christian language of spirituality.I’m more than acquainted with that bad aspect of “self-will,” both in myself and (apparently unrecognized) in others. I agree we’ve got to stop letting it drive the car.But God did not make us in two separate pieces, with a dotted line to cut along. The self who beats on us for not being taller yet is not Christ, merely that same stunted self on stilts.And that’s the same self we keep turning to for self-improvement!We need the eye that sees our faults, but we need to remember that it misrepresents matters. Sometimes it’s just the left eye of the ego making like an angel of light.Every so often I wake up and see that I’m not the person I used to think, that I didn’t need to do things I thought I had to, and that God has been quietly at work through all my fuss.I’m still the same person. But there are a lot of damnfool things I probably won’t do again, and one of them is worrying so much about my own virtue or weakness, thinking that what I decide matters much or doesn’t matter, forgetting too long who’s really in charge here.

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