Money, money, money…
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
“… He has died as a ransom to set them free…” (Hebrews 9:15)
There is much Christian theology that seeks to explain redemption, the salvation that comes through Christ on the Cross, with financial analogies. I don’t like any of them. It’s not that the analogies don’t make sense or fail to hit the important point – that through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross comes forgiveness of sins – but money and purchasing and possessing just seem to have nothing to do with spirituality and divine grace. Christianity isn’t about reconciling the account books. The religion is, rather, about love – about being loved and loving. And even the Beatles know that “money can’t buy me love.”
And, yet… In Catholic Christianity, people pay for Masses to be said on behalf of deceased loved ones and the salvation of their souls. “Free will” or “love” donations are asked of people attending Christian services or revival meetings, and a basket is passed around. In some denominations, members are required to tithe, to give 10% of their earnings to the church. It seems that money certainly does matter – even in religions that are about spirituality and God’s unconditional love of souls. How do we justify this? With human good and the purpose of money…
We are only human. Our divinely created bodies of flesh and blood live upon this earth and are dependent upon earthly things for continued life here. God looks upon all that He has created and sees that it is good – earth is good, all flora and fauna are good, and the human body is good. As GK Chesterton once wrote: “There are no bad things. Only bad uses of things.” And what is good for the good human body is good food, good water, and good shelter. Companionship with other human beings is also good for the body – as it is good for the soul. For, every human person is both body AND soul. Our souls animate our bodies. In our desire to save our souls, we are not to forsake our bodies. When Scripture and theologians address the “desires of the flesh” as being contrary to the good of the soul, the flesh does not merely mean the body. Rather, “the flesh” is all of our self-centered desires and tendencies – the human will when it is contrary to Divine Will. God wills the good of the human person – which is the good of both the body AND the soul.
The Purpose of Money
All that money really is is a “modern” substitute for the bartering exchange of goods and services. I raise sheep and have a lot of wool. You have the talent and tools for turning wool into clothing and bedding. I give you my wool and, in exchange, you give me an agreed-upon amount of bedding and clothing. You will have extra woolen goods with which you can barter with someone else for firewood to keep you warm. That person who has a lot of firewood also gives some to me in exchange for some lamb or mutton. I also exchange some of my sheep for food, which a local farmer grows and I cannot. We all get along, giving and receiving just what we need to maintain our lives as we are living them. It’s all very simple and, yet, rather complicated as villages grow larger, more goods are introduced into the market, and more services are required. Buying and selling with standard currency merely standardizes and simplifies this process. I now sell my wool at the marketplace for money and use that money to buy what I need from others. Money, therefore, is to be used for the good of the human person.
Temptation, Sin, Salvation, and Jesus Christ…
In the simple bartering process, some people had the clever ability to gain more goods than they needed and to be able to exchange them for luxuries. Money makes it even easier for those clever people to gain more and more. And the temptation is to amass wealth, with rich foods, luxurious clothing, and elaborate shelters. The human body naturally responds to good food, warmth, and comfort, experiencing these things as pleasure. And there is nothing wrong with that in the sight of God. What is wrong, what is out of order for the good of the human person, is when greed for these things causes the person to lose sight of the good of his or her fellow human beings – or even to lose sight of his or her own immortal good.
Greed, lust, and gluttony are the sins that we commit when we want, not what is good in the sight of God, but, rather, what is pleasurable for our own flesh. There is a self-centeredness at the root of these sins, from which also stems envy (wanting what others have) and sloth (wanting to gain without working or giving) and pride (wanting to be the one who gains, who is envied, who controls). Pride is also this self-centeredness itself. For, we put ourselves and our own selfish desires at the center of life and of how life should be lived – denying the good that God, Our Creator and Sustainer, intends. And we are wrathfully angry (another of the deadly sins) when we are thwarted from getting our way.
The reason that these self-centered, self-worshiping kinds of sins are called “deadly” is because, when we succumb to them and live our lives in sin, we use our God-given spiritual gifts of intellect, memory/imagination, and free will to live lives that end only in death. What hell. Amassed wealth is not eternal. Narcissistic pleasures are not immortal. But, the human person is made for the eternal, for the immortal. The human body must be cared for with physical nourishment, sustenance, and protection just as the human soul must be cared for with spiritual nourishment, sustenance, and protection. I am one creature of body and soul. Neither my body nor my soul are to be indulged at the expense of who I am: a physical creature with a spiritual soul, made in the image of God to reflect God, embracing and sharing all that is of God, in this life on earth and continuing my divinely created life in the world to come, which is Heaven. When I love and live in the good things of God, and make use of these good things in a way that is keeping with the intention of God, then I know and will perpetually know eternal good – the good that is God. Lovingness helps us keep this divine perspective, God-centered, eternally experiencing what is truly good. Selfishness, with all those deadly sins, turns us away from what is right in God’s sight and makes us self-centered, living lives that will end with the death of the body. No loving eternity.
God became a human being to set us straight. Christ Jesus, being God-Incarnate, eternally sanctifies the human person – the human body and the human soul – in the most profoundly intimate way, by living as we live, hungering and thirsting as we do, dining as we dine, sleeping and waking, working as we work, tiring as we tire, enjoying human companionship as we so enjoy. God lived bodily on earth. And it was so very, very good! And, at the end of his earthly life, Christ Jesus agonized as we agonize, suffered as we suffer, and died as we die. But, the blood that he shed on the Cross was beautifully given to God his Father with the perfect fullness of love. He was not self-centered (even though we might foolishly, semantically argue that he was, since he was God, and he was God-centered) for all that Christ did, he did for our good, for the human good. It is God’s most perfect intention for human beings to flourish here on earth and eternally in Heaven – to know real love and to be really loving, for love is the one immortal good. This perfect human good was most perfectly and fully realized by Jesus Christ in his sacrifice on the Cross – and this perfect human good is perfect alignment with the good and goodness of God. It is our salvation, Christ is our salvation. Saved from selfish sins and lives that end in death – Saved for immortal good and eternal love. If we just follow him.
We don’t need to think of redemption as Jesus paying a price. Christ Jesus was and is willing to do anything for our good. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection is most definitely for our good. The Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit is most definitely for our good. It is not for our pride, for our greed, for our lust, for our gluttony, for our sloth, for our envy, or for our wrath. Christianity is living the Mystery of Christ so that we may not die in sin, but, rather, live in the salvation of love – forever – our resurrected, glorified bodies and our souls reunited after this earth passes away and our minds and hearts most fully opened, infinitely and eternally opened, to the good that is God.
Unpublished work © 2014 Christina Chase