“Being Godly doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be wealthy. God makes no such guarantees in the Bible, so goodbye, prosperity gospel…[But] God clearly is not opposed to wealth in a kind of blanket way. He’s not even opposed, necessarily, to tremendous wealth, gobstopping amounts of money.” –Owen Strachan
In a lecture for The Commonweal Project at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Owen Strachan tackles the tough subject of whether it’s morally wrong for Christians to make lots of money. His answer: “No. But it could be.”
Although the unprecedented prosperity of the last century has been accompanied by unprecedented amounts of guilt and self-loathing, Strachan argues that “the focus of a true Biblical theology of wealth would be on how money is a gift from God.” Surely we need to be wary of the unique temptations that come with wealth, but when dedicated to, consecrated by, and stewarded in attentive obedience to God and the Holy Spirit, “it can be nothing less than an engine, a mighty engine, for spiritual good,” Strachan argues.
Strachan proceeds with a good deal of theological and cultural analysis, supporting his case by highlighting three key things: (1) “the goodness of consecrated wealth in scripture,” (2) “the goodness of giving richly,” and (3) “the goodness of the free market and work.”
Strachan offers some great counters and qualifiers regarding the typical claims to the contrary, but toward the end in particular, he touches on what I think is the biggest problem underlying poverty theologies: a narrow view of God as a slave to scarcity, and therefore, a cramped, dualistic, and materialistic approach to stewardship, blessing, generosity, and the Christian life:
God created out of the overflow, didn’t he? God created out of the overflow of Trinitarian communion and love. We approach the world and economic and fiscal matters…out of a perspective of plentitude. God doesn’t create out of a limited little basket of supplies. “Oh no,” the Holy Spirit says, “We don’t have enough to create China.” That’s not the perspective we see in Scripture. There’s no problem God encounters in creating. He creates out of the overflow…
…Out of superabundance, God has created. Out of his superabundant grace, God continues to steward the Earth. The pie can truly grow larger, both economically, if you want, and spiritually. Isn’t that, in truth, what the Christian church is about? Growing the spiritual pie? …God is the ultimate giver and creator. God is the ultimate entrepreneur.
Indeed, as we worship the God from whom all blessings flow, let us not be so set and sticky on imposing our own limits and constraints. We serve a God who transcends scarcity. He has blessed us with tremendous gifts and glimpses of his glory, some of which transpire through mundane trade and exchange, the remarkable surprises of innovation, and yes, the mysterious and awe-inspiring creation of “gobstopping” wealth.