Thoughts on Evil: Part 7, No Money In Heaven

“Whatever the particulars, we are called to feast at the table of the Lord. Sharing partnership around that table, we find that no one goes away hungry – in more ways than one. We feast in the kingdom of God, receiving God’s abundance. Having freely received, we freely give. To do otherwise would make no sense, given the graciousness of our host.”Lee Camp; Mere Discipleship

In my last post in this thread “Thoughts on Evil” I set the groundwork to explore “the Six Evils” that Jacques Ellul names in his book “The Subversion of Christianity.” In today’s post we will explore the first of those six evils – Mammon. And here is my thesis – “There will be no money in Heaven.” At least not a system of currency and exchange as we know it. If there is any ‘system’ it will be known as ‘sharing.’

To be sure, this topic has been a source of complexity and debate for… well… forever. In the New Testament the issue is raised again and again. In Jesus’ list of issues that he teaches about in parables, number 1 is the “kingdom of God” and number 2 is “money.”

Here are some interesting texts from the New Testament:

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matt. 6:24)

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:25-33)

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matt. 13:44)

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:45)

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God. (Luke 12: 13-21)

One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’ (Luke 14:15-24)

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:32-37)

Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)

Now that you have read these texts, go to this website – globalrichlist.com – Pardon my language, but knowing where I am on the global rich list, after reading those texts, scares the hell out of me. Does it scare you? It should.

The James passage is particularly frightening to me. James, in the course of his letter, has already reminded us that the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ is a fierce lover who burns with the anger of jealousy. When anything trumps our allegiance to him and his will for us, he burns with fury. A difficult pill to swallow. But back to the original question – Is money evil?

I am well aware of the typical response here: “No. Money is not evil. The LOVE of money is evil.”

There are, at the very least, two problems here: (1) How do you know when you love money or don’t love money? What is enough? Simply stating that “Money is not evil. The LOVE of money is what is evil.” does not absolve us of the responsibility to discern when we are loving money. (2) It’s devoid of eschatology. Allow me to ask you a question. Will there be currency in the New Heavens and New Earth? Why not? In the words of Bob Dylan, “I can’t answer for you. You’ll have to decide.”

Nevertheless, I can echo the hint of the future in Isaiah 55. Hear God’s invitation to New Heavens and New Earth.

Come all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

So entertain the idea that the old and tired, routine answers to the question “Is money evil?” might miss the point. In a modern world, we needed an answer to that question that absolved us of the need to change our everyday dealings with money. “As long as I do not LOVE money, then I am okay. Money itself is not evil.” But what if currency is a signpost of the old age? What is the presence of money and its undeniable force that compels mankind toward acts of greed, is evidence that “everything has not been made brand new” just yet? What if, in the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no money? What if the communities of believers in Acts 2 and 4 serve as foretastes of glory divine?

Jacques Ellul says this:

“The traditional theory is that these first believers were constructing an ‘eschatological’ community, that they could thus live in common and spend their time in prayer, not working but living off what others had made. But when these resources were exhausted, what then? They had to come back into line, working like the rest, earning their keep. This rather highfalutin story of a community of goods then has to come to an end. I am not satisfied at all, however, with this type of explanation, which is marked by such flat banality and gross common sense. In the course of the church’s history there have been periodic repetitions of such communities, and I know of some today. The real question is a different one. When the spiritual tone, or intensity, if one will, is strong and faith is vital and brotherly love is resurgent, money is no problem. Money becomes dominant only when men and women really cease to hope or believe and enter into routines and conformities. The Christian life is not a matter of having but of being spiritual in Christ. When this is weak, having immediately becomes dominant. Mammon sets up its law in the church precisely to the degree that the church loses its relationship to Jesus Christ. But Mammon is a power that waits patiently for faith to fail. In its abundance it prevents faith from coming to birth. The logic is implacable. What use is faith or hope when we have everything and need only a little more to spend? Mammon with its satisfactions (everything may be bought) and its law (nothing for nothing, or no free lunch) builds up around us in impenetrability to grace. Christians have experienced this in every age.” (Ellul, Subversion of Christianity – pg. 178)

The best artistic expression of these concerns that I know of is Derek Webb’s “Heaven”. The song basically begs the question, “If we have everything we could ever want or need now, what do we need Heaven for?”

I was killed in a shopping cart
Turned upside down and left for dead
I saw a clown try to speak to me
As I floated overhead
I found my way to a familiar place
I swear I’d been sometime before
I would’ve thought it was the marketplace
But I could not find the door

Oh I have been to heaven
And I have walked the streets
But I couldn’t find a hand to hold
To keep me on my feet

Paradise is a parking lot
A spot up front is your reward
And all the rest walk down streets of gold
To the house they could afford
I got lost in the swelling crowd
I could not afford to eat
You only have what you came in with
So I’m living on the street

Oh I have been to heaven
And I found no relief
‘Cause I couldn’t find a hand to hold
To keep me on my feet

I heard Jesus Christ was there
He had a car that’s bulletproof
That way everyone is safe
From the man who tells the truth

Oh I have been to heaven
And I found no relief
‘Cause I couldn’t find a hand to hold
To keep me on my feet

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