The cover of the October issue of Common Ground caught my attention as I was waiting for Bonnie at the airport last night. It intrigues me, the thought of Jesus driving out the money changers applied to Wall Street or Bay Street or any financial district for that matter. On the one hand, the Church teaches us that those with wealth are called to be stewards responsible to God, managing resources for the good of all. After all, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. And in as much as the earth is full of the Glory of God, we might even say that those who selfishly use resources that are for the good of all and who ignore the Glory of God, especially the Glory of God manifest in the creatures created in His image; we might even say that the image of Jesus driving out the money changers from the temple could also be applied to Jesus driving out the selfish money managers from…well from wherever they are.
As much as this image intrigues me and is, I think, worthy of serious reflection, I must confess that I also understand that the application is also seriously flawed at some levels. That is, selfish, secular, people accumulating wealth for selfish purposes in a system that claims to be based on nothing less than the personal accumulation of wealth is one thing. And selfish, religious people accumulating wealth for selfish purposes in a system that claims to represent God and proclaims God’s love for all human beings, that’s another thing. The contexts are very different, and yet one cannot help seeing connections. One cannot help seeing applications.
Those with minds much greater than mine have struggled to find a satisfactory way to understand the Christian dilemma of being in the world but not of it. How does a Christian manage stock portfolios? How does a Christian fire a lazy employee? How does a Christian enforce the laws of the land? There are no easy answers, and lots of complicated and convoluted ones (that don’t work very well either). It is a painful tension. It is like living in the mud and trying to keep clean: even the cleanest of us is very dirty.
What should we do? I think the advice of John the Baptist is probably the most useful: To the tax collectors he said, do not collect more than is appointed; and to the soldiers/police he said, do not falsely accuse and be content with your wages. Once we think we can do this, then we can begin to work on something else John the Baptist said: “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”