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Why Wealth is Wrong: The Mathematical Argument

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In my God vs Wealth series and God vs Inequality E-book, I’ve mostly based my arguments for why Christians shouldn’t be rich on Bible study, as well as a bit of early church history.

However, I have noticed that many Christians who defend their personal wealth do not just use the Bible, but also theoretical arguments that are based on economics, ethics and experience. Most of them are quite easy to counter with other arguments in the same field for why wealth is wrong. So in a couple of blog posts, I would like to discuss some of these arguments for and against wealth, while also connecting them to the Bible.

The first argument I often hear is “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or, alternatively, “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich.” Now, I could agree with the first statement if we define rich as “having an income that exceeds one’s own/family’s needs” because then, per definition, only rich people will be able to give money to the poor without harming themselves or their families.

However, what’s really confusing is that oftentimes, people who use this argument do not solely define “rich” as “earning a large income”, but also as “possessing abundant capital” (i.e. owning a lot of stuff) or “consuming superfluities” (i.e. buying unnecessary stuff). And these definitions are often mixed up, so that I’ve even met Christian brothers and sisters who argue that it’s perfectly fine to spend money on big houses and cars, because you need to be rich in order to give money to the poor.

Now, this clearly contradicts the basic rules of mathematics. Let us take John the Baptist’s redistribution commadment as an example: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11). Simple mathematics that most of us learn even in preschool tells us that if person A has 2 shirts and gives 1 to person B who has 0, they both suddenly have 1 shirt each and voilà, there is economic equality. Person A cannot keep and give away one of his shirts at the same time, 2-1=1.

John also mentions food, so let us use that example as well. Say that person A has food that is enough to feed two persons for a month, and B has none. Obviously, if we follow John’s exhortions, A will give half of the food to B. But lo and behold, here comes person C who also lacks food. Say that A has some cash that could either be exchanged for food for a month or for a totally unnecessary video game. Now he has a moral obligation to help C, based on Biblical ethics:

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)

Person B has only food for him/herself in our example, so B does not have a moral obligation to give away food since s/he then would hunger instead, but A has. Now, this is where it is mathematically impossible to claim that buying superfluities is totally OK because you need to be rich in order to give to the poor, or because there’s nothing wrong with being rich. If A spends his/her money on a video game instead of buying food to C, C will starve. And starvation is bad, obviously.

Since we live in a world where thousands of people die from poverty every day and where humanitarian programs are mostly underfunded, 1 John 3:17 is very relevant today. We have no excuses for spending money on superfluities. If we say that it’s good to give to the poor but also to spend money on unnecessary stuff, we aren’t really thinking that giving to the poor is good – because then we would obviously try to save as many lives as possible, something that is incompatible with buying superfluities.

There are other arguments that could be raised against this, like the claim that even consumption of superfluities benefit the poor somehow, or that superfluities does not exist, but that’s topics for future blog posts 🙂

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8 Comments

  1. troaspaul says:

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    BECAUSE HE AROSE, HE IS ALIVE. IN THIS LIGHT, AN EVENT TO COMMEMORATE BECOMES INTO AN EXPERIENCE TO DELIBERATE AND A PRESENCE TO CELEBRATE! HE’S NOT JUST ALIVE SOMEWHERE, HE IS ALIVE EVERYWHERE, BUT SPECIFICALLY IS HE ALIVE IN YOU AND IN ME INDIVIDUALLY AND IN ALL OF US CORPORATELY. HE IS IN OUR FAMILY IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE. THIS GLORIOUS RISEN CHRIST IS THE ONE HOPE AND THE ULTIMATE GOOD NEWS THAT TRUMP ALL THE TRAGIC, BITTER, SHOCKING BAD NEWS BEING HERALDED ACROSS THE WORLD. IT SHOULD BE REMEMBERED: THAT ALL THE SO-CALLED “NEWS” IS MOSTLY AN ECHO OF OLD NEWS DRIVEN BY DOLLARS AND MAN’S VORACIOUS LUST FOR TRAGEDY. THE REAL NEWS IS THAT JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, HAS DIED FOR THE SINS OF ALL PEOPLE FOR ALL TIME AND THIS SALVATION IS AVAILABLE TO ALL. HE CONQUERED DEATH AS HIS FINAL ENEMY AND LIVES IN US TO VALIDATE WHAT HIS DEATH PURCHASED AND HIS RESURRECTION SUBSTANTIATED. I RESOLVE TODAY AND FOREVER THAT, ALL OF THE TSUNAMIS OF WORLDWIDE BAD NEWS NOTWITHSTANDING, HE AROSE, HE LIVES AND THAT DECLARATION SETTLES FOREVER THE QUESTION OF OUR HOPE AND THE HOPES OF THE WHOLE WORLD!! HE,IS ALIVE; HE IS ALIVE IN ALL OF US WHO NAME HIS NAME; HE EVER LIVES TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US ALL. HE IS ALIVE IN HEAVEN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD! HE IS ALIVE IN YOU AND ME TO BE OUR LIFE. WE NEED NOT TRY TO LOCATE HIM; HE IS IN EVERY LOCATION! EVERYWHERE! AND HE IS DESTINED TO WORLDWIDE REIGN! THE SONG BY ISAAC WATTS SAYS IT WELL:

    JESUS SHALL REIGN WHERE’ER THE SUN DOTH ITS SUCCESSIVE JOURNEYS RUN; HIS KINGDOM SPREAD FROM SHORE TO SHORE. TIL’ MOON SHALL WAX AND WANE NO MORE!

    HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY! LET’S MAKE IT A DAILY PRACTICE FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES! SINGING IN THE REIGN, JACK & FRIEDE TAYLOR

  2. […] Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory. […]

  3. […] talked about this sad fact in my first Why wealth is wrong article. As rich people fatten theirselves an live in luxury (Jam 5:5), they kill people (Jam 5:6). […]

  4. […] When (rich) Christians defends mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument. […]

  5. […] us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then […]

  6. […] Det förutsätter nämligen att 1=2, vilket i sin tur förutsätter att p=icke-p. Som jag påpekat här delar inte Bibeln en sådan ologisk syn på verkligheten. Om jag har två tusenlappar däremot kan […]

  7. […] vi inte spendera samma hundralapp på dataspel som vi också ger i bistånd till en etiopisk kyrka. Det är matematiskt och fysiskt omöjligt. Och att invända att onödigheter inte finns för att all konsumtion i slutändan gynnar de […]

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The author

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Check out my YouTube channel!

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