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Jacques Ellul - Money and Power

Jacques Ellul - Money and Power

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Published by Daniel Ioan

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Published by: Daniel Ioan on Sep 23, 2011
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09/23/2011

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of us must face up to the poor.

The Poor One and poor people in general are God's question to us. God
gives us responsibility in the world by asking us a question which we
have to answer. This question is constant, permanent, living, for "you
always have the poor with you.” We cannot sidestep this question, for
we are always in contact with the poor, and each one of them puts God's
big question in human flesh.

This question is addressed to everyone. We do not have to
understand theological explanations, we do not even have to be
Christian, to hear it. It is part of the silent interrogation that God is
always carrying on and behind which he hides himself. And people can
respond without knowing to whom, ultimately, they are responding. This
is what Jesus reports in the parable of the Judgment.

"When did we do this for you?" ask the elect. And inversely the
damned ask, "But when did we refuse to do this for you?” And Jesus
answers, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my
brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40).

Both those who gave and those who refused to give were ignorant
of any teaching about the poor. Nevertheless they faced this question
about their lives, and they had to respond. For, whether we like it or not,
we have to answer either positively or negatively. Our whole attitude is a
response. Scripture reveals that our attitude toward the poor is our
response to God's question. We all can find our place and get involved
with this question, which appears to concern economics or human
feelings; but behind this question, a spiritual decision is ultimately
demanded of us.

God adopts the poor in order to put us all in question, and it is
certainly our all that is put in question if we understand the place and
power of money in every person's life. Now with regard to God's poor,
we are all on the same side-all, with the Communist party, on the side of
the rich according to the Bible.

The Bible calls anyone who has no real need of God's help rich.

THE HAVES & THE HAVE-NOTS

153

This means that it is not enough to imagine that we need his help, or
even to desire it. The person who, humanly speaking, has everything,
who has human power, does not need the Lord. For his desire for the
Lord is only for a supplement, a buttress, to his security. The false
wisdom of the rich says, "God helps those who help themselves.” And
Scripture answers, "Only believe.” When we know how to solve our
problems ourselves, we have no need of the Lord's help except as a
tradition or to assuage our doubts ("just in case..."). The Lord does not
respond to this.

We have a choice to make, the choice which God constantly
places before the people of Israel: either an alliance with Egypt, the
Assyrians, and so forth, or an alliance with the Lord. There is no way to
have both. It is God or Mammon. And if we want Mammon, that means
that we do not really need God. The rich are faced with this agonizing
choice. In our world, we solve our problems all alone with our
technology, our science, our money, our political parties; God does not
answer because we do not call him. The poor do not call on him, and
those who call him are the rich.

The Church Is Rich. We in the church are among the rich. Not only
because the church is largely middle class (I will not take up this oft-
discussed theme, but it is true that by occupation, social rank, culture
and money, Christians are usually rich), our Christianity itself contributes
to this. It is almost impossible for us to be poor in spirit. We have the
church, worship, prayer and the Bible. We have received the wealth of
God's revelation. Jesus Christ "became poor, so that by his poverty you
might become rich," says Paul (2 Cor. 8:9).

This is not the problem of Pharisaism, or rather it is only one
aspect of it. It is not the attitude that glorifies the church and condemns
the sinners outside it, but in the best of cases it is the almost inevitable
attitude that we own God's revelation. The church becomes the
proprietor of God's riches, even when Christians have much humility,
piety and fidelity. Compared with the poor who have only the sense of
being

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