4.4 Money Talks
One other extremely serious risk that confronts Christians who have been freed from communist oppression is that of letting themselves be controlled by the power of money. The main reason for this is that Christians often hold a dualistic worldview in which prayer is ‘spiritual’ while money is just ‘a worldly matter’. Thus they never learn how to handle money properly or to use it as a way to worship God.
Most Christians tend to be poor under communism because they are denied access to the privileges of the ruling class. However, when freedom comes, many of those who have some business spirit become active and start accumulating wealth. At this point they discover, to their surprise, that some members of the Christian community had stupidly believed the communist lie that wealth is the source of all evils. These people become envious and start slandering the business people, accusing them of being worldly and of obtaining their wealth by means of theft and dishonesty.
Clearly from a biblical point of view there is nothing wrong with wealth, as long as it is the result of a special God-given vocation for business, plus hard work and genuine honesty. Yet the Bible has always had special warnings for wealthy people, because they are exposed to a serious risk of putting their trust in their money rather than in God. This risk is increased when Christians naively underestimate the corrupting power of money.
It is this same incorrect understanding which leads some Christians, including church leaders, to ‘sell themselves cheap’ to competing missionary agencies or to foreign interests in the name of the allegedly higher interest of the Christian community. A number of Christian leaders in eastern Europe have brought their churches into disrepute by their insatiable thirst for power, which prompted them to engage in ‘holy prostitution’ by involving their churches in projects and initiatives that had nothing to do with their legitimate interests or with the principles of the kingdom of God.
Example – The leaders of the Baptist denomination in one of the former communist countries of eastern Europe, without any consultation with the Baptist congregations, associated their Baptist Union with one of the largest Baptist denominations in the US. This denomination is presently led by a fundamentalist and autocratic group. The main reason for this dubious ‘transaction’ was the large amount of money invested by the American group in some projects headed by these Baptist leaders. The justification given for this frankly financial manoeuvre was the supposed ‘orthodoxy’ of the American confession. No justification was given for the absence of any consultation with the congregations or for the defiant and culpable disregard of the risk that this irresponsible decision might cause a split in the Baptist community.