Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ways Pluto Tempts Us to Ignore Then Deny Jesus

A common understanding of money and wealth, of cash and material objects (like smartphones, TVs, and cars), is that they are all ethically neutral. They are neither good nor evil in themselves. Each one of us decides, according to our own free will, how we shall use these neutral tools. We ourselves freely decide whether we shall use these neutral tools for good or evil purposes.
Sadly, this is a false Olympian understanding. It comes from Satan, the source of all lies, through Pluto, false god of money, as embodied by our intensely Olympian society and culture, and finally as embraced by our own Olympian personality.
Pluto is especially pleased that we regard money and wealth as neutral. He enjoys seeing us acting as if we are in control of money and wealth whereas, in reality, he is controlling us through them. Our personal affirmation of Satan’s lie that money and wealth are neutral make Pluto’s control of us through them so much simpler.
Pluto is especially pleased that we, as Christians and churches, regard money and wealth from his point of view. If we didn’t, if we witnessed to Jesus in relation to money and wealth, if we shared with ourselves and others Christ’s distinct point of view on money, we would make Pluto’s rule much less effective. As it is, with no one, not even Christians who should know better, opposing his rule, he is able to control us so much better and really ruin so many lives so effortlessly!
How does Pluto so easily strengthen our Olympian personality at the expense of our Christian one? As Jacques Ellul notes in Money and Power (trans. LaVonne Neff, 1984), Pluto tempts us “to put our confidence in money rather than in God” (47). We do this because our Olympian personalities “prefer what they can see and touch to what God promises and gives” (47). Our Olympian personality is all about power, like the gods in terms of whom it is structured, and so places exclusive emphasis on what can be seen, quantified, then controlled.
The Psalmist makes plain this attitude. He tells us that evil men…trust in their riches and boast of their great wealth (Psalm 49:6, Good News Translation, here and following). Or again, “Look, here is a man who did not depend on God for safety, but trusted instead in his great wealth and looked for security in being wicked” (Psalm 52:7). He also advises us, Don’t put your trust in violence, don’t hope to gain anything by robbery; even if your riches increase, don’t depend on them (Psalm 62:10).
Pluto first tempts us to trust in money and, by doing so, in him. His second temptation is even worse. Through it, Pluto seeks to strengthen our Olympian personality and its bondage to him to the point that even we Christians deny the lordship of Jesus. Through the prophet Hosea, Yahweh had once told his own people, “But when you entered the good land, you became full and satisfied, and then you grew proud and forgot me” (Hosea 13:6). Jacques laments, “instead of giving glory to God, we glorify ourselves. Sheltered by our riches, we quickly mistake ourselves for God” (48).
In general, we Christians ask ourselves how we might make Jesus relevant again to others (and ourselves) in our—as yet—prosperous communities. We have that backwards. Through the Bible, Jesus is willing to ask us daily whether our lives and prosperity are relevant to him!
Pluto also succeeds in getting us to deny Jesus, our sole justification in the eyes of Abba, by deceiving and bribing us into thinking that money is a measure of our virtue. Pluto is so happy when we think that rich people are virtuous and justly rewarded for their intelligence, hard work, and willingness to take risks whereas poor people are stupid, lazy, and stubborn and deserve to be punished. Yahweh revealed that this was just the same wrong attitude of his people when he said, “The people of Israel are as dishonest as the Canaanites; they love to cheat their customers with false scales. ‘We are rich,’ they say, ‘and no one can accuse of getting rich dishonestly’” (Hosea 12:7-8). Rich and righteous--how pleasant if only it were true! “[N]obody asks if wealth itself is right and good, for in everyone’s eyes, the person who has worked for them is upright” (48). “But I, [Yahweh] your God, who led you out of Egypt, I will make you live in tents again, as when I came to you in the desert” (Hosea 12:9).
Even we Christians justify ourselves in our own Olympian eyes, and in the Olympian eyes of others, by the value of our work which we measure in terms of our wealth. When we do this, however, we deny the lordship of Jesus Christ and the justification that is ours—and everyone’s—solely through his death and resurrection.
Today Jesus calls us to know better.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.