06 Apr Some Musings on Upper Middle Class Guilt Manipulating Pietism
There are few things in the world that annoy me more than upper middle class pastors living an upper middle class lifestyle in an upper middle class home within an upper middle class community who moralize over the evils of an upper middle class existence. The dangers of idolizing wealth are prevalent in the Scriptures and ought to be preached. In fact, they ought to be preached intelligently and repeatedly. But when the messaging turns to a pietistic drivel about Jesus not caring about your retirement accounts and not needing you to make money or steward money or grow money the pastor has made a theological decision to miss nine Biblical messages entirely for the purpose of getting one Biblical message patently wrong.
Any attempt to equate “Christian service” with “abandoning our earthly careers” is a message hostile to the Christian faith as laid out in the Scriptures. I no longer willing, as a matter of conscience, in discerning between when this error is made with good intentions and when it is made with bad intentions. I don’t extend the same grace in the public policy sphere and I shouldn’t here either. A message that pretends that God is not interested in our achievements, our careers, and our material prosperity is devoid of Biblical basis. Pointing out that God doesn’t NEED our careers to accomplish his ends is a worthless point; He doesn’t NEED heart surgery to heal a sick patient either but we don’t spend time bemoaning the evils of modern medicine. God has certainly planned to use our careers and good endeavors for His purposes, and to pietistically suggest that these things are peripheral to the “really important stuff” is offensive to any decent theology of Kingdom living.
We make distinctions in today’s church on this subject (and sometimes ONLY on this subject) that the Bible not only doesn’t make; it repudiates. The only noble possible reason to preach such a cavalier and dismissive message of career and wealth is because of a separatist, tribalistic view of the Christian life. And I don’t find that very noble.
The other reason is why it really happens 90% of the time: Because it is a rank guilt-manipulation towards a utilitarian goal normally involving a church budget and a church building fund. Anyone want to bet me how often churches without debt preach these messages vs. churches with debt?
I am not picking on any particular church or minister here. My own senior pastor is, I believe, simpatico with my perspective on this issue. But the Calvinist-Kuyperian view on vocation, calling, and wealth has tremendous implications for the Christian life. Sadly, the view that varies from it does too.