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Praying for Money: Conflicts Between Religion and Wealth
In the US, the best religion for the rich seems to be Judaism, with some 45% of followers having income levels above $100,000, as compared to various denominations of Christianity, in which most denominations fall below 28% of their followers earning more than $100,000. In the Old Testament, wealth is portrayed as a blessing and there are many examples of powerful, wealthy, respected people.
Christians remain conflicted about wealth and materialism in their teachings and private practices. Among other warnings about wealth, Jesus is reported to have said the following in the book of Mark “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Generally speaking, Christians have viewed wealth in opposing ways; on the one hand reading Jesus’ warnings about personal wealth, and on the other needing to figure out how to live fully functioning lives that require wealth if one wants to provide for a family, secure employment and housing and meet health care needs. While wealth is considered both an obstacle and offense to Christian faith, most Christians find ways to overrule the requirement of Jesus to give everything away and follow him if they want to be truly Christian and be worthy of heaven.
An interesting look at the wealthy and their religions in the US is this pie chart.
Twelve years ago there was a popular book called The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Bruce Wilkinson which is based on the Old Testament passage 1 Chronicles 4:9-10:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (NIV)
Adding to the Christian dilemma was Wilkinson’s recent challenge for Christians to be bold enough to say Jabez’ prayer and accept wealth. Maybe we will see over the coming decades just how many Christians were courageous enough to ask to be blessed with wealth. It seems while Christians have reasoned their way to varying levels of comfort over the past two millennia, few have been so bold as to pray for high levels of wealth.