Let’s talk about something that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone specifically talk about. It’s the role that money plays in our ability to experience community with those around us.
It provides a deception
There’s a tricky little spell that money can put people and even whole societies under (see 21st century America). It’s tricky because it’s one of those issues that most people wouldn’t give lip service to, but do perpetuate with their lifestyles. The trick is that when you have enough money to survive, you don’t need others.
In his book The De-Voicing of Society: Why We Don’t Talk to Each Other Anymore, John Locked points out to us that “If we needed things we couldn’t buy, many of us would have more friendships.”
We must be honest and admit that this is true. I have a good paying job that affords me the ability to physically survive on my own without the help of others. In environments where people don’t need each other to get what they want or need to survive, there is typically very little close-knit community.
That’s the trick. There’s a magical, mystical line of affluence that when crossed, persuades people to live independently while abandoning the one, most important thing they need to possess (but money can’t buy ironically); close-knit-biblical-Kingdom-organic-body-church-life-community.
It provides an opportunity
No, I’m not going to go down the “money is bad” road. But, I want you to see something about the nature of affluence (more money than is truly needed to survive). I want you to see that it provides an opportunity; one that most people take. An opportunity to believe you can or should live independently instead of interdependently. It presents you with a choice that poverty does not present you with.
When Jesus told the rich man to sell everything he owned and follow Him, it wasn’t about a dollar number. It was about an opportunity. Jesus presented the rich man with an opportunity to live differently, to come out of the world’s way of doing things and enter the Kingdom’s way of doing things.
It provides safety and control
But the world’s feels so much safer. It makes you feel in control when you can provide for yourself and don’t have to rely on others. This is the wide road for those that are affluent. Is it possible for someone that’s affluent to choose the narrow road of interdependence? Absolutely. There were rich people in the first century church that did just that. Remember how people sold their land to provide for the saints that had nothing? (Acts 4:32-35) But again, this is the (very) narrow road.
The wide road of independence is usually marked by consumerism (which is only practical with significant amounts of money); by either accumulating inanimate objects or doing activities in an effort to feel better about our independence (which is accompanied by loneliness and isolation).
Since we aren’t in close-knit relationships with other people, we resort to fending for ourselves. Our ability or inability to do so makes a big impression on how we feel about ourselves. We are stuck pulling our identity, security and purpose from what we do, obtain or accomplish rather than from who we are in Christ.
In order to “reverse the curse,” so to speak, that money has placed on our culture and build true community, enough people have to abandon the opportunity that affluence affords for the narrow road of interdependency together. Until then, true close-knit-biblical-Kingdom-organic-body-church-life-community cannot be experienced to its fullest extent.