Money and Evil

I came across a blog posting this week entitled, “Money and Evil in the Bible and Atlas Shrugged“. The title was provocative, and the content was worthy of some discussion.

What do you think Ayn Rand would have to say about this blogger’s thoughts?

I re-read Francisco d’Anconia’s money speak from Atlas Shrugged last night. I’ve been thinking about it a lot in light of Christian denunciations of “the love of money,” which is either “the root of all evil” or “a root of all kinds of evil” depending on your particular translation. I think that, unfortunately, a lot of Christian views of money are held over from societies in which expropriation and redistribution rather than production and exchange were the routes to wealth. Indeed, here’s 1 Timothy 6:9-10 (King James Version), which suggests that the desire to get money leads people to commit all sorts of evil deeds:

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

If you who are familiar with Atlas Shrugged, that sounds a lot more like a condemnation of Orren Boyle, Jim Taggart, and their ilk than Hank Rearden or Francisco d’Anconia. I think the out-of-context “money=evil” meme is a holdover from a world of illiteracy, venality, and corruption in which the kings and priests could exploit the credulity of the unwashed masses for personal gain (anyone wanna buy an indulgence?). What I say here is tentative rather than authoritative, to say the least… Choice passages from d’Anconia’s money speech are below the fold; at first they seem to run counter to Christian teachings about money, but I think they can be reconciled.

Jsu-as-Francisco-Grant-Bowler-as-ReardenThe blogger goes on to share Francisco’s “Money Speech”, in which he highlights “money as representing the value that can be created through the rational mind of an individual.” The real question is where money falls in your hierarchy of worship. Money is good. If money is an “ultimate good” as opposed to an ordinary good, it leads to problems.

My net worth is not denominated in money. If I could only receive life with peace and happiness when my bank account is full, I would be miserable. Likewise, if I judge my value as an individual by my ability to produce, and my ability to produce is measured by the amount of money I have amassed, I’m in trouble. I’m going to be valuable when my business is going well, and worthless when it’s not. That’s a breeding ground for massive insecurity.

Instead, I’m looking to Jesus and what he says about me. The gospel says that I am more poverty-stricken than I ever dared believe, but in Jesus Christ, I am more valuable than I ever dared hope. Money is important. Just not the ultimate source of my peace and happiness.

As always, I look forward to reading about your best thoughts.

Do you line up with Ayn Rand or Christianity when it comes to money? Or are you, like me, seeing some common ground?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Money and Evil

  1. I personally believe that there are very few, if any men, who have acquired a substantial amount of money without taking advantage of or outright stealing from other people. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The very essence of the “businessman” is to do others before they do him/her. People are called shrewd if they make a good deal. Candy coat it anyway you desire but I do not believe for one second that large amounts of money and Christianity are a mix. The Calvinists have even muddied the water more by believing that if you are good and work hard you will get it. The corollary being if you do not have it, you obviously are not in favor with God.

  2. The “Health & Wealth” gospel is hardly particular to Calvinists; but wherever it comes from, it certainly causes a lot of misunderstanding.

    As for being shrewd, remember the parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16. Jesus appears to draw a lesson from a dishonest man who is stealing from his boss. I have to admit I still don’t understand exactly what the point is here.

  3. For Ben’s benefit:
    I guess the point of the entire blog is to compare and contrast Christianity and Objectivism. There are irreconcilable differences at the foundations, yet they reach the same ethical conclusions (a lot of the time). Many times, criticism results from misunderstanding. With this post on “Money and Evil”, I’m trying to say that Rand characterizes Jesus incorrectly. “Money” is a good thing. Creating value is a good thing. Placing anything in the created order ABOVE God is a bad thing. It’s not that Jesus has a low view of money; he has a HIGH view of God.

Comments are closed.