Monday, March 07, 2011

MacIntyre via Hauerwas: "Riches are an affliction"

Well, I didn't intend to write a whole series of posts interacting with Stanley Hauerwas' commentary on Matthew, but I'm loving the book far more than I expected to.

Publisher's Weekly had this to say about it:
Hauerwas is as delightfully irascible and hard-hitting as ever, suggesting, for example, that the parable of the sower "helps us to read the situation of the church in America as Jesus' judgment on that church." Believing that "Matthew's gospel is…an ongoing exercise to help us see the world through Christ," Hauerwas attends to the Gospel chapter by chapter, teasing out theological themes while resisting the temptation to create a systematic Christology... Insightful and provocative, Hauerwas adds a valuable theological perspective to the Gospel of Matthew.
Let me share with you the Hauerwas take on the words, "give us this day our daily bread."

Hauerwas says that our ability to pray for no more than we need for today rests on our confidence that God will have enough for all our days. In other words, anxiety about the future having been removed, we are happy to pray for no more than what we need today. That such a community can even exist is good news to the poor, says Hauerwas. It is anxiety about the future, after all, that causes us to store up, to feel that we must always and always get more, increase, expand, and all this getting turns out to breed economic injustice, cynicism, and resentment. Hauerwas says that a community of people capable of being satisfied with only that which they need is a community that testifies to its trust in God's great abundance and care for his creation. Such a community would be marked not by anxiety but by celebration, for it is a people that trusts God and one another.

In the course of this discussion, Hauerwas quotes the philosoher Alisdair MacIntyre:
Christianity has to view any social and economic order that treats being or becoming rich as highly desirable as doing wrong to not only those who must accept its goals, but succeed in achieving them. Riches are, from a Biblical point of view, an affliction, an almost insuperable obstacle to entering the kingdom of heaven. Capitalism is bad for those who succeed by its standards as well as for those who fail by them, something that many preachers and theologians have failed to recognize.
Hmmmm, dang boat-rockers, these two.


Anonymous said...

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature" (Lk 8:14)

It's not quite the same as saying it's an "affliction," but it's close. IMO, this is the number one overlooked reason for spiritual stagnation in individuals and churches.

Steve Martin said...

The cares of this world (including the aquisition of and protection of money) make it hard to focus on what is important.

Thanks be to God that we have a Savior who knows exactly what we are, and loves and forgives us, anyway.