In a pair of woodcuts by Cranach done in 1521, the reformers contrast Christ’s driving out the money changers with the Pope using the Temple to accumulate wealth through the sale of indulgence.

Truly, the Jesus who sent his disciples out to minister without a moneybag or an extra cloak would be surprised to see one coming back in the rich robes and ornaments of the papacy. But let’s not merely pick on popes. Protestants, especially in America, have done their share of accumulating the treasures of this world. The flashy cars and pricey wardrobes of today’s Christian celebrities are a far cry from first-century Palestine.

But is that necessarily bad? Christianity has come a long way since the days of those first barefoot preachers. They succeeded in taking the good news to the world, and as a result we today live in a somewhat “Christianized” society. Back then, Christians were the outcasts of the Roman world and therefore suffered poverty; now, supposedly, Christians are among the world’s leaders and share in the decisions and benefits of the world economy.

“Money makes the world go round,” the song from Cabaret tells us. But how do we as Christians deal with it? We are in the world, but not of it. What does that mean? Is money a gift of God, for us “richly to enjoy,” or is it Mammon, the rival master? Does “money make the church go round” or should Christians somehow get around it?

It is critical that we get a grasp on this. Our world seems preoccupied with money. The best image of this might be in our city skylines, where banks and insurance companies are now dwarfing the churches. The old church steeples once dominated the landscape, but now financial institutions tower over them. Scholars have suggested that we are living ...

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