Bishop Musa el-Baramousy, the Coptic Orthodox bishop of youth work, is known to be one of the most evangelical among the Coptic Orthodox Bishops. According to Kees Hulsman, editor of Religion News Service of the Arab World (which provides English translation of articles in the Arabic press, including this one), he is especially known for speaking to Muslims in an explicit, yet nonoffensive way. The following article originally ran December 3 in al-Shaab, a Cairo-based Islamic paper that recently attacked the Egyptian government and harshly criticized normalizing relations with Israel. There is no doubt that Christianity, according to the Holy Bible, has its own viewpoint to money, and consequently to the market culture.
First: the Christian viewpoint to money. Christianity believes that:
- Money is a gift from God. As the Bible says "As God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy."
- Money is not essential in life. As the Bible teaches us, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist of his possessions" (Luke 12:15) and also "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4), because "In him we live and move and have our being."
- Money is not essential for happiness. Solomon says, "Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife" (Proverbs 17:1). Happiness is a psychological, spiritual value that can't be bought by money.
- Money is uncertain, as Paul advises the rich: "As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God"
What is needed is the minimum necessity to support life, not extravagance because "Whereas she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives" (1 Timothy 5: 6), and "There is great gain in godliness with contentment."
In this context the word of God teaches us that "Give us each day our daily bread". "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 5:6). The word of God advises us "Be content with what you have" (Hebrews 13:5) and "So that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The Bible teaches to be content in all the essentials of life, like food, drink, housing, education, health, etc. This does not mean that a young man can't develop his life with a good investment in his educational or administrative talents for a better life standard. He should be sure that man is making every effort with the power of God who gives man talents for the glory of the Lord. God gives man these talents to trade with them for the glory of God not for a materialistic ambition that replaces the love of God with self-love and extravagance. That is why we prefer the expression "investing talents" to "ambitions" as the first expression means trading sincerely with the talents given by God for the glory of His name.
Through what we have mentioned, we can study the viewpoint of Christianity to the culture of the market: Christianity is not against economic freedom. Christianity is encouraging self-motivation, investment and increasing the agricultural and industrial production.Christianity warns against making these mistakes:
- The love of money, because " For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:10).
- Craving for materialistic richness, because "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into the snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plug men into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9).
- Putting our trust in money. As the Lord says, "How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. 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" (Mark 10:24). Job also says, "If I have made gold my trust, or called fine gold my confidence; I should have been false to God above" (Job 31:24)
- Serving with money. As the Bible advises the rich, "They are to be good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life which is life indeed." (1 Timothy 6:18).
- Money should not dominate every thing. Money should not dominate media, politics, trade and culture. Media can lead people to the right or wrong directions. The sex trade spread through TV, magazines and the Internet. Money is the only reason behind sex trade.
- Economic freedom should not cause any harm to the national economy; through the GATT treaty and multinational companies which will make it very difficult for the local product to compete with the imported product.
- Open heavens and communications and information networks should not affect our national identity that has its religious, ethical and social values. All these are similar dangers that might be impossible to avoid. Therefore, we should fortify Egyptians against all kinds of invasions in order to remain spiritually and intellectually firm before all these pressures.
The dangerous absence of the spiritual dimension
The most dangerous thing in the market culture is that a materialistic culture remains, void of a spiritual dimension. Here lies a dangerous threat to man's salvation when he indulges in materialist life and abandons his own salvation, spiritual growth and eternal life.
Today, we always hear about "the two cultures," namely the materialistic culture and the spiritual culture. The spiritual culture has an immortal heritage all over the world, not only in the Christian world that cares about salvation and eternal life.
The dangerous absence of the human dimension
When the wheel of imperialism runs, it destroys all what stops the increase of financial profits without any sense of guilt. It is known that technological progress and information networks decreased the importance of manpower. For example, image how many people used to work for the production of the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Encyclopedia Americana. Image how many people used to work in the writing, revising, printing and marketing of these encyclopedias.
Today, there is no need for all those people as you can have these encyclopedias on a computer diskette. It is of course impossible to stop scientific and technological progress. There is no doubt that this is for the interest of man in certain fields like in production, printing, information and others. But, businessmen and also the government should pay attention to what they what they call the society's structure, namely taking from the rich and giving the poor. If we would not do so, the rich would become richer and the poor would become poorer which would lead to a dangerous social disorder. It is in the interest of the rich to care for the poor. It is better that the rich do this from an absolute humane basis or a religious, spiritual basis. Paul advises the rich, "They are to be good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life which is life indeed" (1 Timothy 6:18), "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35), and "A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will be himself watered" (Proverbs 11:25).
The dangerous absence of the cultural dimension
It is obvious that the love of money also lead man to the materialistic culture and makes him to neglect the development of his mentality and spirit.
We see in the West and especially America, the leader of the world through its scientific, military, economic, media and technological predomination, how man deteriorated from the level of spirit and reason to the level of the body. This deterioration will make him contented with two things:"They are to be good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life which is life indeed." (1 Timothy 6:18).
The satisfaction of the body with food, comfort, and sport
The satisfaction of his instincts without any spiritual feeling or cultural development that promotes principles, values and human sciences like philosophy, psychology, education and sociology.
We will understand this when we look at these facts:
- An 18-year-old young American has spent 15,000 hours watching TV., and has spent the same number of hours in education.
- A 65-year-old American will have spent 9 years watching TV.
- There are about 1,000 sites on the Internet presenting sex pictures and movies.
- An American young man changes his girlfriend 12 times between the age of fifteen and eighteen.
- AIDS is increasing among teenagers in the United States.
- Sexual deviation is spreading among youth in the United States. Although the Holy Bible rejects sexual deviation, the American administration and the church try to control it.
- The rates of violence and crime among teenagers are increasing.
- Drug addiction is spreading among teenagers.
The reasonable explanation for these phenomena is that the Western culture is addressing the body and its instincts give no attention to the mind or spirit. The West is suffering from corruption because "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again" (John 4:13). The United States enjoys scientific predomination, but it is spiritually, culturally and humanly retarded. It is enough to know that the American culture is summarized in the following way:
- I want to make money
- I want to make love
- I want to be myself. They even call their culture "The me culture"
It is obvious that love for them is Eros, or bodily love. In the United States human love begins to disappear, while spiritual love is very rare. Even religion is sometimes turned into business and politics. This is the reason for the appearance of Christian Zionism that ignores the oppression of Palestinians by the Jews, believing that one day, the Jews will join Christianity. The salvation of the Jews by the blood of Christ is something and shedding the blood of Palestinians every day is something else.
Can we reconcile between the principles of Communism and the mechanisms of Capitalism?
I hope so.
We reject the materialistic communism, the atheist communism and the tyrannical communism. We want the communism of social justice and ideological, political freedom. Is it a far dream in the world of sin and injustice? Time will answer this question. But let us protect ourselves from the market culture.Reprinted with permission, RNSAW 1999.
Yesterday we ran another article from Religion News Service of the Arab World, "Did Carey Really Deny that Copts Are Persecuted? | Was the Archbishop of Canterbury misquoted? What did he really mean?"See our recent articles on consumerism:
"Christmas Unplugged" (Dec. 9, 1996)"Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing" (Sept. 6, 1999)"Shopping for the Real Me" (Nov, 24, 1999)"Keeping Up with the Amish" (Oct, 4, 1999)"Why the Devil Takes Visa" (Oct. 7, 1996)
Copyright © 1999 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
Read These Next
- TrendingEvangelicals Are the Most Beloved US Faith Group Among EvangelicalsAnd among the worst-rated by everybody else.
- From the MagazineBhutanese Nepali Refugees Turn Their Trials into Zeal for EvangelismThousands found Jesus while displaced, which prepared them to plant churches and settle in a new land.
- Editor's PickChristians from Myanmar Call for the Release of Jailed Baptist LeaderHkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention, was internationally known for his advocacy