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Why Christians Are Not Rich

When I was a freshman in high school, my Presbyterian pastor invited me to accompany him to a Presbyterian college, where he planned to visit two of his sons who were both on the faculty. I knew that he wanted to persuade me to join the ministry in the future, and I was flattered.

  • Ellsworth McIntyre,
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When I was a freshman in high school, my Presbyterian pastor invited me to accompany him to a Presbyterian college, where he planned to visit two of his sons who were both on the faculty. I knew that he wanted to persuade me to join the ministry in the future, and I was flattered.

Oddly enough, nothing at all was said about the ministry during our long automobile ride to the college. But after we arrived at the end of the trip, an attractive young woman married to one of the sons sat down to speak to me. After a little while, I realized that she was persuading me to enter the ministry. She chose to stress the pleasures of college life and the fun that I could have as a student. I agreed, in part, and said, "I suppose four years of college is what everyone must do in our society to open the door of opportunity."

She also pointed out, however, that a Presbyterian pastor needs more than college. I would need three additional years of study in a seminary. "What do you study in a seminary?" I asked.

"Greek and Hebrew," she replied. (At that time, I was studying Latin and not too happy about it.) When I said so, she said quickly, "Oh, don't let that bother you. You don't really need to know Greek and Hebrew. Just memorize some facts about the languages."

Then I asked, "How much money does a pastor earn?" After so many years, I don't recall the amount she cited, but I pointed out that laborers in the steel mill where my father worked had higher incomes. At that, a look of profound disgust crossed her face, and she left the room. It was obvious that I had failed her standards. I was not eager to suffer poverty for the church. She believed, I realized later, in a Protestant version of the Roman Catholic vow of poverty.

I recall this incident about a covenant family in the 1940s, because that situation has not changed much in fifty years. There are many covenant people who still believe that to be a Christian means that one should not only be poor, but should be proud of being poor. The principle that Christianity should produce wealth still seems heretical to many Christians.

Recalling that conversation of many years ago still makes me smile, though some of my readers may still consider me a heretic when I say that covenantal obedience is the only lawful source of wealth for a child of God. A refusal to seek wealth by this means is to bring a curse on oneself and one's children. Covenant children should become wealthy by obeying God's laws for health, happiness, and successful effort. If they do not obey, they have not been taught sound theology.

Conservative theologians such as R. J. Rushdoony teach that Christian families generate wealth when they obey the commands of the Creator. It is the basic command of our God as set forth in Genesis 1:28 that we are to have many children and rule over the earth. Exodus 20 points the way to lawful riches. We are not to steal other people's property or to hate another person because he has more wealth and property. The New Testament repeats and develops this doctrine. In Matthew 6:33, we are told to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these material things shall be added to us.

Matthew 6:33 marks the division between the motivation of the covenant-breakers and the motivation of the covenant-keepers. Those within the covenant see the source of wealth as obedience to God's law. Those without the covenant see the source of wealth as lying, cheating, stealing, and means which are the opposite the Lord's commands. A will to dominate and control property is built into every fiber of our being. Both covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers seek wealth for the same reason that baby ducks swim and young eagles learn to soar. It is in their nature. All men seek dominion, and warfare rages inside every man about how wealth is best generated. This warfare continues in our environment, in the workplace, in the political realm, and especially in our churches.

Faithful covenant-keepers are in competition with covenant-breakers. Faithful covenant-keepers will ultimately win ownership and control of the world's wealth, but it will be a victory of faith, not science. The majority of wealth and power is not today in the hands of Christians. Disobedience has caused the Lord to make us servants of the enemies of our faith. We serve many who call themselves believers in God, but who constantly seek wealth by violating God's covenant.

Dr. Rushdoony's new book, a commentary titled Romans and Galatians, concludes on page 410 with, "Failure to see the church as God's new Israel is basic to much of the foolishness of the modern church. This denial makes men and churches outsiders to the promises of God." Such foolishness, which I witnessed fifty years ago, is accurately defined as a failure to see the church as God's new Israel.

The Lord has taken the wealth that belongs to his people and given it to our enemies, because we refuse to see ourselves as God's chosen people. As a consequence, we have placed ourselves in a position of servitude, poverty, and hereditary failure for our posterity. When the Lord's chosen or elect people repent of the notion that sentimental disobedience can produce wealth, covenant families will accumulate wealth and conquer the world. In that world, pastors will not be recruited by women seeking docile servants of a feminine church.

If covenant Christians were to be examined today in the style favored by our government educators, their questions would be in multiple-choice formats:

Which of these is most likely to be taught to children as a source of wealth in a covenant family?

A. Early childhood work habits
B. Genetic heritage from successful forbears
C. College education
D. A deep-seated fear of God

Option D is correct, if the family is genuinely covenantal in doctrine; but, of course, the fear of God is the least likely doctrine taught in a modern church.

I recall reading in a recent biography of the Mellon family that the founder of the family fortune was offended when a young pastor of a Presbyterian church (built with Mellon money) questioned whether the Bible was really the Word of God. Mr. Mellon, fuming after the service, muttered out loud, "Any fool knows that if you keep the Commandments, you prosper in this world."

Despite the accurate testimony of Mr. Mellon, we have fools among us who credit their genes or their environment for their wealth, but never the fear of God. Many have, in fact, chosen barren emotional love instead of following the command to have children and to multiply. The Bible's definition of Biblical love is keeping the Commandments and finding the Commandments a joy, instead of a grievance (see 1 Jn. 5:1-3). It is "only by the fear of God that men depart from evil" and become rich (Ps. 1; Pr. 3:7).

Christians should ask themselves, "If I am truly God's chosen person, why is God giving the world's wealth to my enemies?" I have never taught in another Christian school that would permit the freedom to teach that the church is God's New Israel. God's chosen people are not members of any particular race or local church. God's chosen are those who believe and obey the covenant. "By their fruit, ye shall know them."

The Lord has created the wealth of the world for the obedient. All parents should teach their children to multiply and to accumulate lawful wealth to the glory of God. Please get a copy of Romans and Galatians and The Institutes of Biblical Law by R. J. Rushdoony, and teach them to your children.

The wealth of the unjust is laid up for your children, provided they are obedient. Do not allow your children to leave home without their birthright! This is your Father's world; teach your children to go after it!

  • Ellsworth McIntyre
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