In his most recent homily Pope Francis said that amassing wealth—both money and land—while children suffer and die is a morally unacceptable form of idolatry. There’s an “idolatry that kills,” said Francis, that makes “human sacrifices” by those who are hungry of money, land and wealth, who have “a lot” in front of “hungry children who have no medicine, no education, who are abandoned.”
From a biblical perspective, Francis is correct. But there is more he needs to say about wealth.
Earlier this year two evangelical groups, the Lausanne Movement and BAM Global, released a paper on wealth creation and the poor. In the paper they note that the Bible talks about wealth in three ways; one is bad and two are good.
Hoarding of wealth is condemned. Sharing of wealth is encouraged. Creation of wealth is both a godly gift and a command, and there is no wealth to be shared unless it has first been created. But all too often the issue of wealth creation is misunderstood, neglected, or even rejected. The same thing applies to wealth creators.
The paper acknowledges Francis’s laudable concern for the poor, but notes that the focus on short term aid and distribution doesn’t address the underlying need to create more wealth for the poor:
In the past few years, Pope Francis has put the spotlight on the poor of the world and asked the Roman Catholic Church to follow the example of Francis of Assisi’s (his namesake) church of the poor. Pope Francis asked the church to be generous to the poor when he said, ‘without divesting ourselves [of worldliness], we would become pastry-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things but not real Christians’.
Over the last few centuries, the church around the globe has, in general, responded to poverty and suffering through charity and aid for temporary and short-term relief. Yet, more often than not, that response has not addressed long-term needs, such as employment, and even worse, these interventions have hurt detrimentally instead of helping. The global and local church need to continue making this crucial shift, from the giver-receiver mentality to a truly dignified approach to walk alongside people as they work themselves out of poverty. Therefore, now is the time for the church to reassess its means of helping the poor and to shift its approach in order to have a long-lasting and dignified impact on individuals, communities, and nations.
Pope Francis has done an admirable job of calling people to condemn the hoarding of wealth and encourage sharing of our prosperity. Now it’s time for him to more fully champion the creation of wealth so that a greater number of the global poor can share in dignity of being wealth creators.