Thinking Out Loud

July 27, 2017

Resenting the Church’s Wealth

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Before leaving Austria’s Melk Abbey, I persuaded my wife to buy two small postcards. It was a rather strange place to make our only abbey/cathedral/church expenditure because she was not terribly impressed with this particular excursion.

She found it extremely opulent and it was such a huge contrast to the simple crucifix that we had seen in the museum. The two postcards were meant to ask the question, “How did we get from this to this?” In other words, how did the death of the simple, peripatetic rabbi as a common criminal lead to the layers and layers of gold which adorned the worship space?

One answer that was given us on another tour was that the churches and cathedrals “must outdo the palaces” because “God deserves better than the King.”

Just ponder that for a few minutes…

…I wonder to what extent the average person at the time of construction could come to resent the church’s wealth? When your family is living in a cold and damp hovel in the middle of cruel winter and you’ve had to skip supper because the rats have eaten the food you had set aside to cook that night; and then you look out the window and see this gigantic gold-topped cathedral being built just a mile or two from your home, do you start to wonder about the equity of all things? Or do you in fact the connect the dots as we did and wonder how the simple story of the teacher who told his closest disciples to carry no bag for their journey and focus on building heavenly treasure gave way to stained glass and organs and statues and twelve libraries?

Fast forward to 2017. Are things much different? Do people resent the church’s wealth today? When your family is living in subsidized housing and the landlord refuses to fix the hot water heater and you’ve had to skip dinner because the refrigerator is empty, the Food Stamps/EBT debit card is missing and the only friend who might help you out is in lockup for DUI; when you look out the window and see the megachurch on the other side of the freeway which now prevents you from seeing the sunset; do you start to wonder why that huge building needs to exist at all while you go hungry? Do you connect the dots and wonder how the story of the Nazareth carpenter who preached the Sermon on the Mount and told the rich young man to sell everything gave way to an air-conditioned house of worship with 2,600 plush seats and a fully equipped children’s ministry center and state-of-the-art sound and lighting?

Are we still trying to outdo the palace?



  1. Yeah, I hear you here. The modern mega-church is (to me, personally) worse than the church cathedrals of old in that the money goes to the supposed ‘ministry’ while little of it (most likely) goes to the poor of the land.

    At least, in the old days, far more people were in the employ of the church to build/maintain/addendum the great cathedrals. It offered jobs to hundreds of skilled men that would otherwise have had to work in mines or worse. God will even use the ostensible ‘opulence’ of his visible church to provide for the meek and lowly, even though it isn’t His go-to design … or is it?


    Comment by Flagrant Regard — July 27, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

    • I see your point. As long as no family members died constructing those high vaulted ceilings.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 27, 2017 @ 3:34 pm

  2. Am afraid so. Come to Nigeria where it is even worse. A pastor (“mentored” by TD Jakes) building a multimillion/billion naira mansion on the exclusive Banana Island is an example..Google “the richest Nigerian pastors” and you will get to see stuff that is maddening

    Comment by Jesus Wins — July 27, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

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