A CJSD Special Report
The common belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ rejected worldly possessions and eschewed wealth. After all, Christ warned that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.
But, as other media sources have recently reported, a growing number of American Christian leaders say that just isn’t true, and that while Christians do need to take up their crosses, there is no reason those crosses cannot be made of gold.
Reverend Austin Tayshus, chairman and CEO of In the Black Ministries and author of the runaway bestseller, The Devil Bears Nada: How to Get More R-O-I Out of G-O-D, claims that God is neither the angry, vengeful God of Evangelical preachers nor the benevolent watchmaker of the deist Founding Fathers. Instead, he is rather like an omnipotent hedge fund manager.
“Look at the world around us,” says Tayshus as he drives his golden Hosea Hummer, a custom-built SUV complete with holy water wiper fluid and rear seat kneelers. “What do you notice? Diversification. God didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. He spread life around, building on each investment over seven days, until man emerged to offer the best returns. That’s the exact advice I offer my clients...I mean flock.
“Plus, think about it: who are His chosen people?” Tayshus asks. “People who can be trusted with money.”
Reverend Tayshus is not alone. Other ministries—such as Wealth Is God’s Welfare International, The Church of the Heavenly Interest, and the Catholic 401 Kyrie Club—preach a gospel where the greatest command is to treat one’s brother as you would treat yourself.
The “Gospel of Wealth” movement, as it is called, received a tremendous infusion of intellectual capital with the remarkable discovery of the Spread Sheet Scrolls. Unearthed from an ancient board room, these works offer a rare look into the financial dealings of early Christians, and expand on many of Christ’s teachings about wealth. For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells one young man, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.” The traditional Gospel says that the man goes away disappointed because he has many possessions. But the Spread Sheet Scrolls continue the story:
“Some weeks later, the young man returned to Jesus. ‘Master, master, you were so right,’ the young man exclaimed. ‘By giving away my possessions, I was able to take so many tax write-offs, I made more money than earned last year! Now I have enough to buy that new chariot I have had my eye upon.’
The Spread Sheet Scrolls also offer the controversial Ninth Beatitude from Jesus, stricken from earlier editions of The New Testament: “Blessed are the rich, beyotch!”
Other texts show early Christians carrying out incredible acts of frugality. Archeologists recently uncovered two sequels to “The Acts of the Apostles”: “More Acts of the Apostles,” and “Even More Acts of the Apostles.”
“What we’re learning is that original Acts was just volume one of a three-volume system,” says Professor Mercedes Beamer, a Biblical and international finance scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “In volume one, we see the apostles taking Jesus’s message to the unconverted. It talks about giving things to the needy. The last two volumes then show what the needy should be doing with those donations—sheltering them from Caesar’s renderings, purchasing real estate built on solid rock instead of sand, investing in commodities like fatted calves and mustard seeds. Really, it’s a system for putting God’s word to work for us.”
But the latest scriptural discovery that Gospel of Wealth advocates cite the most is a newly discovered epistle, “Paul’s First Letter to the Shareholders”:
My Dear Brothers and Their Profit-Sharing Administrative Assistants in Christ,
The day of accounting is near! Woe to those with unbillable expenses, for they shall be awash in the red ink of Satan. Beware those who submerge their debt and inflate their profits, for the Holy Spirit shall conduct an audit. But for those who follow the Lord, they shall be paid a hefty dividend. Now is not the time to merely hold your faith, my brothers and assistants, for Christianity is increasing in productivity and poised to outperform all expectations. So I say unto you, buy, buy, buy!
“The beauty of these discoveries, of God’s desire for us to have wealth,” says Reverend Tayshus, “is that God doesn’t care whether you’re white or black, male or female, Protestant or Catholic. He just wants you to be solvent.”
Such a radical reinterpretation of the Bible has some Christians up in arms. “This whole idea that God doesn’t care who you are as long as you’re wealthy can be summed up in one word: hogwash,” says Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose-Driven Life. “Wealth is not nearly as important as being white, male, and Protestant. And I should know, because that message has resonated with the millions upon millions of people who have bought my book.”
But in the end, proponents of the Gospel of Wealth see no contradictions. “Look at the life of Jesus,” says Pastor Richard Pfund, host of the popular religioeconomic television program Hour of Powerful Finances. “He starts out getting gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He goes to work at an early age preaching in the temple. He insists on drinking wine instead of water at parties. He shows tax collectors the errors of their ways. And he has a group of twelve vice presidents, if you will.
“Let's face it: Jesus is our CEO, and if we don't imitate him, he's going to give us our pink slips.”