Church, Art, God, & Money
There are a lot of churches in Venice. Truth be told, there was so much art – frescos, paintings, sculpture, reliefs – it got to be a little tiresome after a while (feel free to disagree, your milage may vary, void where prohibited). But like it or not, you can’t deny that it takes a significant amount of money to build churches that grand and with that much artistic work in them.
That much religion and pricey artwork together in the same space got me thinking about Jesus’ words: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24, ESV) Then a stupid question came to mind:
What is money?
Well, obviously it’s little green pieces of paper (multicolored most places) that you use to buy things, of course. What a silly question. But my head was digging into it deeper than that, and this is what I came up with: Money is a sort of power. It’s a power to do or get what you want. It’s a form of control over whether or not you receive your desires.
Money itself isn’t evil. Paul said that love of money, not just money, was a root of all kinds of evil. Wanting things isn’t evil either (sorry, all you Buddhists out there), as Jesus specifically asked some people what they wanted. But the power to get what you want Jesus pits against God. It’s not that you won’t get what you want. You might or might not. Jesus isn’t demonizing money as much as he’s demonizing the unwillingness to trust God to give you what you want or withhold it as He deems is appropriate.
Setting the service of God against that of money is once again a question of autonomy and dependence. Jesus was pointing to the urge that we all have: to feel a desire and immediately move under our own power to nab it for ourselves. His implied question then becomes: are you willing to let God give you things instead of you grasping for them? Can you set your desires before God and trust that He will do well for you?
I’m left looking at my own habits. I think I spend a lot of time not connecting what I want with God at all. I don’t know if God comes into the picture much of the time for me. I move from thing to thing, want to want, without Him. Maybe it’s not all that crucial to ask Him whether or not I should get dinner, but even this simple desire (simple in a land of plenty at least) is one that I could take notice of with Him rather than apart from Him.
I sit with a few questions. How much do I instinctively move when I want something to just go get it, and how much do I invite God into things? What are my habits when it comes to what I want?