Money and Possessions

It is a crazy good book, Walter Brueggemann’s Money and Possessions. I read the book as part of my continuing education experience this summer and was astonished by Brueggemann’s wonderful use of the biblical narrative, both Old and New, to spell out our idolatries surrounding money and possessions. I realize the same does not tend to be a favored topic among Christians generally and Lutherans particularly, but, nonetheless, the book is essential to our understanding of the faith.

Perhaps what is most revealing in the book is Brueggemann’s use of the whole biblical narrative, from Genesis to Revelation, in his exploration of material wealth. In particular, Brueggemann is intrigued by viewing money and possessions as “gifts from God contradicting market ideology in which there are no gifts, no free lunches, there are only payouts for adequate performance and production.”

I found the book not only useful in its spectrum, biblically and theologically, but I also enjoyed Brueggemann’s use of the Tenth Commandment on “coveting” as a mechanism to move into the temptation found in the idolatry of “having” or “taking.” When we “covet” that which is our neighbor’s—spouse, stuff, lifestyle, position in life, retirement—we can literally move from an attitude of wanting (coveting often relegated to merely an attitude) to coveting as an action, what Brueggemann calls the “acquiring of what belongs to another.”

The book was extremely helpful, I think particularly for those who seek to spiritualize the faith as if the same has nothing to do with money and possessions. You can get as excited as you are able about Jesus as Lord, but if the same confession does not call our life into question surrounding money and possessions then we are merely playing at being Christian.

I dare you to read the book, but with fair warning, for it will likely cause you to rethink many long-held assumptions about God, the Gospel, the text, and coveting as it relates to money and possessions.

For three weeks in the fall, I will be introducing some of Brueggemann’s concepts, using the Tenth Commandment and other significant biblical passages. While I do, Bruce Sisco will be linking the notion of coveting to “climate change” and how the same “taking” impacts the rest of the world.

Come and join us at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday morning (9/17, 9/24, and 10/1) as together we examine “coveting” as taking and our responsibility to the well being of our neighbor.

Pastor John L. Vaswig.

About the book

The Bible is rich with complex and diverse material on the topic of money and possessions. Indeed, a close look at many scriptural texts reveals that economics is a core preoccupation of the biblical tradition. In this new work, highly regarded preacher and scholar Walter Brueggemann explores the recurring theme of money and possessions in the Old and New Testaments. He proposes six theses concerning money and possessions in the Bible, observing their contradictory nature to the conventional wisdom and practice of both the ancient world and today’s society. Brueggemann advises us to reassess the ways in which our society engages—or does not engage—questions of money and possessions as carriers of social possibility. He invites the church to move toward an alternative neighborly economy that is more consistent with the gospel we confess.

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