(The following thoughts continue a three-part consideration of the theme: Christians are called to servanthood. Today, the possibility that we may be unwilling servants of those who are extraordinarily wealthy.)
It’s possible that the Church’s current usage of “servant” may be more of a widely accepted 1metaphor than an exact match to biblical roles—perhaps an idea that also calls for caution. We may find ourselves today in the same position as servants/slaves in ancient times: Serving those who are 2wealthy. Given current economic realities, it may not be far-fetched to describe ourselves as unduly influenced by the rich among us.
Think how our life-savings may include investments whose value is primarily determined by well-heeled corporate interests. Or how algorithms—whose content is determined by the minions of wealthy online marketers—might channel us towards unhelpful economic decisions. (The algorithm programmers may also be subservient to those dynamics, to those techno-rulers.)
Recall how media moguls, social media tycoons and technology purveyors—many of them fabulously rich—determine for the rest of us what’s true and what’s not. Consider the frustration of trying to pass legislation that requires agreement from super-affluent citizens. And remember how money-grubbing grifters and scammers prosper financially by plundering our well-being.
It’s not just the working poor who suffer. Any of us—perhaps especially older adults—might be unknowing servants/slaves of extravagantly wealthy people who may see themselves as the embodiment—and perhaps the deserving beneficiaries—of the greater good. They may be oblivious of an Almighty God who invites or demands ultimate servitude from all of us, including those who are rich.
Even if we are manipulated by powerfully rich people, we can still live out our callings to be servants. Like slaves/servants in Scripture—Hagar, Abraham’s unnamed servant, Joseph w/Pharoah, the servants of Cornelius or Onesimus—we can speak truth to power, share wisdom, become examples of selfless living or help channel great wealth towards righteous outcomes.
Next time: How then shall we live?
1We know that our servanthood extends God’s priorities for the world through our own lives. In this metaphorical comparison, we willingly serve God’s powerful intentions, and our deeds enrich the world that God so dearly loves. Our servanthood relieves suffering instead of causing it!
2Not all wealth is ill-gotten, not all wealthy people are greedy and not all greedy people are wealthy. Still, as a segment of our society, those who are rich have extraordinary power over the rest of us.
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