Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It is easy for a rich person to enter heaven OR at least have a shot at it. Right?

Written by: on January 30, 2020

If I am doing well in business, then God’s love will shine on me. Is that true? Or is God’s love predestined for a select. 

The proverb, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” [1] would seem to confirm the above questions. However, Proverbs are not promises; they are wise sayings. God’s love ultimately proved that through Jesus Christ, who gave his life, came that all would be saved.[2] And, his message conveyed that we not eternally saved by works but by a relationship built upon faith.[3] This relationship is based upon the belief that one must choose, can choose, and it is available to all who will.

Jesus lived in such a way to show us that we could become more fully human not by works but by God changing our hearts, giving us his desires, and becoming aligned with his will for the sake of others. The spirit of capitalism, as Weber argues, was that people produce not for a better life but to prove that God approves of them. The spirit of capitalism, which produced anxiety hoping could be saved, was to show somehow that by works, one could make God sufficiently happy to save them, and save them entirely.

 If one gets to heaven through predestination, then we need to ask why we would seek to align our lives with God at all? Why would we have opportunities and responsibilities to live life so that we share with others all that we have learned from God? On the other hand, if one can get to heaven based upon hard work and feuding against the predestination mandates, then it would mean that a rich person can get into heaven. If you love to work very hard and don’t spend much of your money on frivolous matters, then you may have a reasonable chance of entering heaven. One could buy their ticket.

 There is the dilemma of the spirit of capitalism. If one is not sufficiently rich, religious leaders would need to help make those who are in this condition either be content to serve the needs of the most favored ones on this planet or create enough anxiety to work harder, as if it is a saintly duty to earn one’s way.

A principal founder of modern sociology who investigated capitalism and its tie to religion was Max Weber Jr. He pursued academic studies regarding law, economics, and philosophy. His investigation of capitalism did not suggest that capitalism was some wayward, unethical pursuit but that the spirit of it could produce a lack of rational restraint. “Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction of his material needs.” [4] He investigated if people became capitalists because of their religion, how would religious beliefs impact capitalists. And, how did these views change due to the Protestant?

He investigated that in the 16th CE, religious leaders considered a work ethic that ushered in a new kind of Christian faith called Protestantism. Weber uncovered in this protestant work ethic that, yes, we all have to work very hard to make this world a better place. Yet, the anxiety to do so not out love, but some believe that a personal ticket to heaven was irrational in this belief system.

How could one be at least semi-assured that they could be one of the chosen ones to get to heaven? Doing well in business was an indicator that one was a chosen one. “But it is necessary to note, what has often been forgotten, that the Reformation meant not the elimination of the Church’s control over everyday life, but rather the substitution of a new form of control for the previous one.” [5] While scripture does say that those who love Jesus and his children show their love in part by works I am not confident that scriptures says we are eternally saved by our works. And, yet, Weber seemed to point to the idea that religion created the situation for economic capitalism. While later, he seemed to indicate this was a two-way phenomenon.

Weber noted that “Whenever Wesley attacked the emphasis on works of his time, it was only to revive the old Puritan doctrine that works are not the cause, but only the means of knowing one’s state of grace, and even this only when they are performed solely for the glory of God.” [6] Therefore, it may not have been the cause of grace because of predestination, but by one’s work, one could be assured of grace.

Where does this leave me in so far as my research is focused? Well, if one is has a mono-vocation: fully-clergy due to the offerings from the congregation, which is not unethical, if Matthew 28:19-21 and 1 Peter 5:2-6 are being fulfilled, then that clergy is seemingly performing their saintly duties. However, if one has multiple income streams then clergy superiors and congregations may not see anything but a secular-sacred division. And, this division to many is not making God happy. From my perusing Weber’s work, it would seem that he would suggest the opposite: make your means by whatever morally, ethical while doing what one is called to do and be, this side of heaven.

[1] Proverbs 22:29.

[2] John 3:16.

[3] Ephesians 2:8.

[4] Max Weber, Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, Routledge, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, (11), http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/georgefox/detail.action?docID=242182.

[5] ibid., 39.

[6] Ibid., 105.


About the Author

Steve Wingate

4 responses to “It is easy for a rich person to enter heaven OR at least have a shot at it. Right?”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    Can you clarify your conclusions, especially in regard to your research endeavors, particularily the sacred/secular divide and bi-vocational pastors?

    And since I only made it 2/3 of the way through the Weber text, can you please direct me to where you found the conclusion you stated at the end of your post? Based on the tone of the book, my take away from Weber is quite different than yours, so I’d love to better understand the perspective you shared. Thanks so much:)

  2. Steve Wingate says:

    Thank you. To ask me about my perspective without sharing your perspective with an apparent contrast I’m not sure that I can appropriately answering your question other than merely posting something.

    The theme you directed me to was in part what I caught throughout

  3. Shawn Cramer says:

    Steve, I’m glad you found something useful in Weber for your co-vocational work. These last few weeks have been helpful for me in many ways. I have done some personal work considering myself as a man, as white, and as an American, but less time doing the heart-work of considering my Evangelicalism and being raised in a capitalistic environment – the water in which I swim. It seems like you have been able to take a more outsider’s perspective as well.

  4. John McLarty says:

    I hadn’t made the link in Weber with the idea of calling and Christian vocation to professional ministry. It’s certainly a tricky subject- as a pastor who is dependent on my congregation for my income. Would I lead differently if the congregation’s offerings funded ministries, but not salaries and I was responsible for my own income from sources outside of the church? Possibly. Or would I be as effective in the role I’m in if my time was divided between the ministry and my “real job?” Good questions to wrestle with, for sure, and I look forward to where your research takes you. Even so, I think Weber was talking more about the masses and how they understood how their Christian vocation (the “work” associated with the practice of their faith) and their assurance of salvation were connected.

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