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Religion of Monday, 3 March 2014


Liberation from the Demonic Influence of Money-Part 1 and II

Introduction: 30 Pieces of Silver

Throughout human history, a demonic influence has had a disturbing grip on humans and even entire communities. Whenever the forces that hinder man’s and the society’s development are at work, there is an urgent need for liberation. Christian tradition, and perhaps other world religions, considers idolatry in all forms and facets as a perilous deviation from their creed. Among other things, the idolisation of money has wielded a demonic influence on the human person. In this regard, Christ admonishes his followers that “You cannot serve both God and Mammon”.

In the Bible, the Mammon is personified in Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24, as a false god. Often mammon material wealth is seen to have an evil influence. In the early Judeo Christian tradition, the Prophet Amos strongly condemned the rich for “Buying the poor with silver” (Am 5:11); while Sophocles wrote in the 5th Century, “Surely there never was so evil a thing as money, which maketh cities into ruinous heaps, and banisheth men from their houses, and turneth their thoughts from good unto evil.”

The turning point in salvation history saw Jesus, the Christ, betrayed by one of his specially chosen ones because of the love of money: Judas shamelessly betrayed Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver" against a kiss — "the kiss of Judas" (Cf Mtt 26:14). Because of this infamous act, the name Judas has become synonymous to being a crook in financial transactions to this day.

Whenever the tragic drama about Judas’ betrayal is re-enacted, onlookers wonder in disgust at the heinous plot; yet the same realities are right before us. For the love of money, many have joined occult or secret societies where humans are sacrificed. For the love of money, friendships have been broken. For love of money, families are torn apart. For love of money, nations and their rulers are in tumult and for the love of money, there is war everywhere. Paul gives this resounding warning to Timothy: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1Tim6:1ff).

The worship of money has beset nations, families and the Church in every age. In a homily delivered on September 30, 2013, Pope Francis said, “When we worship money we are sinning against the first Commandment and making money our idol in place of God.” “The early Fathers of the Church,” he said, “put it in a very blunt way, calling money the dung of the devil which corrupts and leads us away from our faith.” 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 (Mtt 6:24).

Capitalism, the predominant social system in the Western world, has received considerable attention in this regard. Pope Pius XI describes this as an International Imperialism of Money; principally because, “There is the problem of financial transactions that use money to make more money but no real contribution to the economy and to the labourers.” He added that “Money should be a servant, but the bankers in appropriating the control over its creation, have made it an instrument of domination (and destruction).”

Money can be a good servant – not intrinsically evil - but it is fast turning out to be a bad master! Whenever it is used correctly, money serves man’s needs. It is in the uncontrollable love or mad rush for money that the demon infiltrates and takes control of the human heart.

Main causes and God’s reaction to the demonic influence of money

If money is the root of all evil as afore-illustrated, then a further question can be inferred. Where does the love of money arise? In short, the heart of the human person is the ultimate source of all evil; for it is from within the heart that evil thoughts, theft, deceit, covetousness, envy and foolishness come. (Cf Tit 2:1).

Egoism and Materialism

There is enough evidence of a disturbing culture of “self” all over the world. It is a world in which humans have been endowed with rich human and natural resources, yet, few, because of greed, live in affluence, while a vast majority wallows in abject poverty. The ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor in the developed and developing countries is consequent upon selfishness and materialism. Blessed Pope John Paul II makes this comment about this situation: “One of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of the goods and services originally intended for all.”

Though the rich-poor gap is a global cause for concern, it is important to re-construct the main problem of most developing countries especially in Africa. It is not poverty, but selfishness and materialism that constitute the main problem in many African countries. Cameroon is a good example; a country in which high profile corruption, especially among State functionaries, is rampant, as these people plunder the country’s resources with impunity, although a handful of them, including a former Prime Minister, are now wailing in jail.

But, what are the poverty parameters in a country like Cameroon where the wealth of a few individuals; mostly civil servants, can nourish the entire nation? The Bishops of Cameroon say corruption and embezzlement of public funds is a tragedy which concerns all of us. “It is a serious sickness from which all of us are suffering and which touches all the parts of our social body. Corruption is found even in our Christian communities; in our dioceses, in our parishes, in our movements and in our financial services.”

Consequently, Cameroon is not a poor nation. Cameroonians are only suffering from an acute selfishness paralysis and greed which continuously undermines Cameroon’s development and progress. This accounts for the lack of a decent road network, pipe-borne water and other basic amenities that are lacking in many rural areas in Cameroon despite the daily revenue collection from public places. Where do toll gate fees and other national revenue go?

On the global front, some advanced economies and colonial powers only make matters worse with their money-lending and foreign aid policies which sometimes render the beneficiaries poorer and less productive. This is often the case when the principle of subsidiarity and solidarity are ignored. Along this line, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, “Such aid, whatever the donors' intentions, can sometimes lock people into a state of dependence and even foster situations of localised oppression and exploitation in the receiving country. Economic aid, to be true to its purpose, must not pursue secondary objectives. It must be distributed with the involvement not only of the governments of receiving countries, but also local economic agents and the bearers of culture within civil society”

More implications of unjust money lending is thoroughly explained in Pope Pius VI’s “Quadragesimo Anno”: “There is no way any country can get out of debt in the present system, since all money is created as a debt: all the money that exists comes into circulation only when it is lent by the banks with interest. And when the loan is paid back to the bank, the money being withdrawn from circulation ceases to exist. In other words, new money is created every time banks make a loan and this same money is destroyed every time loans are paid back.”

Besides, “---the fundamental flaw in this system [capitalism] is that when banks create new money in the form of loans, they ask the borrowers to pay back more money than what was created. The banks create the principal, but not the interest. And since it is impossible to pay back money that does not exist, debts pile up or you must also borrow the amount to pay the interest. This does not solve your problem because you fall even deeper into debt.”

Blessed Pope John Paul II thinks, “Among the actions and attitudes opposed to the will of God, the good of neighbour and the ‘structures’ created by them, two are very typical: on the one hand, the all-consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one’s will upon others.”

The warring crises in the West, the Middle East and other nations, have only made the insatiable quest for money worse. The arms race and the manufacturing and sale of weapons are occasioned by selfishness and materialism. Most wars are therefore waged for resources with the ultimate aim of making money. How much of the economy and jobs depend on war and the sale of weapons?

Focus on the Church The Church as an institution is experiencing an epochal turning point in financial matters, and this too deserves some scrutiny as the intention for which acts are posited is central to the Christian faith. Jesus Christ often reproached the Scribes and the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. Their motives for performing certain religious acts were simply for pride, selfishness and egoism. (Mark 12:38-44)

The classic story of Simon Magus, who sought to buy miraculous powers from Peter and John to use to make money, is a good example (Acts 8:9-14). Similarly, Paul warns Timothy of religious men who want to use the Church and Christianity to make money for themselves. In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Polycarp laments: “My heart is sore for Valens, sometimes one of your clergy, that he should have so little understanding of the office that was conferred upon him. It moves me to warn you earnestly against any excessive fondness for money if a man fails to rise above the love of money, he will find himself corrupted by the worship of this idol, and be classed with the heathen who know nothing of divine judgment.”

In July 2013, a money-laundering scandal that involved three top officials, rocked the Holy See’s Institute for the Works of Religion, IOR, also known as the Vatican Bank. In January 2014, a Vatican Monsignor on trial was reportedly re-arrested for allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million Euros from Switzerland to Italy. Such happenings are a clarion call on holders of ecclesiastical office, at all levels, to a thorough conscience examination.

The Church is God’s treasury where His servants are called upon to save souls rather than take undue advantage of their privileged positions to plunder the riches placed at their disposal to protect. In other words, the Church is the place where apostolic workers should serve without any mercenary intention or the desire to make material gain.

And when all is done, we can only say, “We are merely servants, we have done no more than our duty” (Lk 17:10). Called to be society’s conscience, Churchmen and women should not allow the demon to derail them into vicious schemes of materialism, lest they turn themselves into tasteless salt, good enough to be trampled underfoot by everybody (Cf Mtt 5:13). Part II

Ill-gotten Money and Villainous Power

The financially strong often wield crushing power over people and structures everywhere. A Russian Proverb states: When money speaks, truth is silent. This is especially true at a time when money is used to break through every door - in fact, money has come to be considered as the universal passport into almost every place, except heaven.

“This power,” in Pope Pius XI’s words, “becomes particularly irresistible when exercised by those who, because they hold and control money, are able also to govern credit and determine its allotment, for that reason supplying, so to speak, the lifeblood to the entire economic body, and grasping, as it were, in their hands the very soul of production, so that no one dares breathe against their will.”

The Pope adds, “Since people cannot live without money, everyone: this includes governments, corporations and individuals; must submit to the conditions imposed upon them by the bankers to obtain money. Money means having the right to live in today’s society. This establishes a real dictatorship over economic life and so the bankers have become the masters of our lives.”

The power of money is equally evident in judiciary systems where lawsuits are prematurely won or closed because of bribery and corruption. Facts, evidence, truth are locked in “judges” cupboards in exchange for money. According to Christian Cardinal Tumi, “Magistrates, judges and prosecutors sell their judgment to the highest bidder. Prisoners, who are awaiting judgment and have no money to pay for their judgment, spend years in prison awaiting judgment which often never takes place.”

The trading of public examinations – in which prospective candidates pass in advance - is also a social cankerworm in many developing countries. Money speaks! It is commonplace for young people to ask their parents or guardians to buy this or that employment for them with the best positions going, however unduly, to the highest bidder. Young people have been made to believe that success depends more on bribery and corruption than on honest toil.

It is a similar situation when people “chase” administrative files in the nation’s capital. Many civil servants have died from road accidents because of numerous journeys to Yaoundé to “chase” files. Many pensioners have not lived to earn their pensions because they could not “grease the elbows” of civil servants processing their files in the nation’s capital. Widows and orphans have to pay extra money before they can get their benefits, while newly recruited civil servants must offer bribe before receiving their first salaries. So we are a community where money and only money speaks to the detriment of God’s people!

It is hard to tell deserving people when appointments to “juicy” positions of responsibilities or transfers are made, for such rewards are not based either on competence or qualification, but on how much money the aspirants pay for the desired post, one’s tribal or political affiliations to the country’s position distributors. Though everywhere, it is more recurrent within government circles where the “transfer of administrative personnel or civil servants and access to posts of responsibilities are negotiated often according to a fixed amount of money or on the bases of belonging to a particular group of which the civil servant in charge is at least a member.”

In present-day movies money is promoted as a devilishly winning weapon in assassinations, coups d’état, invasions, wars, terrorism, and divorces, for example. During political campaigns, money is also used to manipulate people to elect public officials of doubtful reputation. Unscrupulous elders use money to sexually exploit the youth, especially girls. In some educational establishments, students are subjected to the syndrome of “sexually transmittable marks”, STM, that is, unscrupulous lecturers trade marks with students for sex. It is high time these young people also watch out against money transmissible diseases, because some have already ruined the future of these young ones with the wrong use of money. In fact, “Cameroon [and many other nations] is under the dominion of the cult of money, sex, and above all the exploitation of the weak.”

If power corrupts - and absolute power does corrupt absolutely, it is even worse in the case of money. The power that money wields leads to condescension, egoism and oppression of the less privileged who are equally worthy of living on this planet given that they are endowed with inalienable rights and human dignity. How cruel and arrogant people can become because of the power of money. Social Security

The desire for social security is legitimate. That is why it is imperative for governments and other private employers to put in place social security schemes for employees. Where these schemes are thoroughly planned, they cater for the social welfare of the unemployed, the old, the handicapped, the orphaned, the widowed and the abandoned. In any case these amenities accrue from the contributions taxpayers make over considerable periods of time for the socio-economic development and their personal wellbeing.

Despite these social security schemes, there still looms a frantic search for social security which often leads people to indulge in unjust means to create wealth and comfort for the future. In other words, they store up treasure for themselves regardless of the means through which it is acquired. This can happen among a people whose social security scheme is not properly organised, or where they may depend entirely on some kind of charity scheme throughout their lives. I once found myself among a group of diocesan priests in the United States who discussed this subject with passion in relation to their ministry. After a long time, they said, they succeeded to have the diocese enroll all the priests into an insurance scheme. This was not only consoling, but equally spared them from falling into the temptation of the astute steward in the gospel narrative. The Biblical account of the astute steward from Lk 16:1-13 relates how the frenzy for social security led the steward to steal from the master’s vineyard. Christ used that story to teach us about honesty in financial matters and the need to care more about eternal life than storing up earthly treasures.

The dishonest servant does not please his master; he cheats his master and takes things that are not his. In addition, he steals secretly, apparently to secure for himself a place of rest and tranquillity after quitting his job. Why does the Lord present this parable? Not because he is a cheat, but because he has foresight with the purpose of shaming the Christian who lacks such foresight, seeing the cheater praised for his ‘ingenuity’. Thus, he continues: “See that the children of darkness are more astute than the sons of light.” They cheat to secure their future. At what kind of life is that steward looking forward to when he has these worries? He is looking forward to that kind of life that he would be living, when they would have sent him away. He preoccupies himself with the life that has an end. Should you not preoccupy yourself with the life that is eternal?

God’s wrath and ill-gotten wealth

Do not rely on riches wrongfully acquired for they will be of no use to you on the day of wrath (Sir 5:8) The Divine attribute of mercy does not eradicate Divine justice. He punishes but He also saves. He is the God who sternly reproaches all who accumulate ill-gotten wealth. God’s wrath is consequent upon such acts as injustice, selfishness, theft, and power mongering. God’s wrath is directed primarily against those who have the greatest responsibilities, those to whom “the judgment pertains” (Hos 5:1) but who “acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent for his right” (Is 5:23).

In his book, My Faith: a Cameroon to be Transformed, Cardinal Tumi writes, “To the Head of State or to the minister who embezzles public funds, the Creator will say, “away from me to the eternal fire which had been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mtt 25:26-1). These words are for each and every one who has something to do for the good of the national community. God has given every human being something to do, however, small. “He who uses his gifts well, shall be rewarded. He who misuses his gift shall be punished.”

Though money-makers seem to prosper and flourish by earthly standards, God nevertheless listens to the cry of the poor and the oppressed. “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise, says the Lord; I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” (Ps 12:5). It is precisely because the prayers of the poor rises to God instantly that judgment against the rich begins on earth and now when, in spite of their riches, they experience no peace of mind.

Corrupt officials who make their money from the sweat of the lowly, yet escape human justice should bear in mind that the poor cry to Heaven for vengeance. The wealth they have acquired by corruption cuts them off radically from friendship with God; they live in a continual state of serious sin. They may lull their consciences with gifts to the religious or other works or with alms to the poor, but that is not enough. As Pope Paul VI reminds us in the words of St. Ambrose: “You are not making of a gift of your possession to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself.”

The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-10 is a shocking example of how a man and his wife lost their lives instantly because of excessive love for money. Both of them sold a piece of land, and in keeping with the early Christian tradition, had to present the full sum to the community. When presenting the money, they kept back part. When it was Ananias’ turn to present his own share of the money, Peter (the supervisor) said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he immediately fell and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out for burial. His wife was also struck dead after repeating the same lie.

Though we may not suffer the fate of Ananias and Sapphira here and now, it is sheer futility to steal money that belongs to an individual or a community, let alone investing it into personal projects. Words of woe abound upon those who do such things: To build your house with other people's money is like collecting stones for your own tomb.(Sir 21:8). Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness (Jer 22:13)

Like the people of Israel who at a point sought happiness from money and possessions, the words of the prophets then are more relevant to us today: Because you have trampled on the poor and extorted levies on their grain, though you have built mansions of hewn stones, you will not dwell in them…for I know the number of your crimes and how grievous are your sins: persecuting the just, taking bribes, turning away the needy at the gates (Am 5:11-12)

In the fifth Chapter of his Letter, St James summarizes the fate of the rich thus Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter (Jm 5:1-6)

Despite the woes that befall those who unjustly make and extol money from people and places, attempts to justify their iniquitous acts, no less than the Pharisees are made, even today. Lovers of money can be smart at justifying every move. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them: You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:14-15.)

By Fr Wilfred E. Emeh, Buea Diocese

To be cont'd