What does AIG stand for?
Apparently it stands for anything that furthers its self-interest.
Someone said to me, "I don't get it. How can they behave this way."
I replied, "It's simple. This is how royalty behaves."
The kings and queens of old Europe were amazed that anyone might question their "divine right" to rule. Even as they were led off to the guillotine or run out of the country, they could only shake their heads in disbelief that "their people" couldn't see it their way.
Beginning with the Great Liar (Reagan), this nation began to create a self-appointed royalty accountable to only themselves. We've always them, of course, but in the last 40 years, we've seen an explosion of wealth - not real wealth at all, but a credit-wealth boosted by government policy and a growing infatuation with wealth.
It's an entitlement identity, and, thus, it's no wonder that Jesus observed, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
This is not difficult to understand when we understand what wealth does to the mind and to the soul - it creates multiple illusions: "I'm right, I'm powerful, I'm self-made, I deserve this and I'm wonderful." And if one is religious, the added illusion: "God must want all of this for me."
Nor is it surprising, then, that Jesus said, "To whom much has been, much is required."
It takes enormous spiritual counterweight to bring balance to the lives of the wealthy, but it's not impossible.
I have been blessed to know people of wealth who live lives of moderation, restraint, compassion, humility and mercy - though such virtues were increasingly more elusive as our nation imbibed the liquor of self-indulgence. Our current crash and burn might help, but time will tell if we can see this as a means to improvement of character, or simply a nasty bump in the road to self-aggrandizement.
Sadly, many of our churches have failed to preach the whole gospel when it comes to wealth, and I understand why. One of the tactics of wealth is to threaten early withdrawal should the preacher offend with the truth, and most preachers, including this one, have a family to support.
Beginning with elements of an older Calvinism, wealth was seen as proof of God's election, and so the elect, or those who thought they were, worked all the harder, amassing wealth, and then seeing their wealth as proof of their spiritual status. And if so blessed, they had to be right about many other things.
In the last 40 years, we've witnessed the emergence of a "name it, claim it" Christianity that saw wealth as a divine blessing, and since "we're all children of the king, we ought to live as royalty," and it wouldn't hurt, by the way, to send in some money to the TV preacher, because it costs a lot to fly a jet and live in Palm Beach.
Wealthy congregations face enormous temptations to "spiritualize" the gospel and gut the message of its meaning, congratulating the wealthy for their intelligence, hard work and their place in life, turning the gospel into "five steps to wealth, health and happiness." Too bad Jesus wasn't around to hear this kind of preaching; he might have been able to avoid that messy things called "the cross."
Wealth is a gift from God - it's not a blessing to confirm one's spiritual status; it is test of our character, and when given by God, it's given for the sake of others!
Great wealth, when properly understood, produces great humility and great compassion.
But such things are not required of self-appointed royalty.