Does God wants us to be rich no matter what the cost to others is?
I was listening to the NPR earlier today on my way back home from Walmart. The talk revolved around Evangelical Christians endorsing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. When I heard a statement made about prosperity from an Evangelical perspective surmising that God wants people to be prosperous and wealthy, I heard myself blurt out “Not the way some individuals are acquiring that prosperity, He doesn’t!” Needless to say, that statement did not sit right with me. The first thing that came to mind was that Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) told the wealthy man “Give all your wealth away and follow me.” The second thing that came to mind was the knowledge that many wealthy individuals have made their fortunes on the back of others via many unethical, corrupt, and harmful practices.
I take for example, banking practices such as those of Capital One who offers a line of credit to low income individuals who are struggling to make ends meet and are looking to improve their credit scores and worthiness. First, Capital One charges these people astronomical interest rates of up to 27% or more in some cases, then, it (“it” being the individuals behind the institution) continues charging interest on daily balances and adding that to the principal and applying interest fees to it again and again and again making it hard for the individual to pay off his/her debts, and making their credit worthiness even worse than when they started.
All that money gained by Capital One and similar institutions is considered prosperity by their CEOs and stock holders, I guess, but it is not the kind of wealth and prosperity God wants us to have. As a matter of fact, that is the kind of wealth that God does not want us to have, because it usury. All practicing Jews, Christians, and Muslims know that usury is condemned by God.
Leviticus 25:37 “Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him.”
Psalm 15:1-5 : “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”
Chapter 2 verse 275 of the Qur’an, as translated by Sahih International says: “Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, ‘Trade is [just] like interest.’ But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.”
Sure, God wants us to be prosperous and successful, but He does not condone achieving wealth and prosperity through practices that have been condemned by Him such as cheating one’s workers out of adequate wages in accordance to the effort they produce, or by selling goods and services under false pretenses. Practices such as many of the current health, beauty, weight management, age reversal scams and get rich quick schemes are simply plain robbery and do not qualify as the prosperity condoned by God.
I am not really sure where the Torah and the Bible stand on this, since there are some contradictory verses such as the following one: Matthew 25:27 “Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” But, in the Qur’an the admonition is starkly clear.
“O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah. that ye may (really) prosper.” (Quran 3:130)
“And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an 11:85)
God also says in the Qur’an that Satan will make their deeds and their way of thinking appear good and right to them who act in such wicked manner.
“By Allah, We did certainly send [messengers] to nations before you, but Satan made their deeds attractive to them. And he is the disbelievers’ ally today [as well], and they will have a painful punishment.” (Qur’an16:63)
In the case of those, whoever they may be, who propagate that God encourages people to seek riches, prosperity, and wealth by any mean possible, including wickedness and corruption of God’s laws, I see individuals who are being deceived by Satan.
Furthermore, of those on whom God has bestowed His blessings, a 10% of their wealth is required annually as alms to the poor in order to purify their wealth, plus whatever their hearts can willingly relinquish in charity. It is not pleasing to God that they horde fortune while their brothers and sisters around the globe are dying of hunger and disease. It is not righteousness that they resort to loopholes to evade taxes with full knowledge that taxes are also used to finance social programs to assist the poor and the needy.
To these brothers and sisters I say: “Please, do not let Satan deceive you and rob you of an eternal life in bliss for the ephemeral goods of this temporary station. You will take nothing of your wealth and treasures with you except for a coffin. Ask Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and others like them who give generously in charity, how much more meaningful and satisfying are their lives. Reflect, use your God’s given ability to reason things out, and use your God given Free Will to make a wise decision.”
May God guide us all to the straight path. Ameen.