Misreading the Magnificat—Where are the hymns that embody Scripture’s critique of the Rich?
It is hard to find Christian hymns that embody Scripture's sharp critique of the rich and the dangers of wealth. There are positive songs about simplicity ("Simple Gifts") and exhortations not to cling to earthly goods (the German Lutheran chorales "A Mighty Fortress" and "Jesus, Priceless Treasure"), but not much on the actual dangers of wealth.
Scripture's sharp-edged message about the danger of wealth is not restricted to the Magnificat. One of my favorite gospel songs adapts Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus—"Rusty Old Halo" by Hoyt Axton. Unfortunately, Axton of "Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog)" fame blunted the parable by reducing the fires of hell to "a rusty old halo, skinny white cloud, robe that's so wooly it scratches."
There's a refreshingly unusual folk ballad on Keith and Kristyn Getty's new album, Hymns for the Christian Life. Think of "Simple Living" as the musical equivalent of Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo's Red Letter Revolution. Unlike Axton's soft-pedaling, the Getty-Stuart Townend songwriting team gives Jesus' dialogue with the rich young ruler a transparent treatment. They hone the sharp edge of Jesus' advice: "Sell all you have; give to the poor. / Then heaven's treasure shall be yours." Francis of Assisi couldn't have said it more pointedly.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life
Church Year / Liturgical Seasons
Liturgy, Music, Worship
Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:00 am
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1. Terry Tee wrote:
I must confess I speed-read the article. But assuming I didn’t miss something, what about Chesterton’s ‘O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry: our earthly rulers falter ... the walls of gold entomb us’ etc
December 21, 9:41 am | [comment link]
2. Milton wrote:
Poverty has moral dangers as well, as does comfortable middle-class sufficiency or even relative affluence. The danger in wealth, poverty and sufficiency is that we will depend on and put our trust and faith in our own efforts rather than depending on God’s faithful sustenance in meeting our real needs. I seldom see those calling for wealth earned by industry to be given away making an equal call for those whose wealth came from success in sports or entertainment or the media to give theirs away as well.
December 21, 11:46 am | [comment link]
1 Chronicles 29:12
Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
7 Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
3. CBH wrote:
I, too, had to speed read because I was getting frustrated. The Magnificat to me is one of the most beautiful readings we have and a reason often for attending evening prayer. I do believe God sends away those with Pride, no matter what their pocketbooks hold, wealthy or poor has only a meaning to me of spiritual significance. We are all poor and in need of God. Should we fail to recognize that we send ourselves away.
December 22, 10:35 am | [comment link]
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