Friday, August 4, 2017

Sell the Church's Treasures and Give to the Poor?

The artistic treasurers of the church are formidable metaphors and similies of God and how much we value Him. They are visible and physical expression of God's grandeur and give visible representation of our worship to an invisible God. They illustrate the sacrifice that man is willing to go to for the sake of worshiping God.

The use of gold, jewels, and rich linens, and objet d'art all have a Biblical basis. Such ornateness was ordered by God to be created for His worship in the construction of the Israelite Temple. Through Moses, God asked for voluntary sacrifices of gold, silver, brass, blue, purple
scarlet and fine linen, onyx stones and jewels. All these materials were given to two artisans, Bezaleel and Aholiab, who the Bible says were given special gifts of God's spirit to create the physical and very rich beauty of the Sanctuary and Tabernacle. There are five long chapters dedicated to the detail of all they created for God's worship. (Exodus 35-39).

Aside from God's command to create and use expensive articles in his worship, there are practical reasons not to sell off and give the money to the poor.

1. The objects inspire us to think of God's grandeur, and the gifts he gives to men to create such beauty. Thus, the objects represent the divine nature that God has put in us, if we are willing to let that nature shine out in our lives and work.

2. To sell the objects, into private and secular collections would remove them from public view and destroy them. This would negate No. 1, but more seriously, be a sacrilege as the objects for the most part have been consecrated to God's worship. Recall the importance of consecration of objects of worship. When someone even touched the Ark of the Covenant unworthy, they were struck dead, instantly.

3. Giving the money to the poor would not cause the poor to be less poor in the long run. The poor are not poor simply because they have no money. Giving them money when they do not labor for it, does not change their ability not to be poor in the future. Money is finite and temporary.

4. People who come upon sudden influxes of cash, often fall into sin. Proverbs tells us that it is better to be poor and righteous than rich and fall away into evil. A text book example is the example of the people who win a lottery and fall into desperate times when the money is not conserved.

5. The creation of the art, it's maintenance, and the tourist attraction they create, provides employment for a great many people that would otherwise (without the work) be poor. This is not just true of the direct care of the objects but all the businesses and people they employed in the travel industry and the local economy.

A great example, although extreme, is the Gaudi Cathedral, otherwise known as Sagrada Familia, a basilica in Barcelona, Spain. The Cathedral's construction began in 1882, and is still being completed. The Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, designed a building that could not be completed until construction materials and technology were invented to build it.

The design and decor of the church defines imagination, especially in terms of practical need (on one hand), but is an elegant expression (although extreme baroque) of art on the other. 

The criticism heaped on this edifice is often this: "Rather than spend the millions of dollars on the edifice over the 130 years of its construction, think of the money that could have been given to the poor. What a vulgar waste." 

But this attitude ignores the fact that the action of building the structure kept and is keeping thousands of workers and their families out of poverty with wages. Further, the work gives to the whole community around it the dignity of work and creation regardless of the wages. 

Additionally, the presence of this structure today draws thousands of visitors on pilgrimages, which has created a huge influx of revenue into the area around it, and continues to employ them noble work and dignity. 

Also, the Church collects money in tithes for the poor and helps those that cannot work.

This structure and the works of art within it have lessened the poor, and not increased poverty in the region.

6. Finally, most of the Church's real treasurers are relics of undetermined wealth. These treasures have no value on the open market place. Yet, if sold, they would create a form of simony and avarice as the "faithful" scramble for the object's possession, like pagans fawning over idols. In the hands of the Church the relics become instead opportunities to worship and pray to God in the presence of a saint.

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