reading Jacques Ellul’s “Money and Power”

I’m currently reading Jacques Ellul’s book Money & Power, trying to do some study for a piece I’d like to  write on “Jesus Inc.: What happens when the gospel is disseminated and spread through the dollar.” But I’m not just finding useful quotes for research, this book is painful because it is showing me my own wrong attitudes toward money.

“To the person who declares, “I have found wealth for myself,” God answers, “I am the LORD your God” (Hos. 12:9). This response does not ignore the question; rather it answers it exactly. When we try to affirm our independence, God affirms his own sovereignty. We want to justify our wealth by our work. Now a person is justified, as we well know, by something greater than he is. The accused person does not justify himself; the judge justifies him. Thus a person declares himself just by appealing to something which justifies him, to a superior power. In this case it is his work.

We are now in a position to understand the command which constantly recurs in God’s Word: “You shall not worship the work of your hands.” Among other things, this means “Do not try to justify yourself by your work.” Thus whenever a person who has acquired great wealth claims to be just and righteous because his riches are the fruit of his labor, he is not appealing to natural law or operating in moral categories. He is instead defying God; he has entered the spiritual realm; he is committing the sin of rejecting God’s lordship. It is a difficult position to be in, for we have no way to get out of it. Either we gain our wealth by unjust means and find ourselves
condemned by that fact, or we claim to be just and are equally condemned by the very justice of our means. Real life offers no other alternative.”

(pg. 48-49 of Money & Power, IVP, 1984.)

I found a used copy of this book on Alibris going for $260! This made me wonder whether I should be highlighting in my copy! If you want to read it for free, consider this free link a little stab at “profaning” money as Ellul advocates in this book.


Filed under books, quote

2 responses to “reading Jacques Ellul’s “Money and Power”

  1. Hey Chris,

    Great to see you’re getting through that, and I hope I have the chance to read your “Jesus Inc.” piece in the future. I’m not sure if you knwo this – but Ellul’s work on money and power (“the powers”) is a large part of my dissertation (tentatively titled: The Powers and the Power of Mammon: Barth, Yoder and Ellul).

    Perhaps we can converse more on the topic in the future.


  2. Your dissertation sounds quite interesting. I’d love to see it someday when you’re done. One of these days I’m going to finally delve into Marva Dawn’s “Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God”.

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