Stewardship Resource

Pious Materialism: How Americans View Faith and Money

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  • Author: Robert Wuthnow/b> is a sociologist at Princeton University, where he is the Andlinger Professor of Sociology and Director of Center for the Study of Religion.
  • Updated: 07/12/2008

This is a link to an article summarizes conclusions from a three-year research project on Religion and Economic values.  The results contain insights into our deepest obsession- money.

The fundamental question is: "Why do churches remain reluctant to engage money and faith matters more directly?"


Pious Materialism: How Americans View Faith and Money.

The article summarizes conclusions from a three-year research project on Religion and Economic values.  The results contain insights into our deepest obsession- money that not only continue to exist but which I believe have only grown larger.

Withknow states, "Money . . . evokes deep ambivalence within many people. On the one hand, the sentiment prevails that American culture emphasizes money and material goods too much. On the other hand, most individuals are themselves terribly interested in money, and few seem able to decide when enough is enough."

Faith has a voice in these matters, but often it is one that can scarcely be heard.   People believe that there is an overemphasis on material goods and that it is easy to allow money to corrupt you.  

People will agree to statements such as our society is much too materialistic, how they think and what they do does not seem connected.

Money is regarded as a means for attaining freedom and a good feeling about oneself. People are willing to sacrifice in order to have more money by working harder, longer hours and playing the lottery.

The article concludes by identifying reasons why the churches do not engage the issue of money more directly:
1." Money is considered too personal to be discussed openly.  The darkest taboo in our culture is not sex or death, but money."

2. "Money and morality are kept in separate compartments. Our culture encourages us to think . . .  Money is . . . value-free  . . . simply a convenient mechanism of social exchange."

3.   "People seldom think about connections between faith and money. "

4. " Clergy may be fearful of seeming too interested in money  . . . Most pastors . . .  find it difficult to preach about money.  .  .  Many people believe that churches should be devoted entirely to the spiritual life, rather than having to pay any attention to material needs. "

5.  "Stewardship has lost much of its meaning."

Use this article to promote as a basis for conversation in your congregation.   Begin with your leaders and include in study groups, sermons, newsletter articles.  Ask the question "Why are we in the church reluctant to engage conversations about the relationship between faith and money matters more directly?"

Go to:
Pious Materialism: How Americans View Faith and Money. nbsp;
by Robert Wuthnow

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