Wealth and property shape a “false reading” of human value, World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said recently at a Protestant convention in Germany.
“Property and possessions have purpose in as much as they help us to live as the people God called us to be, and no more,” Tveit declared in a Bible study at the German Protestant Kirchentag which met in Dresden 1-5 June 2011.
Every two years the Kirchentag gathers over 100,000 Christians in Germany for common worship, celebration, discussion, rededication and renewal. In Dresden there were more than 7,000 international participants at the event.
Tveit was speaking on the biblical text “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). This was also the motto for this year’s Kirchentag.
“This is a text for societies, for alliances that think that the more wealth, the more weapons and more security that they possess, the less anxiety they have,” said Tveit.
He continued: “Letting our fear about security narrow our perspective means that we are not available to be participants in God’s mission in the world. And this has far-reaching implications for justice, peace, equality, unity.”
Tveit arrived at the Kirchentag after attending the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) held in 17-25 May in Kingston, Jamaica. The event, which was sponored by the WCC, the Caribbean Conference of Churches and the Jamaica Council of Churches was the culmination of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence, launched in Berlin in 2001.
In Jamaica, some 1000 participants had listened to the “often painful stories of those who experience oppression and violence and injustice,” Tveit recalled.
At an earlier Kirchentag event on the IEPC, Tveit underlined the need for justice and peace to be at the centre of the search for Christian unity.
“If this is not at the heart of the ecumenical movement and if this is not at the heart of the churches we cannot give a credible witness to the world,” he said.
In the Bible study Tveit said “we cannot speak about this passage from Matthew only in a spiritual way, for we know that sustainability and survival is an urgent reality for far too many in our world.”
“Wealth and property and the power that comes with them are things which divide people and communities and offer a false reading of human value. This is instead a universal message calling on us to reject materialism as a measure of value or security,” he underlined.
Tveit said that really to be in community and to express visible unity within the church “means that we must successfully challenge injustice, violence, greed, arrogance, corruption and all other threats to fullness of life for each person.”
For more information about the German Protestant Kirchentag: http://www.kirchentag.de/home.html 
More from Ekklesia on the Kirchentag: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/kirchentag