This week there have been several investigative reports on some prominent local Christian leaders who appear to be using their position for questionable personal financial gains. This all comes the week that I have finally decided to do my first public message on the role of money in the Christian faith (which has upped the tension a bit for me). I have never spoken on money in public before but not because I don’t have strong views on the subject but mainly because I have seen so many abuses in the church when it comes to the subject of how we are supposed to steward our resources.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The Role of Money in the Christian Life
In my early years as a Christian I frequently attended churches that ranged from promoting an all out prosperity gospel to a more tame version of the prosperity gospel but the emphasis was always on giving to God to get blessed or to not get cursed. I have found very few things in my Christian experience as destructive to genuine simple faith in God as this type of theology.
As a church planter I have been very deliberate thus far to not even talk about money much at all because I have felt it of utmost importance to establish why the church is here. So in the past few weeks I have summed up a big theological emphasis of what we’re trying to do as Northshore Vineyard in the statement “You are not the point but a point.” The underlying idea is that whenever you or I think we are the whole point of everything that Jesus did then we detach from the mission of God that he started back with Abraham when he said “I will bless you so that all the nations of the world will be blessed through you” (paraphrased a bit). One of the fundamental issues that I have with the prosperity gospel is that it makes you and me the point and the end of God’s blessing and thus turns Christianity into simply being blessed with more money and stuff as evidence of our faith in God. But I just can’t see this in scripture or in reality. The truth is I have met many Christians in third world countries whose faith in God and simple devotion to the purposes of Jesus would put most American Christians to shame. Yet they live in conditions that are far below what we would consider the worst forms of poverty in America. Are they not blessed? Are they not people of faith? Or perhaps maybe we’ve become blind to true riches.
Money is no doubt an indicator of what we value and how we think about God just as any other resources which God has entrusted to us including our time, health, emotional availability, and other material possessions. When I look at the early church in the book of Acts I see a people who lived in utterly extravagant generosity. They took care of the needs of one another. They entrusted money to the apostles to finance the ministry. They helped feed widows and offered relief for struggling churches. They did this all as a response to their encounter with Jesus and his kingdom. For the early church there was no sense of how much they should set aside to give to God. On the contrary they lived in such a way that they viewed everything as being God’s already. They were marked by a love that wasn’t sappy or sentimental but that actually made a difference in meeting real needs around them.
Jesus once told a parable about a man who found a treasure in a field and then sold everything he had to purchase that field. This to me is a picture of our response to the kingdom of God. When we find it, we find an amazing treasure that is worth sinking everything into. We are ruined for anything else because we have glimpsed a treasure far, far greater.
Needless to say I have a lot of thoughts on this subject which I have wrestled with for years that I will likely share more of in future blogs but for now I just ask for your prayers to communicate these things in a way that sets people free to participate fully in kingdom life.