That Thing No One Like$ to Talk About.
If I took a survey of “favorite sermon topics” my guess is that what I am about to talk about wouldn’t even crack the top…100. Actually, you even spending time reading this, is shocking given the title. Often times, when money is the subject discussed in church, it is received negatively, with the assumption that “The church just wants my money.” Part of this critique is absolutely fair. Too many pastors have misused and abused their power to convince people that God’s blessing is available for a price or have guilted people into thinking that Jesus demands your money as a true sign of your love for him. Both of these manipulations are disgusting and can harm you, and harm the witness of His church. If this is your experience, or perspective, I’m sorry.
Because of the ease of dismissing this topic, let me ask you, over the next few blogs, to pray against the angst you may feel. Pray that you can see the significant value of talking about money, the huge implications it can have on your relationship with God, and what it can to do increase your impact in the world. The authors of the book God and Money interviewed church goers, asking them about their feelings on how the church addresses this topic. While some spoke of their hesitation, a number of people were more eager for a deeper conversation. Here is one quote, “How we relate to money is a central issue of discipleship. I think this is a topic that is really under-focused on in the church. Greed and stewardship seem to be glossed over, as “too personal” to touch from the pulpit. I think it should be a much more focal part of the church’s message.” As uncomfortable as it is to talk about money, I can’t deny the truth of this statement. In reading the Bible, it’s clear that how we relate to money is a central issue of discipleship. Because of this, I pray we would be eager to expose every part of our lives to the wisdom of God, even our finances, for His glory, for our development, and for a sweeter realization of God’s goodness and love.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, “Those who want to get rich, fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” This excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is cautioning Timothy against doing God’s work motivated by financial gain. Paul’s words are a strong warning to people like me who are trying to guide others to a God-centric understanding of finances. I must not be motivated by financial gain, but by Christ-likeness. Paul’s instruction doesn’t stop with preachers though, it’s a warning for all of us, a caution to not be consumed, or even focused on financial gain. We can see, by Paul’s reasoning (and his life-- since he didn’t take a salary for his preaching) that Paul knows that a life motivated by financial gain is a “trap, plunging people into ruin and destruction.” Now, if you’ve been around church for any amount of time, you probably know that, and, let’s be honest, that warning is easily ignorable since “I’d never fall into those traps,” so let’s back up a little bit and look at the benefits of interacting with our finances in a Christ-centric way.
There are many passages addressing money, and I would encourage you to do your own study on this topic, but for brevity’s sake I want to focus on Jesus’ simple, yet challenging words recorded in Luke 6, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied…. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.” Do these verses mean that we should set an income level that we don’t go above, donating the rest in order to make sure we’re in the “poor” category to earn God’s kingdom? Dr. Tom Constable helps us move from our systematic reaction to a proper understanding of Jesus’ teaching: “It is not poverty in itself that makes one blessed by God, but the humble, dependent, God-trusting disposition that we often find accompanying the oppressed poor in Scripture.” In some ways what Jesus is calling His followers to is more difficult than just setting a standard and saying “you must live on this much per year or else.” If it is simply about income level, we would make our rules and move on, not leaning into a Godly dependence and interaction with our finances. See, Jesus’ goal isn’t to make rules for you to follow, He wants a relationship with you. He knows our tendency to idolize money, be comforted by money, be focused on money, and He knows how each of these things can severely hinder our relationship with Him. Jesus wants a better relationship with us, a bigger faith for us, and a life that builds His kingdom. He knows that those who focus on financial gain and those make up religious rules tend miss out on a deeper relationship, a greater faith and a bigger impact.
This is a tough, tough truth to grasp because we are daily inundated with thousands of messages that say the exact opposite. Our culture feeds us a continuous stream of: “The best thing for you is to focus on accumulating as much as you can so you can maximize the fun you have now, the comfort you have later, and the future of your family for years to come.” Spending your money on enjoying life now and saving for the future are good things, and we’ll talk about how to process your finances properly in the next blog, but to get there you must first have a correct foundational belief. To have God-centric finances you have to believe that God knows best and you have to believe that your finances should glorify, honor, and reveal a dependence on Him. I know that is a big statement, and you may not be there, so let me encourage you to spend time daily asking for that perspective. No amount of guidance will help move the needle away from love of money to love of God if you don’t first have a belief that God knows best with a desire to align your finances to what God asks.
As we journey through this topic the next few weeks know that one of the primary reasons I’m spending time on this topic is actually for my own reflection and reminder. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” and I have to admit, I like money too much. I want more of it. I want to make more so that I can spend more and save more and feel more comfortable about my current and future financial situation. While making more money, saving more, and enjoying more is not necessarily a bad thing, the next statement is: Guiltily, when I think about my money God becomes an “oh yeah, and I need to remember God too.” While my wife and I regularly give to our church and to Compassion International, I still find myself thinking more about how to build my financial kingdom than the opportunity to continue to joyfully participate in helping build God’s kingdom with our finances. So, I hope this helps you, and I hope this helps me remember that handling my finances with a focus on God will draw us to a better relationship with Him, bigger faith in Him, and a bigger impact with our lives.
How do you feel about the church talking about money? Why is that?
Would you say you love money? Would others say you love money?
Would you say the way you spend money shows a “humble, dependent, God-trusting disposition”?
Do you agree or disagree with this statement: I believe the way I interact with my finances has a significant implication and impact on my interaction with God and the world? Why do you agree or disagree with that?
Do believe that God knows best and do you believe that your finances should glorify, honor, and reveal a dependence on Him? If you agree with that statement, do your finances reflect that agreement?