Engaging in the Topic of Money
Ever since Rob’s sermon on giving last month (see immanuelspokane.org for a recording), I’ve been thinking about how we, as followers of Jesus, engage with the topic of money. As Rob brought up in his sermon, the church in the U.S. generally either talks too much about money in manipulative or questionable theological ways (think pastors asking for jets, prosperity gospel etc.) or hardly at all. The latter is my experience growing up in the church. I’m bothered by the disconnect between these trends and the way and amount that Jesus talks about money. Jesus talks more about money and possessions in the gospels than any other topic besides the Kingdom of God (For further reading see: www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1996/december/410.html and the chapter Simplicity in “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster). (For example see Matthew 6, Matthew 19:16-26, Matthew 21:12-13. Luke 6:20-25, Luke 12:13-21). Jesus’ teachings are challenging and countercultural. These passages reveal that our attitudes and thoughts about money reveal what is going on deep in our hearts.
A turning point for my discipleship around money was when God invited me to move into the dorms to lead a Bible study my senior year of college. I was excited and terrified by this invitation. The expense of the decision was my greatest concern. I went to college in my hometown and my plan had been to continue living at home for free. This decision, then, would increase my housing costs greatly. Without the prompting of my Christian community to pray about it, my decision process would have been ruled by money. After a time of prayer with others, a friend came up to me and said “God told me to give you $1,000 if you move into the dorms, let me know what you decide”. I was completely shocked. This act of generosity took away my excuse of money and caused me to take a deeper look at why I was hesitant to say “yes”. I realized that my hesitation was never just about the cost, it was about my lack of trust in God’s provision, fear of financial insecurity and fear of making a decision that would be labeled by others as “foolish” and “unwise”. I began to realize a pattern in my decision-making that let money have more of a say than God.
In Mark 10, a rich man approaches Jesus seeking to inherit eternal life. After a conversation about the law, Jesus says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) Whether it was a source of power, security, prestige or something else, the call to give up his possessions and money to follow Jesus was too great a cost. The text says he “was shocked and went away grieving” (Mark 10:22). Jesus helps the man see inside his heart and gives him an opportunity to repent of the hold money had on his life. I was very close to being the rich man. I’m grateful that Jesus gives us opportunities to repent and enter into life that is centered on him, not money.
I am convinced that money is a core area of our discipleship as Christians. And our life with God is a community endeavor and therefore our discipleship around our money should involve community. This completely goes against the cultural message that money is private and that we have a right to use it however we please. I believe that Christian community can be a place of repentance and transformation in our attempt to follow Jesus with our money. I have hope for this because I have experienced it in my own life. I wouldn’t have started to break free from the hold money has on my decision-making or experienced the provision of God through my friend if I hadn’t opened up this area of my life to community.
My hope is that, as a church, we can walk with each other in our pursuit of Jesus in this area of our lives. It is a continual journey that I feel I am just beginning. It is hard and costly to trade the world’s view of money for Jesus’. We need each other in this process of repentance and transformation. Not all of us are called to move into the dorms or give large chunks of money to our friends, but those of us who identify as followers of Jesus are all called into discipleship around our money. I invite you to pray and ask God what a next step for you on this journey might be. This could look like:
- Engaging in self-reflection:
- what are the deeper things that your spending habits say about your heart?
- what is your framework for thinking about money and where did that come from?
- Invite trusted friends into conversations about money or discernment around a financial decision.
- Give money away.
- Invite a friend or your small group to study scripture on money with you. (A good place to start is 1 Timothy 6:6-10 or Luke 12:15-34).