Christianity – What’s Money Got To Do With It?

“The Kingdom of God doesn’t mean the “haves” should be forced into handing over what they have (although in death everyone will hand over everything) and give it to the “have-not”s. It means they should not put their trust in their riches.” (BB)

“Historically speaking, the best any government has ever been able to do at creating prosperity is to allow the individuals who work and entrepreneur to be rewarded by the free market and those who don’t to suffer…Historically speaking the poor are best served by the free market. Anyone who tells you different simply envies the rich…”(BB)

“Statistically speaking a person who does only 3 things is virtually guaranteed of staying out of poverty: 1) Get a job, any job 2) Don’t fornicate/commit adultery 3) Graduate from highschool” (BB)

“We will always have the poor to give to (through what Paul calls, “The most excellent way”, that is, charity), but not everyone has Jesus. No government program or redistribution of wealth can bring people to know Jesus. In poverty there is suffering, but without Jesus, life is simply not worth living. And that is why giving money for people to know Jesus is better spent than money on government hand-outs.” (BB)

The question of money is dealt with quite extensively in the gospels, and in some of the letters. My questions about money are quite simple:

Can we be rich? Should we be rich? Is this a blessing from God?
Do we have to give? If so, how much and to what?
What do we use ‘money given to God’ for?
Is addressing issues of poverty a biblical imperative?
Does the church have a double standard concerning money?
Do politics of the nation represent Christ’s original vision regarding money?
Is responsibility of your wealth even an issue in the bible?

Just questioning the ideas about money – I have heard a lot of conflicting idealogies about the correct Christian stance in my lifetime – if I had to live by one biblical model – what should that be? Someone please show me -I am totally confused.

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Christianity – What’s Money Got To Do With It?

  1. We live in a world where in order to do good unto others it does take money…helping someone out in a bind, buying food for the needy, giving to the poor, things cost money. At the end of the day we can’t give and be generous unto others if we don’t have two pennies to rub together ourselves. We can give of ourselves, but we are limited in what we do…we have in order to give.

  2. Most excellent question! Money is a confusing issue for most Christians. You can get different ideas depending on which verse you examine. Some think our priority is the church (tithing). Some think we must give all we have to the poor. Some think we have no obligation whatsoever. There are more interpretations you could come up with and each of them would have some text to prove the point. Here are three things I think we can say for sure;

    1) Money/wealth is a hot topic with God. The only time Jesus showed any anger was in overturning the money tables in the temple. Also we have stern warnings like; “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matt 6:24
    2) In the OT, God set up various tithes that directed the distribution of money, yet in the NT, we are given the freedom to give as we see fit. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2Cor 9:7
    3) Throughout the Bible, it is abundantly clear that the “haves” should be generous to the “have nots” (with at least the basic necessities of life).

    Now it gets a bit hazy when we try to assert that we are “required to be generous”, but “not out of necessity”. To me this is a test of the heart. God knows that man, if left to himself, will trust and rely on worldly sustenance. He wants us to have reliance on Him alone. So he gives us total freedom to do the right thing with our money, and to do it with a glad heart. The holy spirit figures into this in a big way but I will leave that for now.

    So my solution is to be continually looking for ways to help someone. I may go a long time between charitable giving and I may give a lot or a little. If and when I feel I can do some good, I do it. If I can’t give, I don’t feel guilty. If all were taken from me, I pray that I would still count myself blessed, but I do not see a clear message in the bible to deliberately make ourself poor (not that God could not lay that on the heart on an individual).

    Can a person live like that and gain great wealth? He has blessed righteous men of God with wealth before. Yet the way the church manages money does not even live up to what I have laid out here. What I see the church doing today can only be justified if you pick out a certain verse and ignore the big picture. Huge mortgages and expensive furnishings obligate the people to give out of necessity, robbing them of the ability to grow spiritually. Money management becomes a burden rather than a blessing. No wonder this is a confusing issue.

  3. BrotherKen,

    I really liked your response. Especially the verse you mentioned: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity”.

    I also agree with you that the ‘haves’ should be generous to the ‘have-nots’. What I was contending against earlier was the view that the government should step in and force people to hand over their possessions to the poor.

    Societyvs’ mention of the rich, young ruler was excellently noted … and how distruptive this would be to ‘business as usual’. On the other hand, Christ’s purpose was not to stop the market for the poor as it was to stop the greed inside of his disciples hearts.

  4. On the other hand, Christ’s purpose was not to stop the market for the poor as it was to stop the greed inside of his disciples hearts. (BB) Very good point!

  5. “”Historically speaking, the best any government has ever been able to do at creating prosperity is to allow the individuals who work and entrepreneur to be rewarded by the free market and those who don’t to suffer…Historically speaking the poor are best served by the free market. Anyone who tells you different simply envies the rich…”(BB)”

    Could someone tell me where this comes from? Its nice to know a bit of the context cause otherwise this is a huge pile of shit that works very well at letting the wealthy justify their exploitation and keep their foot on the neck of the poor.

    Firstly, be very suspicious of anyone who says “historically speaking”; there is never only one history. Second watch for them to point to the old Soviet Union as the best Communism (an of course Socialism is lumped in with Communism as the same ideaology) had to offer as proof of the supremecy (holiness?) of Capitalism. Thirdly watch how they avoid all social and individual contexts a person finds themselves and places everyone, both the vulnerable and the privilaged, on the same playing field and, using the same measure of “success”, expects the same results.
    Nothing like working overtime to rationalize our sense of entitlement at the expense of the vulnerable and justify further exploitation. Bashing and blaming the poor is so damn easy it seems.

  6. The athiesm of socialism/communism has only produced despair and economic depravity.

    In my opinion the only people “bashing and blaming the poor” are the ones who tell them, “You are too incompetent to earn a living, so we’ll give to you from those who are competent.”

  7. Hineini and Burning Bush – your starting to sound like Trotksy and Milton Friedman (lol) – I kid, I kid.

    Hineini, the original comments come from the post before this called ‘Is this what Jesus taught? Show me Where?’. That’s where I pulled all of those quotes from. For reference sake.

    So BB doesn’t like the atheism in the communist movements, which I can relate to – I think we all agree on freedom of religion.

    Hineini, so you’re saying the Capitalist system exploits the poor – how so? Doesn’t the freedom of the market mean ‘anyone’ has the chance to succeed?

  8. “Hineini and Burning Bush – your starting to sound like Trotksy and Milton Friedman (lol) – I kid, I kid.” SVs

    Seriously, though, you’re right, SocietyVs.

    Politics …

  9. Interesting and important discussion.

    Neither socialism nor capitalism can be completely acceptable to the Christian as our “citizenship is in Heaven” (Phil 3:20). In practice socialism puts the state in the place of God – hence the tendency toward atheism. Capitalism in its purest form puts the corporation in the place of God. Rheinhold Niebuhr discovered that capitalism with certain socialistic restraints was somewhat acceptable [after spending most of his life pushing socialism].

    Of the two, socialism/communism is the most dangerous. As we see happening in Venezuela, Mr. Chavez is taking over the whole economy, notice I say “Mr. Chavez” and not “the poor”. Sorry Trotsky. There’s always only ONE person at the head of a socialist government, and he’s always the richest guy in the country!

    I think in the well-known “Give to Caesar..” speech, Jesus is telling us to look at each item very carefully, not to leap into a politically dogmatic circle which is precisely what’s happened with Christians today. If we feel we have found the perfect form of government here on earth then perhaps we are losing sight of our real citizenship in Heaven.

    That’s my two cents. Of course, had I known 20 years ago that my citizenship was in Heaven I wouldn’t have majored in Political Science!

  10. lets move past the socialist strawman shall we.

    There is nothing structurally necessary about atheism in the many socialist models out there, orthodox Marxism sure but there are so many more options available.

    “There’s always only ONE person at the head of a socialist government, and he’s always the richest guy in the country!” (jim jordan)
    This is simply not true. It could be true that there was a single individual or small group at the head of many of the “socialist governments” (although this term is somehwat problematic) but socialism as commonly described is actually antithetical to oligarchical rule (dictatorship included).
    I have no interest in trying to defend the communist or socialist regimes and their atrocities that we have seen. But that doesn’t at all mean that Capitalism is de facto superior or holds some privilaged position in the various options out there.

  11. OK, OK, I will set you all straight 🙂 Unless you are in politics you have no biblical backing to criticize or complain about whatever government you are under. As a Christian you may only hold the governments of this world in high honor, good or bad. Prove me wrong.

  12. When John the Baptist was baptizing, people came to him and said what should we do? And he said, “If you have two coats, give one to the one who has none.”

    In first century Palestine, the peasants (almost everyone) were oppressed by two groups of people, Rome and the puppet governments set up to answer to Rome (ie. Herod and the chief priests who controlled Herod’s Temple). To fund Herod’s grand projects (including the Temple) most people lost their land to what we might call today agribusiness. It was a horrible situation for almost all of the population, except for those at the top. John the Baptist and Jesus were part of a movement to overthrow Rome’s Empire. They both felt that God would act decisively. Well, it didn’t happen. They were both executed. The Gospels “spiritualized” Jesus’s radical message. Thankfully, echoes remain in the texts.

    In other words, Jesus was about real issues of poverty. It is the responsibility of government (which is us) to participate in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Think of the prayer Jesus said: Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts. Indebtedness and lack of bread was the reality.

    I believe it is the responsibility of government (all governments) to set limits on the exploitation of the poor. Governments should be judged, in my view, on the how the least of these are faring.

    I have been reading an excellent book, The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor. I think that historical Jesus studies are helping us realize that Jesus was an advocate for economic and political justice–in fact, he gave his life for it.

  13. hi Hineini
    You seem to have overlooked my recommendation; capitalism with certain socialistic restraints was somewhat acceptable .

    What do you opine on that? It’s also hardly a blank check to capitalism!

    Could you please define “socialism as commonly described”?

    I see John had a good quote, “I believe it is the responsibility of government (all governments) to set limits on the exploitation of the poor. Governments should be judged, in my view, on the how the least of these are faring.”

    Very true. Jesus’ message was spiritual and political. It resonates on all levels. But all of our social engineering is a double-edge sword. In Genesis we see Abram getting ahead of God by taking the promise of a son into his own hands. The result: Ishmael, the supposed father of the Arab nation. And Lot, sleeping with his daughters – the women wanted to have offspring ASAP. The result: two tribes that hated Israel. Oops on both counts.

    To some degree we always screw up in our grandiose efforts to save humanity. It’s easy for us to forget to ally ourselves with Christ. Why do the very same people who want to help the poor, many of them Christians, also support the killing of the unborn?
    Meanwhile, many of the other Christians who want to save the unborn from death were complicit in launching an unprovoked invasion of another country? We are hopeless when we forget our allegiance to Christ. Our goal is not only to show His love to others, but to let ourselves be guided by it.

    John’s statement is worth repeating; Governments should be judged, in my view, on the how the least of these are faring.

    Who’s the judge? Jesus Christ. That’s a good thing to remember.

    My apologies for writing a book.

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule” – H.L. Mencken.

  14. By the time stamp, I don’t think John Shuck was responding to me but I should give some validation for what I stated anyway. I would also like to restate my stance; I don’t see any biblical text that supports Christians to openly and publicly berate or resist the government.

    Consider that the only people that were openly and publicly rebuked were the Pharisees. Consider that Jesus Himself submitted Himself to the governmental authority of Pilate;

    Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
    11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10,11

    Consider the following statement from Paul;

    Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. Rom 13:1-5

    Consider the following statement from Peter;

    Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

    Paul and Peter clearly understood that God sets people up in government and positions of authority and uses them to bring Glory to His name. Even the wicked rulers are used to His Glory. Any teaching that Christians must try to “help God accomplish His purpose” by being politically active does not come from the Bible, it just is not there. Also consider this, when Paul and Peter wrote those things they were under great oppression and in immediate danger of torture and death. We have no where near that kind of oppression today yet religious leaders who claim to represent Christ make a mockery of our faith and show themselves to be hypocrites by spewing all kinds of insults at those God put in positions of authority. They back all sorts of “Religious Right” movements and try to promote Christian values outside of the Church without any Biblical foundation to do so.

  15. Ken,

    I wasn’t responding to you, but thank you for continuing the conversation. I think your statement is pretty radical, which is not a bad thing! It seems it would lead to absolute passivity in all things. You wrote:

    “I don’t see any biblical text that supports Christians to openly and publicly berate or resist the government.”

    Some definition might be in order. What do we mean when we say “government?” Christians resisted local governments during the Civil Rights movement. The United States came into being by resisting the the British government. A Presbyterian clergyman, John Witherspoon, signed the Declaration of Independence. Going to war against Germany and Japan was resistance to their governments. Christians actively fought in those wars.

    To the Bible, it is filled with stories of war, resisting one government or another. The prophets (Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the others) berated the government of Israel and its leaders.

    Jesus. He called Herod, “that fox” which was not a term of admiration.

    I think the New Testament is a mixed bag in regards to this issue. The more radical message of Jesus as I mentioned earlier was covered in spiritual language probably for survival purposes. The Jewish Revolt of 66-70 was devastating. For the Gospel writers who all wrote after that time, to be open about a new kingdom of Israel would have been suicidal. Yet there are clues all through the gospels that resistance to Rome was what Jesus was about.

    The quotes from Paul and from Luke/Acts I think reflect a different message than that of the historical Jesus. Paul wanted to make peace with the Romans.

    The book of Revelation is an anti-Rome document if there ever was one. Rome is “the beast.”

    I think we may also have a different definition in mind when we speak of resistance. Resistance does not necessarily mean armed or violent resistance. Non-violent resistance is resistance. I think this is what Jesus was doing in the scene with Pilate. He did not cooperate with Pilate. He did not answer his questions. He died and exposed the injustice of Empire.

    Long speech. Thanks!
    john

  16. John,

    It’s interesting that you associate Jesus with a political uprising. He said he came to rescue Israel from slavery. People took him politically and asked who Israel was enslaved to. And Jesus answered, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

    Jesus addressed his audience not as a ‘public’ but as single individuals because the real problems in life can’t be answered by public policy. The government can try to stop murder and theft (and so much the better), but it is powerless to address the hate and envy in people’s hearts.

    To that extent I heartily agree (once again) with brother ken.

    On the other hand I take it to the place where I don’t think any government is going to ‘solve the worlds problems’ like eliminating poverty, stopping all wars, etc. as the delusional philosophers of the Enlightenment conjectured.

    And since I don’t believe government will ever reach people like Jesus can, I also believe it should be limited, and as small as possible. It should take on the roles of stopping crime (insofar as we can see) and protecting the property and work of others, but it should leave as much up to the individual as possible.

    The more socialist the government is, the less people can make their own choices. If a person surrenders their ability to choose, they surrendar the ability to become a self.

  17. Politics and the bible, I smell a new blog topic. Some of this stuff everyone is talking about is quite interesting and makes for a mixture of two taboo subjects in most homes – religion & politics – ‘those brutes’ , I am sure they will say of us.

    I like John’s take on the issue of Jesus resisting the gov’t and addressing the short-comings of the times (also John the Baptist) – I would say that is very accurate. However, Jesus never started a political revolution, he actually started a personal one – in that we all can change this is if we can ‘love one another, treat each other equally, etc’. Jesus may have spoke against the issue of his day (I would say this is 100% true) but he never joined a single political faction – even if they wanted that for him, he still denied that (according to the gospels). Jesus was all about the personal interaction and the community building it seems – on these levels and with one another we can change the society – which in the end – happened to Rome (like 300 AD) – all of this through non-interference in the gov’t and by becoming good citizens (and strong communities). Unbelievably, a lot of Roman citizens liked these early Christians for their charity and caring.

  18. It sounds to me that I might be approaching this from a very different perspective. Having no loyalty to Jesus or the institutional attempts to police the interpretations of the texts about his life I have little interest in what the texts “really mean” or what the responsibility of a Christian is.

    What I am concerned about is some of the practical consequences of singing the praises of Capitalism or “hold[ing] the governments of this world in high honor” (brotherken). Maybe I’m naive about the aims of religious communities but I would like them to be an advocate for the marginal and vulnerable. Obviously me simply wanting something doesn’t make it so but it is a bit discouraging that after conversations like this I not only can no longer assume I have some allies in my attempts to address the things I feel important, but actually find myself on the “other side” as it were. I didn’t want to believe Bush and Harper were representative of Christianity but I’m thinking I was wrong.

    I want to respond quickly to jim jordon who correctly points out that I overlooked a possibility he offers. He wrote, “You seem to have overlooked my recommendation; capitalism with certain socialistic restraints was somewhat acceptable .” (jim jordan)

    I see inherent in Capitalism some necessary structural principles that foster inequality, exploitation and establishing and maintaining hierarchies. I never like to discount out of hand other possibilities so I am not able to say that “capitalism with certain socialist restraints” might not work. More helpful in my mind would be systems or structures that privilage people and their well being rather than the freedom of capital. I should say that I’m no fan of socialism, choosing it only when the other option is capitalism. Its my opinion that the time has come to experiment with other models like anarcho-syndicalism. Its time to move past the either/or thing.

  19. I think your statement is pretty radical, which is not a bad thing! It seems it would lead to absolute passivity in all things. (John Shuck)

    Yes this teaching is radical and, if true, it just shows how far off track the church has wandered. No, it doesn’t mean complete passivity. The teaching addresses “open and public” criticism (confrontation would be a better term). Amongst ourselves we may of course discuss political matters, we are just not to preach the moral values of our faith to the world as if we have authority from God to do so. It is like me trying to tell you how you should raise your children. It is like a Canadian wanting to vote in a Russian election. Most Christians accept that we are translated into a new Kingdom when we accept Christ so this should not be a hard teaching. It is only hard because of years of improper teaching and example from the pulpit.

    Just for a moment I would like you to consider that this teaching may be right (I think the statements by Paul and Peter demand you at least consider it). If it is a proper teaching then every Christian church, every Bible college, every Christian should be repenting for whatever political involvement they have had and stop all political activity.

    What would we have then? Well Maybe if we stopped trying to push our moral standards on the world we could clean up our own act and be the servants we have been commanded to be. What we have now for a church system is not a light to the world it is a wailing child that is out of control and has not yet learned how to be obedient.

    What do we mean when we say “government?” Christians resisted local governments during the Civil Rights movement. (John Shuck)

    If correct, this teaching declares a lot of what the church has done in the past to be against the will of God. Do you contend that the church has been infallible throughout history? This teaching is meant to address anyone who has a position of authority. From your boss to the police to the court system, we should be subordinate to anyone who has authority over us. Of course, there would be some challenges. Certainly, we must not reject our Lord or submit to another God or idol, but what if our government mandated us to kill innocent people? Areas like this would require discernment but that is why we have been given the Holy Spirit.

    Jesus. He called Herod, “that fox” which was not a term of admiration. (John Shuck) Who was Jesus talking to? The Pharisees. This is not a rebellion ranting on TV about the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals. A teaching that is clearly stated and exampled by Jesus and His disciples is not quashed by something as minor as this. You will need more than that to sway me. Your claims that Jesus was all about a political uprising just don’t have any foundation that I can see. If you think that is what Christ was all about I think you would have to call Him a complete failure.

  20. hineini, I apologize for making you feel left out. I think I would really enjoy you as a friend, but we do subscribe to a different theology and I must address primarily that which I feel is the Christian truth. I do appreciate knowing your stance and I hope to understand all that you believe, We are listening so keep writing brother!

  21. Hi Hineini
    I had a very efficient but difficult employee once who walked out of a business that I used to manage after accusing the owner of the biz of “exploiting” him. Several years later, when he worked for me in my business, he threw the same accusation at me. I replied, “Of course, I’m exploiting you – you’re very productive, but that’s why I’m paying you $14 an hour!” He didn’t know what to say. Aren’t you presupposing that all people are underpaid in a capitalist system? And what are we to do with folks whose productivity is too awful to measure?

  22. Hineini,

    Thanks for this. You wrote:

    “Maybe I’m naive about the aims of religious communities but I would like them to be an advocate for the marginal and vulnerable. Obviously me simply wanting something doesn’t make it so but it is a bit discouraging that after conversations like this I not only can no longer assume I have some allies in my attempts to address the things I feel important, but actually find myself on the “other side” as it were. I didn’t want to believe Bush and Harper were representative of Christianity but I’m thinking I was wrong.”

    Christianity and possibly religion in general, is schizophrenic. Christianity both legitimizes domination and fosters social change. That is how you get a Pat Robertson and a Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I happen to think King’s actions are closer to what is good and true than Robertson’s. I don’t need to probe Bible texts to know that.

    Brother Ken wrote: “…but what if our government mandated us to kill innocent people? Areas like this would require discernment but that is why we have been given the Holy Spirit.”

    Yeah, no shit. Discernment and action. If the government is killing innocent people, I don’t need the Holy Spirit to tell me that isn’t right and that something needs to be done.

    I am a human before I am a Christian.

    Jesus was a failure. What’s wrong with that? He failed (as my favorite novelist, Tom Robbins, wrote) with with and style and grace. I think the world could use more failures like him.

  23. I am a human before I am a Christian. (John Shuck)

    Wow! As confused as I have been (and still am) about some of the harder teachings in the Bible, I have ALWAYS understood that we are Christians before we are humans. I could quote scripture after scripture from Genesis to The Revelation of Jesus Christ on that one. I will just offer one;

    And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! Luke 12:4,5

    This teaching is hard to accept but after some serious thought and prayer it makes sense to me.

    And I am not just focusing on the requirements and warnings of the faith, I have found a better realization of the blessings also.

  24. Hi Ken,

    A man holds a gun to his wife’s head and says, “Say you love me or I will shoot you.”

    What could it possibly mean for her to say she loves him? Is that love?

    A god holds the fires of hell beneath humanity and says, “Love and and believe in me or you will spend eternity in the fire.”

    What could it possibly mean for humanity to love that god? Is that love?

    I neither love that god nor believe in him. He never existed except in our own masochistic thinking.

    John

  25. John, my God is one that offers me eternal life. I have accepted that offer, knowing that I would have to sacrifice my ways for His ways. If you believe the same, then the only thing we disagree on are what are God’s ways. I am not going to try to say that I, a mere mortal, can say that I know all about God’s ways. I have said what I believe and it all lines up with scripture better than anything else I am aware of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s