Jan 21 - Does Money Make My World Go Round?

Does Money Make My World Go Round? -  Family Matters Part 2

January 21, 2018

 

DOES MONEY MAKE MY WORLD GO ROUND?

Family Matters - Part 2

January 21st, 2018

 

 

If we are single, then how we handle our finances is very important ... making sure we are living within our means, making sure that we can afford to pay the rent, study, save toward retirement, and so on.

 

But it is also important if we are married.  Money, along with sex, how to parent children, division of chores in the home, and the in-laws (extended family), are the most common and often the most destructive areas of conflict in a home.

 

So really all of us need to resolve how we will deal with our finances in a positive way - and, if we have children, hopefully pass on to them some good values in this regard 

 

 

The Bible has a lot to say about finances.  There are two opposite extremes when it comes to interpreting what the Bible says - one of which was more common in the Middle Ages, one of which is very common today.

 

On the one side, there is the idea that Christians by their very calling have to be poor.  And there are a number of verses that are quoted by those who believe in a poverty gospel.

 

I. THE POVERTY GOSPEL?

 

No one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.                                Luke 14:33

 

Sell your possessions and give the income to the poor.  Make yourselves wallets which do not tear and an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.                              Luke 12:33-34

 

What is often not considered is that in both cases Jesus, as an itinerant preacher and teacher, was speaking about the actual cost of becoming one of his immediate disciples - those who wanted to follow him literally had to leave everything behind ... homes, family, occupation ... in order for them to be able to physically follow him. 

 

At one time Jesus told a rich young man to give away his wealth to the poor prior to following him, which the man refused to do.  This caused Jesus to comment that it is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.  It is easier for a camel to make it through the eye of a needle.

 

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. ... All things are possible with God. Mark 10:24-25,27

 

Because of passages like these, and Jesus’ teaching about the dangers of greed, some individuals from early on in church history, practiced a form of Christian asceticism.  For example, we can read of both female and male Christians who became hermits in the deserts of Egypt (3rd century).

 

As centuries passed, some Christians became convinced that voluntary poverty was a special virtue.  The renunciation of worldly possessions, also known as a vow of poverty, became more common.  Poverty as an ideal was embraced by the religious orders and led to the monastic movement (along with the vows of obedience and chastity).  

 

The Benedict vow of “conversion of behaviour” included voluntarily forgoing private ownership.  Dominicans and Franciscans (12th century) professed poverty as one of the guiding principles of their lives. 

 

As a result, the cell’s of monks and nuns can be extremely Spartan, consisting of little more than a bed, chair and table - although sometimes there is also a praying nook or a sink.

 

The whole Amish lifestyle is predicated on the belief that God (Jesus) demands a simple way of life from his people.  The goal is to get rid of the often constant preoccupation with having, purchasing, and owning more.

 

But even irreligious people may end up trying to simplify their lives.  They may end up living in trailers, huts or mini-homes not out of necessity, but out of choices.  They get rid of almost everything that could be superfluous, being content with the mere necessities of life. 

 

 

A Spartan way of life has become synonymous with a simple lifestyle.  Why?  Because in the ancient city state of Sparta, life was purposefully made hard.

 

Infants that were considered weak were exposed and left to die.  All Spartan boys were taken from their homes at age 7 and raised in the military in an extremely tough and demanding way.  There were absolutely no luxuries.  The boys and then men endured a rigorous amount of training, they had to march barefoot summer and winter, and were hardly given any food because they were expected to steal to survive - and not get caught. 

 

As they got older, the training became so intense that it was said that, for Spartan men, going into battle was actually considered a respite from training.  All of this ended up making them into one of the most effective armies ever.[1]  So a Spartan way of life was really tough and devoid of any luxury of any kind.  ]

 

But despite Jesus’ words, I don’t think that Jesus was promoting a lifestyle of poverty for everyone.  After he began his public ministry Jesus lived frugally and likely did not own a home,[2] he was supported financially by some people with deep pockets.  That was the only way that he and his disciples could in fact travel around, not have to work a steady job, have enough to survive on, AND still give to charity and pay the Roman tax. 

 

Nor does the Bible teach a gospel of poverty. It does not speak of wealth as morally wrong and poverty as morally right.  The rich aren’t necessarily evil and the poor good (although the parable of Lazarus and the rich man could be understood to be pointing in that direction).[3]

 

Money is simply a neutral medium of exchange.  In God’s eyes, there is ultimately no difference between someone who is rich and someone who is poor, because all human beings are his creation, and what actually matters to God is where their heart is at.  Do they love money? 

 

 

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some, who long after it have wandered away from the faith ...

                                                          1 Timothy 6:10

 

Has money become their god? 

 

The answer is “no,” it does not.  The only benefit of poverty is that it may remove pride, or unconcern for others.  However, some poor people are greedy and hard-hearted while others are content and generous. It really depends on the individual’s heart.

 

The apostle Paul, mostly dirt-poor during his ministry, never-the-less warned the Colossians against a self-made religion that treats the body harshly but does little to restrain worldly desires (Col 23:23).

 

Money or wealth are not problems in and of themselves, but they can become a problem if they become the focal point of our lives, if they take the place of God, if we serve them instead of God - as Jesus put it. 

 

In one of his parables, Jesus said that those who are deceived by wealth will become unproductive for God (Matthew 13:22).

 

Seed is sown among the thorns ....

The worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it becomes unfruitful.

Matthew 13:22

 

The deceitfulness of riches or wealth is the lie that we will be happy and fulfilled only if we are rich or wealthy.  The truth is that if we are miserable now, we will be miserable even when we have more.  The reality is that while wealth may make life easier and more pleasurable, it also can add a lot of stress - because we have to maintain and protect our assets. 

 

The deceitfulness of wealth also traps us in a constant effort to get more, no matter how high our income or assets, because we never consider ourselves wealthy. 

 

Someone described it like this: “Money is like Athlete's foot, the more you scratch it the more it itches ....”

 

So is there such a thing as a poverty gospel.  However, what about a prosperity gospel?

 

II. THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL?

 

There seem to be a lot of promises, particularly in the OT, that indicate that God would prosper individuals and their offspring who are particularly pious.

 

… You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children.                                                            Psalm 17:14

 

Blessed are all who revere the LORD (YHWH), who live according to his will. You will enjoy the rewards of your work, blessings and prosperity will be yours.                                                                                   Psalm 128:1-2  

 

Praise the LORD (YHWH). Blessed is the man who reveres the LORD (YHWH), who finds great delight in obeying his commands.  His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.  Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.                                    Psalm 112:1-3

 

Compare: Proverbs 10:22; 12:21; 13:21; 15:6; 21:21

 

Also known as “prosperity theology” or the “Word-faith movement,” this teaching has been made famous by a number of TV evangelist and preachers in the US, but has been picked up around the world and is particularly popular in Africa and Asia.  

 

 

Its basic idea behind the prosperity gospel is that it is God’s will that all Christians experience earthly prosperity.  God will bless all believers with good health and plenty of money to spend on themselves, ... if only they have faith.

 

THE sign that a person has faith is when someone “sows” a financial gift, so called “seed money”, usually to the organization or the ministry headed by the prosperity preacher.  They have to sow in order to reap a financial return. 

 

The reverse is therefore true as well.  If a believer is experiencing sickness or financial problems it is due to a lack of faith on that person’s part. 

 

Does the Bible teach a prosperity gospel?  The answer is, “no, it doesn’t.”   While the Bible does teach that there is a general connection between faithfulness and prosperity - it makes clear that this connection is not guaranteed! 

 

What we read in the Psalms and Proverbs are principles or general statements, these are not guarantees that things will always turn out that way or promises that God will bless a generous person with lots of money. 

 

It is totally inappropriate for someone to presume that God is obligated to give us material wealth. 

 

God does not promise us a life free of troubles, financial or otherwise. Quite to the contrary, Jesus warns, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a).

 

In fact, the writer of Psalm 73 complains about the fact that, despite his faithfulness, he is experiencing troubles, while the wicked seem to be bedded on roses.

 

I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.  ...  This is what the wicked are like-- always carefree, they increase in wealth.  Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.                                        Psalm 73:3-14

 

We find the same complaint in both the prophets and in wisdom literature.

 

Why have the wicked prospered?  Why are all those who are treacherous at ease?                       Jeremiah 12:1

 

There is a righteous man who dies young and a wicked man who lives long despite his wickedness.

                                                          Ecclesiastes 7:15

 

Sometimes I hear someone praying for healing based on the fact that a person is a “kings’ kid”.  Again, the belief is that God, the eternal Father and ruler over the universe only wants good things to happen to his children.  The reality is that the prosperity gospel is wrong and highly damaging.

 

So how should Christians treat the whole issue of money, income and wealth?

 

Some Christians think that Jesus’ teaching about not worrying about the future, not worrying about having the necessities of life, not worrying about having clothes and food (cf. Matt 6:25-34) indicates that they don’t have to think about the future,[4]

 

Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you.  Don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.             Matthew 6:33-34

 

They think that God is obligated to look after them, regardless of whether or not they work, make an income, or are able to pay the bills. 

 

Hey God, I’ve dedicated you my whole life, I spend all my time in prayer, and I did what you said, I simply didn’t worry, didn’t give any thought as to the future.  Now I’m in trouble, and you need to bail me out. 

 

I doubt very much that this is what Jesus had in mind ... Jesus is not speaking about stopping work, being irresponsible, or not making plans for the future.   

 

So let me just reiterate: 

1. There’s nothing wrong with making money or being rich - the problem is with having money and not being generous with it. 

 

Almost the last words that Paul writes in his letter to Timothy are words to wealthy Christians:

 

Teach those who are rich not to be conceited, not to trust their wealth, which is unreliable (or: uncertain), but to trust God, who richly gives us everything for us to enjoy.   Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous, willing to share with others.  Thus they will store up a treasure for themselves, a firm foundation for the future, in order to take hold of that which truly is life.

                                                          1 Timothy 6:17-19  

 

What “truly is life” is pointing, not at an enjoyable life on earth, but eternal life. 

 

In the book of James, the author chastises the rich because they were doing the exact opposition.  Instead of being generous, they increased their wealth by oppressing and taking advantage of the day laborers who were working for them. He goes on ...

 

You lived in luxury and indulged every pleasure.  You have fattened yourself for the day of slaughter.  You have ignored and “murdered” good people who could not stand up against you.                      James 5:5-6

 

2.  There’s nothing wrong with being wise when it comes to money and what happens in the future.  It may be disastrous to ignore the advice of your financial advisor.

 

Our government overspends each and every year, and the national and provincial debts are constantly climbing.  National debt is at $ 650 billion, and to that about 60 million is added every day.  BC is running a $ 67 billion deficit

 

At this rate, it’s anyone’s guess when the government will expect its citizens to provide for their own retirement.  It just means that Canadians will have to be even more astute when it comes to their retirement.

 

There is this strange prayer recorded in Proverbs 30:

 

Give me neither poverty nor riches.  Provide for my necessities, so that I will not, being full, deny you and say, “Who is the LORD (YHWH)?”  Or that I will not, being in need, steal and so profane the name of my God.                                                            Proverbs 30:8-9

 

The writer is asking God on the one hand not to make him so poor that he ends up lacking the necessities of life. But, on the other hand, he also asks God not to make him so rich that he ends up denying God. 

 

What this prayer reflects is a desire to have enough without becoming totally self-absorbed and self-reliant, and lacking the motivation or desire to live for and serve God. When that point is reached is probably different for every person.

 

We live in a society where wealth and prosperity and possessions are considered to be the highest good because they are believed to guarantee happiness and contentment and meaning. 

 

I know that to be false, simply because I had some very rich individuals in my own family and their wealth neither made them content nor happy, and it didn’t provide them with any kind of purpose in life other than making more money. 

 

As Christians, regardless of how much we have or don’t have, there has to be a certain detachment and contentment when it comes to money?  

 

What I mean is that our children and grandchildren should realize through our examples that there are a lot more important things that just money.  That God and family and kindness are much higher values.

 

So here are some suggestions:

 

The nation of Israel was reminded that the very ability to work and make money is a gift from God. 

 

But remember the LORD (lit. YHWH) your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, ...                                                                       Deuteronomy 8:18

 

The implication of this verse is that God is the ultimate owner of everything that we have and own.

 

Whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do all for the glory of God.                          1 Corinthians 10:31

 

This desire to bring glory to God with all of my life and the choices I make, includes the way I deal with my finances.

 

The author of the book of Hebrews, much like Jesus, makes it clear that when it comes to personal finances, being at ease has to do with trust in God. 

 

Keep your heart free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you”.           

                                                          Hebrews 13:5[5]

 

Paul calls the ability to be OK with the way things are a “secret” that he had learned, probably over time.

 

I have learned to be content regardless of circumstance, how to get along with little or much, ... I have learned the secret (of contentment) when full and when hungry, having an abundance or not enough.    Philippians 4:12

 

Do you realize that when someone is content, then they’re happy?  I mean, we try to find happiness on the basis of what we can afford to experience or purchase, or on the basis of how others treat us, or on the basis of a host of other things that we think we can control.  But the reality is, that true happiness is found in being content. 

 

As already mentioned, that does not mean that I don’t do anything to better my situation when I can.  It’s not just sitting back and hoping for God to intervene and drop money into our lap. 

 

Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”                 Luke 12:15

 

There is a lot in the Bible about greed or the love of money.  Ron Blue, who has written extensively about financial management defines greed as “just a little bit more.[6]
 

The writer of Ecclesiastes echoes that definition.  There’s just something insatiable about greed.  Whatever a greedy person has, it’s simply never enough.

 

The one who loves money will never be satisfied with what he has.  The one who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income.                   Ecclesiastes 5:10

 

When money is seen to represent prestige, status, security, power, success, and influence, then the love of money is inevitable. 

 

People who are not enslaved to or in love with money are not obsessed with getting more.  I’m not sure who the fabled Jones’ are or how they got to represent a standard of achievement, but people who are content aren’t pressured to keep up with them.
 

All our stuff is just temporary.  I heard about a man who decided to take it all with him. He made his wife swear at his bedside that she would put all the money he owed in the coffin with him when he died.  So, at his funeral, she dutifully wrote a check for all the money in the bank and put it in the casket with him.  But she said to herself that if he didn’t cash it within a month, then it was worthless wherever he was, and the money is hers!
 

 

Just as we have brought nothing into this world, so we won’t be able to take anything out of it either.

                                                          1 Timothy 6:7

 

When our lives are over, the game pieces we thought were of such great importance are put away, and the lid is closed.

 

The late Peter Marshall wrote a prayer that would be good for us to pray with regularity:

 

Forbid it, Lord, that our roots become too firmly attached to this earth, that we should fall in love with things. Help us to understand that the pilgrimage of this life is but an introduction, a preface, a training school for what is to come. Then shall we see all of life in its true perspective. Then shall we not fall in love with things of time, but come to love the things that endure. Then shall we be saved from the tyranny of possessions which we have no leisure to enjoy, of property whose care becomes a burden. Give us, we pray, the courage to simplify our lives. Amen.                                           Peter Marshall

 

When we selfishly cling to or desire more money and material goods simply for their own sake, then we are in bondage - unable to love our neighbour - holding on tightly for ourselves things that we could easily share with the needy.[7] 

 

A pastor was aware that one of his parishioners, a bank director, had never donated to the church so he dropped in on him one day.

“George, I’m sure that you make a decent wage as a bank director, but you’ve never given a penny to the church.  Aren’t you interested in helping the many programs we support?”

“Pastor,” the bank director replied, “Do you know that my mother is extremely ill, with very expensive medical bills?”

“Um, no George, I was not aware of that.”

“And Pastor, did you know that my brother is blind and unemployed?”

“Did you know that my sister’s husband died, leaving her broke with 4 kids?”

“Sorry to hear that, George, I … I … I had no idea.”

So,” said the bank director, “if I don’t give any money to them, why would I give any to the church?

 

With regard to the collection for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem, Paul writes this to the believers in Corinth:

 

Let everyone contribute just as they determined in their hearts, not grudgingly or because they’re being pressured, because God loves a cheerful giver.  God is able to pour out (his) full grace on you, so that you have everything you need and are still be able to do an abundance of good.                2 Corinthians 9:7-8

 

I know a few people who likely give more to charity than they should - and you may be in that position.  However, most of us likely could be a bit more generous if we were able to spend less on stuff we don’t need. 

 

Maybe being generous is simply the difference between filling our travel mug at home instead of getting it at Starbucks.  $ 5 - 5 times a week, 52 weeks out of the year, makes $ 1,300 a year. 

 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”                                                                              Mark 8:34

 

Many of us, especially those of us who grew up post-depression and post-war, have never known what it means to live frugally.  We have never had to deny ourselves much of anything.  We simply have no concept of what that means. 

 

Someone once said, “Money talks  - and mine always says good-bye.
 

We have to learn to act our wage - and teach our children the same.

 

This is probably one of the reasons why Canadians are so indebted.  We no longer save money until we can buy something.  We buy whatever we want to immediately because we can put it on credit - and we reap the worries that come with a 21% interest rate.

 

Consider the following scenarios:


Ellen is 30 years old and has a $3,500 balance on her credit card at 18% interest. She no longer uses the card and makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off? The answer is 70 years old.
 

Susan and Tom need a new washing machine, so they go to Home Depot and purchase one for $ 300 on their Home Depot credit card, don’t use it again and make the minimum payment each month. By the time the washing machine is paid off, they ended up paying $ 1,200 dollars instead of $ 300!

 

The borrower becomes the slave of the lender.

                                                          Proverbs 22:7

 

Some of us need plastic surgery - that means cutting up our credit cards so we don’t overspend anymore.

 

Some of us need to make a budget.  A budget is simply a spending plan, where we tell our money where to go instead of wondering where it went.  The reason we avoid budgeting is because we want to spend impulsively, and a budget requires that we sort out the difference between needs and wants. 

 

I don’t believe that Christians have to live absolutely Spartan lives, but I do think that we have to learn to practice the virtue of greater self-denial.  It may mean a simpler life-style or delayed purchases. 

 

But it will also help us to have a proper attitude toward possessions - and it will help us to teach our children about these virtues as well.

 

What do you think is the greatest treasure you could possibly possess?  Is it financial abundance?  Is it peace of mind?  Is it happiness?  Is it another person to love?  Is it eternal life?

 

 

DO I HAVE A BALANCED VIEW OF WEALTH AND POSSESSIONS?

 

Can you answer this question based on the 7 points I covered?

 

How do I hit the right balance (overview)

 

  1. Do I recognize the ultimate source of my income?
  2. Do I seek to honour God in all I do?
  3. Am I learning to be content in all circumstances?

4.  Do I resist all forms of greed?

5.  Do I remember that life is uncertain?

6.  Am I generous with what I have?

7.  Have I learned to say “no” to myself?

 

[1] The fact that men generally married at 30, eventually meant that the birthrate was so low that the number of men dropped significantly over the centuries, weakening the army to a point that it became vulnerable.

[2] The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

[3] See also James 2:6-7 - the rich oppress, drag into court, and blaspheme the name of Jesus.

[4] Particular Matt 6:34 - Do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself.  Every day has enough trouble of its own.

[5] The quote is likely in reference to Deut 31:6,8

[6] Some of the books include, The Debt Squeeze (newly released Taming the Money Monster), Money Matters for Parents and Their Kids, Raising Money-Smart Kids, A Woman’s Guide to Financial Peace of Mind, Sneakers from Heaven, Storm Shelter.

[7] According to Gallop, Canada moved from second most charitable country (2013) to 7h most charitable country (2017).  Most charitable: Myanmar, US, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka.  Least charitable countries included Croatia, China, Palestine, Yemen, Armenia, Greece, Serbia, Morocco, Lithuania, etc.  https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/cafworldgivingindex2017_2167a_web_210917.pdf?sfvrsn=ed1dac40_10