Tag: Money

Let’s Talk about Money

Let’s Talk about Money

Let’s Talk about Money

Topics: Money
Published: May 10, 2012

“Men will talk about their struggle with pornography, but don’t ask about their money.”

A veteran of many men’s groups made that observation, and it made sense. As a counselor, I talk about sex with people, but I cannot remember the last time I talked about money.

In other words, I am missing something. Jesus often targeted the love of money and its deleterious effects, but in my everyday conversations this is rarely in play. Since counselors have an opportunity to focus on what is most important, we should expect to discuss money. If we are not talking about it, we have to ask the question: Are we blinded by the double whammy of a capitalistic culture and a heart that instinctively puts its trust in money?

A Strange Passage

As a way to keep these matters in view, here is a strange passage.

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.  So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’

“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.   (Luke 16:1-9)

The interpretive challenge is “the master commended the dishonest manager.” And, of course, that last sentence is a doozy: use worldly wealth to gain friends. . . .

Consider this perspective. The dishonesty of this manager is not so much what he did after he found out he was going to be fired, but wasting his master’s possessions beforehand. In going to his master’s debtors now, the manager reduced interest and other fees, which is shrewd but not exactly dishonest. And since the numbers here are huge, the reduction was generous and appreciated by the debtors. It will bear fruit for the manager in his uncertain future. It’s a smart move, and he is commended for it.

Eternal Investing

The goal is to think and act on our money. Start with a paraphrase.

People spend a lot of time trying to be shrewd with their money. What they get for all their work is a place to stay, food to eat, a few toys, and maybe a few folks who are in their debt. None of it has eternal significance.

Christians should use that same worldly shrewdness with their money to do eternal investing. Eternal investing has a few different components. First, the money is the Lord’s. Second, think in terms of masters. Money can quickly become our god. Assume repentance is going to be a recurring feature of your financial strategy. Third, we are always aiming for faith that expresses itself in generosity.

And the part about gaining friends? My guess is that it means you are helping the poor, and, in helping them, they become friends, even if you gave anonymously. These friends, if they enter heaven before you, will welcome you to something grand. What a fine thought.

Now get on it. Talk to friends about money. Pray together about money. Give to the poor. Get shrewd, with eternity in view.

Each week I drive by the old Widener mansion, which once belonged to the incredibly wealthy George Widener. He died on the Titanic. The estate is that perfect combination of something exquisite and something in utter ruin. The immense shell looks down, passive and helpless, on ivy and weeds that have consumed the once proud fountains and are now aiming for the main house. A shrewd man built it, yet it did not last. May it be a reminder of this parable and an occasion to pray about financial wisdom.

An Honest Prayer about Money and Security

An Honest Prayer about Money and Security

I thought I would share some notes on how God is using the sermons in my own heart and life. An excerpt from my prayer journal:

Lord, let me not be like the Pharisee who sees sin as someone else’s struggle. I look at America and see the prevalence of the idol of money. I read about the rich young ruler in the Gospels and shake my head in disbelief that he walked away from Jesus because he loved his wealth so much. But could it be that much of my security is tied up in money and possessions? If You told me to sell it all, would I do it? Only by You working in my twisted heart!

Change the foundation of my security from earthly things that are shifting sand, to the Rock of Your unfailing love. May I stand there, unmoved, unshaken by the winds and storms that would buffet my very soul. May I really believe that to have You is to have everything. Close my eyes and ears to the allure and seduction of the Great Prostitute who desires to drown my soul in the worship of money and possessions. Remind me that my hope, my security is found in Another, a faithful spouse who suffered abject poverty of body and soul for me.

The Gospel and the Christian Social Imperative

The Gospel and the Christian Social Imperative

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You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  -2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

I’ve heard the word ‘socialism’ spoken a time or two in recent political discussions. There appears to be a bit of angst over the possibility that the federal government may begin to redistribute the wealth of the American people to those it deems worthy. Governmental economic policy and theory are not my area of expertise. I’ll leave those discussions to other blogs and render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. I am interested, though, in probing how the Gospel speaks to economic issues that affect the City and specifically what the Christian imperative is with regard to social concern.

I’m reading portions of the Scriptures with a whole new perspective, an experiential lens I never had before. Poverty and struggle have always existed in cities. However, we are witnessing an economic struggle now that connects suburbs and cities like many of us have never seen before. Many average families are struggling to pay for basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing. Experts claim that the unemployment rate will climb to nine percent before the end of the year. What is the Christian social imperative in times like these? What is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to my neighbor in need? There is something about me as an American that says “don’t tell me what to do with my money.” Citizens of a free nation have the right to debate about the government’s role in bailing out corporations and individuals. Again, not my point here. Here is my point: Does the Gospel tell me what to do with my money? The answer is a qualified yes and no.

2 Corinthians 8 provides an important lesson here. The apostle Paul in this chapter is attempting to persuade the Christians from Corinth to fulfill their promise to give to a collection for poor believers in Jerusalem. He informs the Corinthians that the poorest of the poor from their sister churches in Macedonia had begged to take part in the collection and even gave more than what Paul had hoped! In light of this, Paul wrote:

I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches…Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say,

“Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”

What Paul says here should make us take a step back. Notice:

  • Possessing a desire to give is not enough, so Paul says “finish what you started.”
  • God expects us to give in proportion to what we have. The Macedonians had little, but gave it, which made it a great gift. The Corinthians apparently had plenty, so Paul urged them to give in proportion.
  • Paul sought for economic EQUALITY among Christians. He didn’t ask the government to enforce it, he asked Christians to do it voluntarily.
  • Why? Because those who had plenty had an opportunity to share with those in need. He adds that later on the Corinthians may be in need and will require help from those with plenty.
  • Lastly, Paul did not command the gift as a rule but worked subversively to overturn greed and fear.

Don’t get me or the Scriptures wrong here. I don’t think Paul is making the case that all Christians should make the same amount of money and that, if they do not, the Church should force a redistribution. What Paul is asking for is a little common sense. If there are people in need does it not make sense to ask those who have excess to pitch in to relieve their suffering?

What I love about the Scriptures is how quietly subversive they are. Paul doesn’t shout out a command but instead suggests that the Corinthians’ love is being put to the test. I may claim I love other people but until I put my money where my mouth is, my words are just noise pollution. But how do we get there? The answer is the Gospel. Paul reminds the Corinthians,

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  -2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

It was sheer grace that made Jesus, residing in the comfortable confines of heaven with glory and splendor, decide to leave to occupy the slums of the universe. He who was rich, for your sake became poor, so that out of His poverty you would become rich. Talk about redistribution of wealth! Amen, Amen, and Amen! I was poor and destitute, separated from God, without any hope, a rebel at war with God and Jesus came and took my place as a poor man. Now I have everything for which I could ever hope. Money, possessions, and the comfort and security they bring no longer have the grasp on me they once had. I can give it all away because Christ gave me something better when He gave me Himself. He gave me God.

I said earlier that the answer to the question “Does the Gospel tell me what to do with my money?” is a qualified yes and no. Paul didn’t command the Corinthians to give, so the answer is no. But, but he did say that their giving would show how far the Gospel had penetrated their hearts, so the answer is yes. How can we say we grasp the Gospel if we do not constantly empty ourselves for the needs of others. The Gospel requires that I take someone else’s problems and make them my own. This economy is giving you and me opportunity to do that. I am spending less money on those things that I WANT. That little bit of money left at the end of the month that probably should go into savings is going to buy grocery cards for the family out of work who can’t afford groceries. I’m trying to take my plenty and supply someone else’s need because the richest person in the universe came to me, the poorest in the universe, and made my problems His very own.