It is instructive to consider some wrong approaches or wrong thinking or wrong attitudes to money.
Bad Cultural Attitudes to Money
Let's begin with our culture. In order to do this, we have to make generalisations—the following won’t apply to everyone!
Here are two common approaches to money in our culture.
- Money can be used to acquire material possessions that bring real satisfaction in life.
Money can be leveraged to gain power, prestige, happiness and security. If we needed proof that this were the case, last year companies in the UK spent over £14 billion on advertising. The Guardian newspaper suggested that in one day a person in London could be exposed to 3,500 marketing messages. The guardian website that contained that article had 9 adverts on it!
- Unlimited acquisition of wealth is a worthy pursuit in life.
If money is my source of comfort, provides security, is how I measure my worth or success…..then sure, I’ll pursue more money! Is this goal, even subconsciously, what drives many to seek a promotion. If the pursuit of promotion or a seeking after wealth has a detrimental impact on an individual’s health or their family then it is an unhealthy goal!
We can dispel these two cultural attitudes to money:
- The source of ultimate happiness or worth or security does not come from money. Such things can only come from God—through a relationship with Him (Romans 11:36).
- A pursuit of wealth at all costs is not a worthy pursuit in life. Loving God and loving others is a worthy pursuit in life (Mark 12:30-31).
These are two cultural attitudes towards money that we need to be aware of since, as weak humans,
we are prone to be influenced by those around us.
Bad Christian Attitudes to money
Let’s now turn our attention to some common beliefs or attitudes or approaches to money that Christians have that don’t align with the totality of the Bible’s teaching. Again, the following is based on generalisations. You may not think that you believe any of the following—but the real question is 'are you influenced by any of the following?'
Again, what follows are generalisations.
- Prosperity is Wrong
- Prosperity Gospel
- Dependency on God Syndrome
Prosperity is Wrong
The first attitude, even if suppressed, is that prosperity is wrong. There are certain Christians who believe that material possessions are 'worldly' and that to be a part of an affluent society is immoral. In this view, poverty is a virtue and enjoying wealth is sin. Advocates of this view will point to Jesus who had no house, no wealth and who taught the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. If we’re influenced by this thinking, we may feel guilt if we have wealth (and in comparison to the majority of the world, we most certainly are wealthy).
However, the New Testament doesn’t teach that being rich is inherently wrong. God certainly has a heart for the poor and oppressed—in part because they often don’t have the resources to fend for themselves. And there are plenty of warnings to the rich—warnings about the deceitfulness of
wealth. But there are many rich people in the New Testament who are looked upon favourably because of the way they used their wealth: we saw two examples recently from Mark’s gospel—Joseph of Arimathea gave his tomb for burying Jesus; and one of Jesus’ female disciples was rich
enough to be in possession of an expensive perfume, which she used to anoint Jesus. Another
example would be Lydia, whom we hear about in Acts 16. As a dealer in expensive cloth, she was
likely wealthy and we know she used her resources to bless the Church.
Prospering financially is not a sin. We should rejoice at successful Christians in the workplace—we
should be eager for Christians to be in positions of influence. We should be glad when Christians
earn much money. Prosperity is not sinful. But, how we use our prosperity may be sinful. How our
heart relates to prosperity may be sinful.
Prosperity is Gospel
The second attitude among some Christians is at the other end of the spectrum. That God’s chief
concern is for every Christian be rich and successful. Proponents of such believe wealth is always a
sure sign of God’s blessing. A person is in poverty because of a lack of faith, hard work or a failing to
claim what God is ready and eager to give. Proponents of such believe that God wants you to have
your best life now.
They will use verses like:
- James 4:2, ‘You do not have because you do not ask’; or
- John 10:10, ‘”I have come that they may have life and life to the full”’; or
- Mark 10:29, ‘”No one who has left home or [family] or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age”’.
One of the ironies of the so-called prosperity gospel is its popularity among poor people (as well as the rich). It’s relatively easy to dispel this wrong thinking. The first way is to read any of the verses used to support the prosperity gospel in context. The second way is to look to the person of Jesus. The third way is to simply read the New Testament—how does the prosperity preacher deal with
verses such as:
- Mark 8:34, ‘[Jesus said] “if anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”’; or
- Matt. 6:19, ‘[Jesus said] ”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy…”’; or,
- Matt. 19:23-24, ‘[Jesus said] “it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”’
Dependency on God Syndrome
Very briefly, a third attitude towards money by some is a dependency on God syndrome. Proponents of this believe that living by faith means living moment by moment on God’s provision. Sounds good—because it is! It’s exactly what we should be doing. However, the outworking of this for
some is that God’s provision is always limited to the immediate time-frame: the Christian is not to be concerned with planning for the future. Such a person will justify not putting money in a pension, for example, because they plan on trusting God to provide. Of course, God certainly does provide in amazing ways but for the majority of us (certainly in the UK) the way He normatively
provides, for retirement for example, is through our prayerful planning for it. The author of
Proverbs advocates planning for the future when he says, ‘A good man leaves an inheritance to his
children and his children’s children.' (Prov. 13:22).
So that is a summary of some approaches to money that we believe to be wrong—both from our culture and from ‘Christendom’. Sunday’s sermon looked at some principles and motivations from 2
Corinthians 8 and 9 for how we are to utilise the money that God graciously allows us to steward, as well as the supreme example that we can follow: