THE MONEY TREATISE
If we truly delve into the teachings of Jesus concerning being a disciple we will find a continuing theme. We call it “self denial” and within that term are some particular teachings that deal with money and material things. But be forewarned. These teachings carry with them some extremely uncomfortable issues which directly confront the western capitalist mindset and practice. In fact, they directly confront the image of Jesus the church has been teaching for many decades. So let us investigate what Jesus teaches about one of the most powerful forces on earth: money.
I Tim.6: 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (NIV)
We have been raised in a culture which revolves around money. It is ingrained in our minds and in our life practices. We think nothing of it since that mindset permeates every aspect of western life, and everyone we know lives within it on some level. Everything we have been taught, and everything our parents and educational system has groomed us for, revolves around success and money. And it is through that refraction that we understand Jesus and His teachings.
And we have also become very adept at taking the teachings of Jesus and repackaging them with a western, capitalistic slant which in effect neutralizes their impact by changing their very meaning. For instance we have defined the love of money as something akin to a miser or a Donald Trump kind of attitude. But in reality that ignores the love of money which is evident within the church on many different levels. You may even be poor and have the love of money. And you cannot, I repeat, you cannot follow Jesus and love and seek money.
I Tim.6: 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
Just this portion of Scriptures exposes the unholy nature of the visible western church. Food and clothing be content? Who are we kidding? We don’t even strive for that much less possess it. And yet the Spirit uses terms like “foolish and hurtful lusts” and “destruction and perdition”. And make no mistake, you can be heading toward perdition and be heartily enjoying the ride. Would you not consider this issue of utmost importance when those terms are applied? So when was the last time a local church decided to pause and seek God with fasting and prayer and allow the Spirit to take God’s Word and reveal its unvarnished truth against its belief system and practice?
It is a revelation of just how far the church has strayed when you see almost no tears of repentance and a continuing spirit of happiness permeating the congregation. The only time people feel mournful is when circumstances adversely affect them. But when professing believers are truly filled with the love and power of Christ then they must feel a sense of deep concern for everyone around them. And let us not be ignorant of this very fact: When a fallen culture is so strong around us then without a steady diet of repentance and a relentless pursuit of God’s Word concerning our hearts and our practices, then little by little the culture will take over with very little personal pain. And the church itself will eventually embrace the culture because the people demand it.
Most churches will take the easy road which is confronting gay sinners or the practice of abortion but they are blind to their own compliance with a sinful and hedonistic culture.
Although the issue is money, when we acquiesce to the thought processes and practices of a fallen culture concerning money we actually leave following Jesus. And the tentacles of compromise are long reaching and relentless. We still hear His name, we still hear the preacher quote His Word, we still songs that exalt Him, but God will not honor any of that when our hearts are so sullied by self interest and the spiritually toxic effects of an unimpeded cultural erosion.
Silently rearrange the furniture and the blind man knows nothing of it. So when the church becomes blind truth itself can be slowly changed without a whimper from those who claim to know it. And Jesus Himself, who is THE truth, becomes a prisoner of the moment and the culture. and aside from some powerless doctrinal descriptions, the teachings of Jesus begin to take on the pattern of the present culture. Before long you have a religious mongrel which does not resemble what Jesus taught nor does it seek it. And if you do not embrace and practice what Jesus taught, then you are following a false Jesus made with the brick and mortar of the culture and the desires of men.
Matt.6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
This is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Where oh where to begin. Let us start with this question: Do we believe that Jesus spoke these words and do we believe them? Because if we truly believe them, they bring with them some startling and even outrageous applications and implications. Listen to the overwhelming body of professing believers as they lament about gas prices or interest rates or President Obama. Listen and they worry about this or that. Here is a story which may seem laughable if it were not so tragic. My youngest son went to Christian school. One of his teachers was complaining about President Obama in 2009 and he said he and his wife could no longer afford going to the Outback restaurant but now had to go to Chile’s. Now if that was not bad enough that same teacher drove a Mercedes Benz automobile. I submit to you that man had no idea what Jesus taught at all.
But that story is somewhat representative of the overwhelming spirit that pervades the church. It is all about “me” and all about my wants and my comfort. And in that spirit worry and complaining is allowed and shared. Instead of us being the clay we have made God’s Word the clay and poured it into a cultural mold. And what comes out are some convenient guidelines which require no sacrifice and no self denial. And in an ingenious manipulation those guidelines, wrongly called God’s Word, are actually steps to achieving our own desires in a culture built upon the desires of man. It is quite remarkable. But it has nothing to do with Jesus.
Money and things have become the goal to which we work and dream. Is it possible that God condones the debt in which the congregation lives? And can it be possible, in spite of the overwhelming Scriptural evidence to the contrary, that God even condones the debt leveraged to provide a place to worship Him? It is spiritually absurd to say the least.
Matt.6: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Do we take those words literally or are they suggestions about the heart rather than practical commands about how to treat money? Verse 21 makes it completely clear. But do we save up voluminous amounts of money and yet claim our hearts are not there? We make God out to be a liar and His advice not practical. So millions upon millions of believers feel a right to hoard up literally billions of dollars to which they can later dip into for personal pleasure. The exegesis is powered by common sense and earthly realities rather than a stark and unencumbered truth which stands completely upon the words that God has spoken.
But this points to a problem within the church that is pandemic and panoramic. Even those who shout from their self righteous housetops about believing in Biblical inerrancy cannot stand the scrutiny when it comes to the teachings of Jesus about money. You see, the hedonistic and capitalistic culture has so influenced the church that not only have we compromised God’s Word, but we now claim that God’s Word actually supports the dictates and practices of this fallen culture.
This, my brothers and sisters, is no small issue. Taken at face value the teachings of Jesus indict an evangelical culture which gladly uses Jesus in their doctrinal statements but which continues to practice that which He never taught. With each passing day the fog grows thicker and the slumber grows deeper until those sinners who desire to embrace Jesus are in danger of embracing an ecclesiastical construct rather than the true and living Christ. And that is truly no small issue.