Monday, August 20, 2007

God and Money

I heard a sermon yesterday that I am having a hard time with. You know the feeling when you disagree with what you are hearing and your life experiences back up your feelings but you can't necessarily prove your position? Or is it just me?

The statement was made, "God's intention, his heart is to bless you financially." There was a lot of other very good material in the lesson, but I got stuck on this one and just couldn't move passed it. I disagree. I think God's intention and heart is to shape us and that is usually a blessing but I think it has little to do with financial blessing. I think God's heart is to bless us and that usually lands up looking very different to "financially bless us."

Some of the most faithful, God-hearted people I know are poor and live in conditions that are deplorable in Africa or other areas. Have they somehow not "earned blessings" from God. I don't think so. I know that Old Testament scripture refers to God blessing our store houses and multiplying our fields etc. but Jesus seems to present such a different picture in his ministry. He talks at lengh about giving up stuff, leaving security, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom etc. He always seems to land on the side of the poor and call the rest of us to a life of "stufflessness."

The idea of God wanting to bless us financially just seems so "Joel Osteen-ish" and that scares me. My life experiences testify to the idea that real discipleship usually costs us something, and the reward is usually a more abundant faith journey, which has little to do with anything financial.

I may be missing something crucial here, so weigh in and help me as I struggle with this.


Angie Bruce said...

I think a lot depends on your definition of blessing. Financial blessing, to me, doesn't necessarily mean lots of money. Being blessed financially may simply mean having enough to live on: a place to live, food for your family, plus a little extra to share. I don't know what the intent was behind that statement in the sermon, but in my opinion, having "enough" is a huge blessing. Recognizing "enough" is another conversation for another day... =)

amy/southkona said...

Hi, Arlene, followed the blog link from Facebook. Interesting thoughts. My thoughts are that God has a different plan for everyone and you have to be obedient to His calling for *you.* It says in Proverbs that it is better not to be rich or poor, but to have enough. Kind of like Jesus praying to give us our daily bread. There are those who are able to do great things for God through riches; others who do great things through poverty. God loves diversity- it is obvious that He didn't intend for us all to be the same, to have the same gifts or the same challenges.

amy/southkona said...

After reading this and commenting earlier, I checked in with our homeschool curriculum forums and found a five page discussion on this very topic, "prosperity gospel." I wish I could link it, but they are closed forums. Here is one of the comments I thought interesting:

At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems to come from taking a very lopsided, me-centered view of some Bible passages. For instance, in Mark 11:24, Jesus says, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." With all the possible implications of such a statement, it seems very selfish to read that as name-it-and-claim-it theology.

I suppose a big part of what bothers me about prosperity doctrine is the apparent imbalance of it. It is often presented, at least by some TV preachers, as a function of your own giving. "If you'll send $100 to this ministry, God will bless you 100-fold." Really? Are ya sure? Because the way I see it, it's awfully easy to make such claims while your driver takes you home in your stretch Rolls, but can your audience really afford it? Yes, they should be giving to the Lord, but as an act of worship of HIM, not you. Instead, why don't you teach them how to be good, faithful stewards of what God has given them? As I understand it, Jesus talked more about money than He did Heaven. Seems like it might be important to Him that we handle it His way, not yours. Maybe you should teach them to be content (like Paul) instead of rich. It's not about having what you want, it's about wanting what you have. Jesus told His disciples that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. That should be cause for concern.

Tammy Faye used to promote that whole health/wealth thing. She just died of cancer. Was it because she didn't have enough faith or obedience in her life? Or was it because she lived on earth? As believers, we're free from the final penalty of Sin (the wages of sin is death), but we still live in the midst of a filthy, fallen world, and some of it's gonna get on us.

Looking at Biblical examples, I can see where some of God's people were being blessed materially on earth. Look at Abraham. He was incredibly rich by the standards of his culture. But what about Moses? He was living it up when his identity was that of an Egyptian royal. But once he understood who he really was and turned to follow I AM, he didn't really have much to call his own compared to his previous standing.

How about David and Saul? David was God's annointed for the throne of Israel, but he was on the run for ten years, living in caves and eating the shewbread from the temple. Meanwhile, Saul (who apparently never truly worshipped the Lord) sat in the lap of luxury, drinking wine and tossing spears. He continually sought David with murder in his heart, but he had the material stuff. But David was so righteous that even knowing he was the rightful successor to the throne, he passed up opportunities to kill Saul and claim the kingdom because he wouldn't touch the King.

If health and wealth are measures of a person's standing before God, then Hollywood must be the Holy City. Jesus sits at God's right hand, and I guess the left side is reserved for Bill Gates. Meanwhile, I'm surrounded by spiritual giants at my church that don't have two nickels to rub together.

When I stand before the Father at the end of my life, I'm glad my balance sheet will show red -- that is, the redeeming blood of a perfect, risen Savior. I'm all about debt reduction, and Jesus paid it all.

la_emi1ia said...

Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him...

Phillippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect to want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

1 Thessalonians 2:2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

2 Thessalonians 1:5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering..

2 Timothy 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in
suffering for the gospel, by the power of God...

2 Timothy 3:1 There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money...

2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.