Money and giving are often touchy subjects. One of the reasons being churches (and other religious institutions I might add) have become hotbeds of immoral and illegal financial practices. The other reason why we get our backs up is because of the prosperity theology or ‘gospel’. One of its core tenets is the idea that if you give your money to God, he will bless you with more money in return. Christian faith is equated with material and financial blessings. A recent example of this appalling theology involves a pastor who berated his congregation for not honouring him with a luxury watch he requested. He has since apologised but the damage was done.
Notwithstanding this, we need to be able to talk openly about it for the simple fact that the stewardship of finances is a key area of discipleship. How we view and handle money is a gospel issue, especially in the light of our struggle with cultural idols like materialism and individualism. We must learn to honour Jesus with our money. God wants us all to thrive economically without being slaves to the idol of money.
Not surprisingly, Jesus had a lot to say about money as with the rest of the New Testament. Money and giving are far from peripheral issues in the Bible. For instance, in Luke 12, the passage we’re unpacking at our Sunday service, Jesus gives us a warning about money. Now God isn’t necessarily against us having money or even lots of it for that matter. He is not against high income earners or wealth creation. The Old Testament is littered with examples of such people.
But according to Jesus, money is a god. It seeks our allegiance and worship (see Matthew 6:24). It is unrivalled in its power to seduce and enslave us (read 1 Timothy 6:9-10). The more you have, the more you want. That is what we see with the rich fool. He could’ve given his excess crop away to those who needed it more but he didn’t because of his greed. It dulled his sense to the myriad of needs around him. He became self-indulgent. He wanted more money so he could spend it on himself. Eventually, his wealth became a symbol of his power, his status and self-sufficiency. He saw no need for God.
As you can see the problem with the rich fool was his attitude toward money, not money itself. This is an important distinction to make. What’s the biblical alternative? Let me briefly offer a few principles based on Paul’s instructions to Timothy to be passed on to those under his care in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
· Put our hope and trust in God, not our money
· God is our ultimate and generous provider (read also Deuteronomy 8:12-17)
· Don’t just be good with money; do lots of good with it
· Excel in the grace of giving and sharing (read also Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 8)
Lord, increase our faith in you!