Money and Discipleship.
In their chapter called “kultcha-schmultcha” they have a series of things in the culture that need to be addressed when it comes to discipleship. This is a great section because they touch on a bunch of things that are deeply embedded in our culture that are in need of some critical thinking about how they influence and shape our faith, our lives and our discipleship.
Their little section on money is spot on. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer, but I know that’s not what they were trying to do – that is, write a long treatise on money. In this section they talk about how money has become a major problem in our culture. They notes that Luther said
“three conversions are necessary when a person decides to follow Christ: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse.” (112)
Well said Mr. Luther!
They go on to note how money has become our master and has become that of a god in our lives. And personally, I think they are spot on. Heck, I speak from experience here. It tends to be true for me and I also think its true of a lot of people I know inside and outside of the church. They argue that money can often be in direct opposition to our discipleship,
“If we read Jesus and New Testament teaching correctly, we can only understand money if we interpret it in light of the teachings of the principalities and powers against which we must do battle. Money is not a neutral force, but is animated and energized by the powers.”
I think this is an important point. We tend to think of money as neutral and just our use of it as the bad thing. We say “it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil. Money itself isn’t evil.” Sure I guess that’s true, but I think they might have a good point here.
Later they say that,
“once we are rescued (from the power of money) we can be free to be generous, and when we are generous we are agents of Jesus’ remarkable grace. We cannot overestimate the power of generosity in human relations. Not only does it destroy the power of money, but it introduces the ones who receives the gift into the world of grace.”
Also, well said. I think that it is only when we are released from the control money, we are freed to be generous.
This is just a glimpse at their discussion. I don’t get the idea that they are saying we shouldn’t have money. But, rather they are saying that we need to constantly be aware of the role it is playing in our lives. We should constantly be checking out who is the “Lord” of our lives, Jesus or money. Are we serving it or is it serving us.
This isn’t an easy road to walk. But the point is, This is a major issue of discipleship.
This is the very reason why at The Well, we take a very intentional offering every Sunday a part of our liturgy. I understand the idea that churches have to not want to offend people with asking for money so they just put a box in the back and let people give as they are led. I really do. But, I fear that what we are really saying when we don’t have the offering as a distinct, visible part of our worship gatherings is this: “Your money is between you and God, we have no right to ask you about it and is not really a big part of your discipleship, do whatever you want with it.” To me, this is nothing less than giving into the cultural views of money in some very serious ways.
So every Sunday we take a few minutes to remind ourselves that our God has not given us money and our other resources to just be blessed, but to be a blessing. We pray that God would make us generous people in all aspects of our lives (time, money, friendships, etc). In doing so we say that how you handle the resources God has given you, especially your money, is a very, very big deal. And, so it doesn’t seem like we’re just “trying to guilt people into giving money” like “all churches do” we make it very clear that the call in that moment is to be generous. Sure, they are invited to join us in our mission with their finances – if we neglected to do that it would look like we didn’t really believe in what we were doing – but the invitation isn’t just to give to The Well. By the way, in the 4 years since we have started taking an offering, I have only heard one person complain about it. In fact, I have heard quite a few people say they are thankful and refreshed that we are willing to talk about money in such a hopeful way.
It’s to be generous with the whole of our lives. I think, in light of consumerism of our day, this is a pretty countercultural act.
How is your church being countercultural in the area of finances?
Note: One of the best resources I have ever read that talks about how to talk about money in the church is from this book. It’s good, goods stuff.