There are few things in life which hold such contention as the issue of wealth. Money is among the most common causes for divorce and marital dissatisfaction. Issues of tithing and financial giving have often resulted in either an unhealthy preoccupation or else off-handed dismissal within the Christian church, and squabbling over inheritance has resulted in much family drama. But one may wonder, why. What makes wealth such a controversial subject and is there a way to find a healthy balance?
Whether or not they would admit it, most churches have an unhealthy preoccupation with money. They are either entangled with Prosperity Gospel or else entrenched in this false notion of Poverty theology. On one hand we have the “health and wealth” teachers who espouse “name it an claim it” and on the other we find ourselves with social justice advocates who say we should sell all we have and give our money to the poor. I, personally, am a huge advocate when it comes to social justice matters. I believe we should end the disparity of wealth and other economic crises; however, this whole notion of forcing ourselves to become poor may not be the answer we are looking for. Here’s why:
- Many people who proclaim such theology, are not truly living it out themselves.
I’m not saying these people aren’t generous and self-giving, but in many cases, they are not at the extreme that they seem to be advocating. Take Francis Chan for example. Here is a man who says we should live off of relatively nothing, yet is a mega church pastor who is presumably rolling in some dough. Now maybe Chan is a very self-giving man, but he is not living the extreme he so highly regards. There often seems to be this sense of wanting to give, but still wanting to hold something back for ourselves.
- Wealthy people can also be very generous.
For whatever reason, the church often regards wealth at a distance. They see it as the “second best” option or even as a “sin.” They misquote Jesus’s command to not love wealth wrongly. You see, Jesus actually never said that we shouldn’t have money or material resources. What the Scripture does say is that the love of money can cause all sorts of evil and hardship in our life. That’s because money has the potential to be such a dividing force. Someone can be incredibly well off and still looking for all sorts of opportunities to share in their abundance. Conversely, someone could be quite poor, but horde the little they do have and only look out for their own self-interest. Money is neither good nor bad, it is a neutral force, but it is what we do with that money and the way we regard it that truly makes all the difference.
- Money is often necessary within the church.
Whether we like it or not, churches rely heavily on tithes and donations in order to fund their ministries. Taxes, the pastor’s salary, lighting, heating, and water all are high cost items in our society. Oftentimes it is the wealthy people who help bankroll these types of things.
That being said, I also believe there are sufficient other ways to give including (and especially) if you are not in a good financial position. The church I did my internship at had a saying: “we give of our time, talents, and treasures.” This was so meaningful because not everyone in my church had the ability to give, yet, they were there after every fellowship meal wiping down the tables and stacking chairs. They were there serving in music and youth ministry. They were there walking alongside the homeless and the helpless.
Speaking from experience, I know what it’s like to have to trust God for every single penny. There were several times including in recent memory where I was quite short on cash because I was a seminary student with an unpaid placement, but even during those times God powerfully showed me how I could still be generous. Sometimes God called me to give financially and I thought to myself “there’s no possible way I can afford this.” Yet, whenever I would trust God and listen to His voice, I always found that He gave me back way more than I originally had given. In one case, God spoke to me so strongly to support a friend who was going on the mission field. I gave her what little I had, then not even 48 hours later, God gave me that exact same amount back! Another time, God called me to go on a retreat and spend some quality time alone with Him. I couldn’t afford the retreat place, but I went ahead and booked it anyway. A few days before my retreat, a good friend handed me a cheque that covered the cost of the retreat! She said God had told her to do so. I was greatly honoured.
Now don’t get me wrong. I also don’t want to advocate an irresponsible use of wealth. I don’t want you to go off of some idealistic notion that you don’t need to budget or think before giving… however, I’m saying that the most important thing is the position your heart is in when you are going to give.
Praying with peace and assurance has certainly led to many blessings in my own life and that is why in many ways I do border on Prosperity Gospel, however, social justice has inclined my heart to realize that prosperity does not begin and end with us. God often does choose to bless us, but He does it so that we can become a bigger and better blessing to others. God doesn’t give us amazing things in order to make our lives easier, He gives it to us to help us make others’ lives easier. In fact, sometimes when God steps in and provides for us, it actually makes our life a lot harder because we no longer have any excuse for not getting our hands dirty, serving, and supporting worthy causes.
So please quit regarding wealth as either good or bad. Instead remember that to whom much is given, much is required. Remember that God has shared out of the abundance that He has in order than we can also share with others. It is in doing so that we truly find our blessing and that we truly discover what it means to prosper.