The Trouble with Money

I hate money. I even hate the daily necessity for it. Money certainly doesn’t make me happy. I prefer chasing art, ideas, and experiences. In the religious and cultural atmosphere I inhabit, money is a grating inconvenience. Yet the greedy, capitalistic world I live in tells me I need money to survive. And if chasing it doesn’t make me happy, they want to know what’s wrong with me. So I ask the world (and the church), “What’s wrong with you?”

The World’s Economy

moneyWhy do things cost money? Why does everything today have a price? What’s wrong with the barter system or charity? Maybe the former is antiquated, but it worked. Capitalism is not progress. This economic system that runs on greed is really regression and leads to sin. And God certainly doesn’t bless capitalism above all other systems! This world has stood for 6,000 years. Capitalism is new on the scene. Why should it be special? What arrogance! I prefer to think of God as a Christian socialist, but maybe he subscribes to no earthly economy.

Protestant capitalism has ruined the church. Contrary to the tenets of Calvinism, wealth is not a visible sign of God’s approval. Obtaining and leaving that wealth to one’s children is not the duty of a man. The Bible has a few rich saints, the patriarchs mostly. They didn’t have money. Their wealth was in livestock, servants, and land. More often, poor saints fill the pages of the Bible. Wealthy sinners oppressed them. John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and their disciples are the most notable. Were these poor men divinely cursed? No. Were the wealthy rulers of ancient Egypt, Israel, Judah, and Babylon divinely blessed? Most of them, no.

King David didn’t think like Protestant capitalists. This man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) said that wicked men “have their portion in this life … are satisfied with children and leave … their possession with their babes” (Psalm 17:13-14, NKJV). Such men were oppressing David and he asked God for deliverance (17:13). If David didn’t want their wealth, what did he want?

levites inheritance israel arkBefore Israel settled in Canaan, God gave each tribe an inheritance of the land and everything that grew on it. However, he gave the priestly Levites, who served in the tabernacle and temple, the inheritance of himself and sacrificial offerings (Numbers 18:20-26, Deuteronomy 10:9, 14:27-29, 18:1-2; Joshua 13:4, 33, 18:7; Ezekiel 44:28). They depended on charity (tithes) from the other tribes to supply their needs. David rejoiced in this truth: “O Lord, you are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly inheritance. … I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness” (Psalm 16:5-6, 17:15, NKJV).

Like the Levites and David, all true believers make up the kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:5-9) and receive Jesus Christ as their inheritance. By faith in him, they also receive the Holy Spirit as the deposit of an eternal inheritance in heaven (Acts 20:32, 26:18; Ephesians 1:11-18, 5:5; Colossians 1:12, 3:24, Hebrews 9:15, 1 Peter 1:4). God will also give us, as he did Christ, the heathen as an earthly inheritance if we just ask him (Psalm 2:8). Do we want Jesus, heaven, and converts – or material wealth? If the latter, we must check our hearts and repent.

God’s Economy

Jesus carrying his cross

The economic law of heaven is first giving and then receiving. God gives us everything we need to survive, whether or not we deserve it. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45, NKJV). The greatest example of divine giving is Jesus Christ, who purchased us with his own blood (Acts 20:28) and redeemed us at a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23). We can now “buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). As Peter told Simon the Sorcerer, the kingdom of God cannot be bought with money (Acts 8:18-20).

After conversion, like Christ we should also desire to first give and then receive (Luke 6:38). God loans us sometimes earthly things (money, houses, and friends) but always heavenly things (teaching, prayer, and prophecy). He wants us to be a tube instead of a tub, through which he can sustain others. God is the world’s first and greatest charity worker. Why not us?

The currency of heaven is faith. God doesn’t want our money. He wants our desperate, clinging trust – one that says God is everything we need and that we have nothing to offer him in return but our sinful, needy selves. Only then do we discover that the intrinsic and eternal self, not the extrinsic and fleeting things we may “own,” is all God wants from us. Faith is the key that unlocks the door to God’s bank account. Only then do we receive his true blessings.

The blessing of heaven is the Shekinah presence of God, symbolized by cloud, dew, fire, and rain. Only those who receive it are called “blessed.” Blessing is not earthly things like money, fame, property, status, friends, or even family. Heaven is saturated with the Shekinah presence. Do we want heaven or earth? If the latter, we must check our hearts and repent.

Conclusion

jesus-christ roman-coin caesar-godWe cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), in either this life or the next. We must make a choice. Those “Christians” who choose wealth over God have exchanged his truth for a lie, the clear river of life for a muddy pond, and the Holy Spirit for toxic fumes. Jesus warns them, “Beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15, NKJV). Let us not be foolish like the rich farmer, who “laid up treasure for himself” and wasn’t “rich toward God” (12:21).

After looking at a Roman coin, Jesus told the Pharisees, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NKJV). Then he chucked the coin. I wish the church would do the same thing. They’d follow the example of Christ for once.

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