Two of the ways money has been used as a weapon against the church will be fairly obvious, but the third one will probably take you by surprise.
Weapon one – Christians are not supposed to have money (also known as having a poverty mentality)
One of the things that it is amazingly easy to do is get good ideas out of balance. Imagine having two children and the older one has a lot of money but a bad attitude about money. You as the parent try and show the older one that there is room for improvement in their attitude. The younger one does not have the same sort of bad attitude, but, still tries to put the ideas given to the older one. They then get the whole thing out of proportion in a different way.
That is how it works in families, or at least it has in mine. Let’s put this into the context of Jesus teaching the Jews of his day one thing and the Christians of a few generations taking those ideas and putting them into a different context.
You had Jewish leaders who knew the biblical principles on gaining wealth and despised those who were poor. After all, there must be something wrong with them if they were poor. Maybe they did not work hard enough or did not handle what money came their way very well. Whatever it was the expectation was that wealth was linked to following biblical teaching.
Jesus comes along and tries to correct them saying that the poor are worth bothering with. Reminding them that God loves the poor and has not abandoned them just because they are poor.
Over a few generations, this gets twisted so that Christians see money as such a powerful force that they need to control it and the way they do this is giving all they have away. It is so twisted that the best situation is seen as not having money at all.
Quite how this made it possible to do things to serve the community I am not sure. After all, you need money to feed the poor, care for the sick etc.
Weapon two – Christians are supposed to give outrageously and this will make them prosperous
There is an element of truth in this. I know from my own life that the times when I struggle the most are the times when I cut back on what I give. I have had times when I have thought do I spend money on this or do I give that money to a good cause. I then give the money and I am provided with whatever it was that I wanted.
The problem with this is that it is one-sided. If there is money that should be going in your direction it can be released. So if you have an inheritance that has been tied up or someone owes you money then that situation can be resolved. What though happens if there is no money that can be released? No amount of giving will release something that is not trapped.
People see this as a mechanism to get more and there is no more. They keep on trying to push the button but there is nothing there to release. They end up losing more and more money as they give it away and can end up not having enough for their own needs. After they believe that the reason they do not have enough is that they have not given enough so if only they give more then eventually, they will have enough.
The whole idea of doing something to help themselves by doing something practical is forgotten. They forget that it is God that gives people the power to get wealth (Deut 8:18). He is the one that gives them good ideas that they can use to make money. He works with them in a practical sense to gain wealth. On other words it is teamwork.
You cannot give until you get. If the church does not teach how to get in a godly way then few in the church will have the money to give.
Weapon three – others have used their money to pay for things that the church has not had the money to do
Do you see how this is building up? First, we had people saying poor is good so some reacted against that. Then we had people who said money is good but were not entirely accurate in their teaching about how to get money. Now we can see the results of all this teaching.
If you teach people how to make money in a godly and appropriate way AND that they should use that money to further God’s purposes on earth then it is possible to get things done. There has always been a handful that has done this but it is definitely only a remnant.
A remnant has not been able to support the church in its efforts to do all that it could or should be doing. So what has happened? Others have come in and done the things that the church has not done very well? They have had the money to do things which has made it so much easier for them to do them.
There is an old saying that whoever pays the piper chooses the tune. Even the Bible says that whoever has the money controls things. Others have then controlled things. The government pays for education so then controls what children learn. That can be a good idea but it is not necessarily so, as not all of what it wants children to learn is in line with biblical teaching.
One of the consequences of the UK government starting to spend money on educating children is that those schools who had government support found it easier to maintain the buildings. Those that did not, struggled and many eventually did a deal with the government to take over their school. This led to the number of church supported schools going down and down.
The government spent money, loads of money on providing services to the community and a cash strapped church said we cannot compete so we will withdraw. Why did the church not have the money? It had not helped people learn how to make money and it has not taught people how to use money. End result it has ended up retreating into a corner.
Using Proverbs 31 as a defence against these weapons
This passage includes advice on both making money and spending money. This ideal woman built a business step by step. She also spent the money she earned in such a way that she was about to gather wealth.
She did not forget the poor, making sure that they were supported as well. She met the needs of her family. This ideal wife had prioritised her spending in such a way that she achieved far more than many people do today.
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