Tim’s sermons have been awesome the past couple weeks. He told us up front that he’s gonna be talking about money, but not about giving to church. Sounds like some toe steppin’ material to me.
In the first sermon, he basically gave an overview on what he was talking about, but the kicker, the part that really got me fired up, was when he straight up called the health and wealth gospel heresy. It’s what it is. And its probably one of the fastest growing movements among protestants in America, and abroad. I can understand why, it definitely affects the psyche in two distinct ways.
First, if you are poor, hearing a message that if you trust in Jesus and give what little money you have to the
Pastor’s Pension church that you attend, that sounds like an easy way to remedy your situation. And it does “work” to an extent. For many in poverty, one of the main causes of poverty is bad choices. I’m not denying here that there is a cycle of poverty, and that some, no matter how hard they try, cannot ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’, but for many in our country, if they can overcome some bad decisions they have made and are currently making, things will get better for them financially. This is a land of great opportunity. So this movement gains traction because it seems that by believing in Jesus and going to this church, you will be blessed materially and will be raised out of poverty and into riches.
Second, those that are all ready wealthy find this movement satisfying because it backs up their inner belief that they are wealthy because they are either Godly, or blessed by God. Hearing a sermon every morning is a big pat on the back for a job well done.
So I was really excited about this sermon series, after that introduction.
However, this week was kinda odd for me. I’m not quite sure how to explain it.
The sermon was about envy, covetousness, buying things that we can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses, etc. However, I didn’t feel like it really connected with me.
I mean, I understand wanting to buy things because of marketing. I definitely do that. But since I was young, I haven’t looked at something someone else had and decided I needed it to be in with them. For example, I used to only want to buy clothes that I thought other people would think were cool, thereby making them want to hang out with me. This didn’t really work, I found, and being cool in junior high apparently means, regardless of your clothes, that you have to be an asshole. That wasn’t my game, so I just decided I’m going to dress in what I think looks good, regardless of whether its what the cool people are wearing. Sure, I wore name brand things, but I bought and dressed how I liked.
I guess the point of this is that since middle school, I haven’t felt like I bought anything to keep up to the standard of my neighbors. That point didn’t resonate with me. And what bothered me the most, I think, is that Tim painted that with a pretty broad brush. Talking about buying houses so that you fit in with a crowd. Buying cars so that you fit in with certain people. My parents never did that when they didn’t have money, and they don’t do that now. I have an Acura, but it cost me 4300 dollars that I paid cash for, and its 11 years old. It looks cool, sure, but its a well built car that will last me for 100,000 miles or more.
Anyway, had I been Tim, I think I would have talked about judging those with more than you, along with what he talked about Sunday. The biggest issue I’ve seen with money in the church is not keeping up with the Joneses, but making judgement calls about people based on your own situation. (and I will admit, this definitely comes from my life experience)
My parents have plenty of money. My Dad started his own business, and after several years of ups and downs, it finally went up pretty signifiacantly and stayed that way. We’ve been blessed immensely when it comes to finances.
I never knew how much my Dad made until I was in college. I knew we had a bigger house than most of the people I knew, but our cars were the same, or clothes were often cheaper, we had to pay for things on our own. I always had a summer job. The cars that were bought for us as a convenience so that we could transport ourselves (we lived 20 minutes from pretty much everything) we had to buy if we wanted to take them to college. Most of my friends, who had houses that were smaller than mine, and parents that made less than my dad, were often given more than me and my brothers.
But I’d hear the snide comments. The “Justin’s parents are loaded, why don’t they pay” or “if I didn’t send my kids to private school, we could afford a house this big” (back before I went to private school) or comments about how a 5000 sq ft house is unchristian, etc etc etc.
What I’m saying that I’ve noticed is that people often make the judgment of how much is enough based upon how much they have. What I have is “enough” and anyone with more than me, is not being a good steward. One of my really close friends even made comments about that behind my back with regularity, and it was hurtful.
But my Dad didn’t disclose his finances. He didn’t disclose that we lived on much less than he made, with a portion going to retirement and a large portion going to church and an AWESOME organization called HOPEWORKS . He shouldn’t. Anyone that’s making that judgment call on face value has other issues. And I’ll tell ya, most wealthy christians I know are the most benevolent, caring, and responsible people I’ve ever met. They are responsible with their money, because most of them didn’t start out that way, and being responsible is part of being a good steward. They often give large amounts of money away, because they know that the accumulation of more things isn’t going to make them happy. Yet, these people are demonized by those who think they are more righteous because their house is smaller.
I’m not really sure what the point of this rant was. Its something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest. And its something we need to talk about in the church.
Wealth is relative. If you live in this country, even if you’re the poorest person, you are better off than the majority of the world. Its that simple. Instead of trying to determine what amount of money is ok, just always be willing to give it all away if the need arises. And if you make a habit of living on less than you make and giving a large portion of it away (maybe increase your tithe every time you get a raise) I think you’re well on your way to the Kingdom of God. Cause we’re all rich. And I haven’t seen any camels going through the eye of a needle recently.