Most people have been either hurt or under-fed by their local church when it comes to money.
When hurt, it is usually when spiritual leaders have tied spiritual “favor” to the level of giving. When under-fed, it is usually by the absence of clear teaching on money beyond notions like tithing, staying out of debt and being a good “steward.”
These last three concepts are good, fine, and true.
They just don’t really dig into the tensions we all have about money living a secular, fallen world as imperfect sinners made righteous through God’s grace.
The Gospel is meant to transform all parts of our lives, and money is no exception.
In fact, engaging in the practical aspects of money, as well as contending with the deeper issues than money raises for everyone, deserves more attention than it typically does in the church.
In other words, there is a wide-open and unexplored space when it comes to money. Jesus faced this issue head-on in a crucial face-off with the Pharisees:
Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
What is happening here?
The Pharisees are plotting to trap Jesus. They are presenting him a dilemma: is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
On the one hand, they believe that if Jesus says to pay the taxes of Caesar, he would be submitting to Caesar. Doing so would undermine Jesus’ preaching of a greater Kingdom to come.
On the other hand, if Jesus said to not pay the taxes, it would incite rebellion and lawlessness.
Jesus was aware of these intentions:
But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
Caesar’s,” they replied.
Many of you know the answer that Jesus gave.
I don’t know if as many people have dwelled on the significance.
The answer Jesus shares is, in face, one of the driving themes of all of my teaching on money:
“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply amazed them, and they went away.
The answer is pure brilliance from Jesus.
In this simple response lies the answer to many of the conflict or challenges you may have about money.
In his response are seeds of wisdom and truth far deeper than that of a typical personal financial advisor.
Jesus shows us the way out of the trap
What he does is to escape the trap by both assert the power of His Father's Kingdom while still complying with the authority of the Roman Empire.
In a way, Jesus in this moment revealed himself to be the ultimate personal financial advisor.
Scripture doesn’t give advise on what’s how to save for retirement, should you use a Roth 401(k) or a traditional 401(k), how to get out of debt, whether you should invest in a 529, or how to decide whether to rent or buy a home.
He offers something much deeper.
In this series, I actually will touch upon these pragmatic questions but infuse them with spiritual considerations. It will continue actionable advice, but you could then search for the nearest financial advisor and decide what actually is best for you.
Rather than looking at the Bible to help you make financial decisions, I am proposing the opposite: that the financial decisions you make should reflect Christ’s work and his truth in you.
Jesus reminds us all that there’s a higher priority that sometimes gets lost in the financial details:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
I believe we, as followers, are called to do the same: to operate in the world, but still advance God’s Kingdom.
Jesus' enemies set a trap for him when it came to personal finances.
He defeated them by answering them with God’s economy.
The purpose of the series is to help you to do the same.
Why Focus on Money?
I often attribute many of my own challenges and sources of unhappiness with money.
Because in the real world, money often feels like the master over our lives. It tells you what you cannot do if you don't have enough money.
It tells you what you have to do, like work, get a degree, or wake up early, if you want to earn money.
It makes you feel dependent upon it, as if your very livelihood depends on it.
For some people, the demands of money take us away from our own families and friends.
When we don't have enough of money, we feel deprived, fearful and vulnerable. It's as if without our master, money, we have nothing.
For some, feeling that ways makes people feel as if they are nothing.
Money can be such a brutal master.
So here's a question: if money is such a brutal, tough, and heartless master, why do we choose it when we have another option?
Before you skip to the obvious, ingrained answer, spend a moment to ask yourself, “Are you living as if money is your master?”
Some people think treating money is one’s master is only the case if someone is a greedy, miserly, millionaire. Not. You can be unemployed with an empty bank account and still treat money as your master.
Yes, money is still your master if you make limiting decisions because if it. If you believe you will always be low on money. If your life and joy is missing because you don't have money. If you refrain from generosity. If you limit your growth in God’s ways and supporting the Kingdom.
Money can be a cruel master.
Yes, we all often make money our master, despite the following:
"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Why is it easier to serve the money master?
My goal is to create a fresh new way of thinking and feeling about money.
I want to share that I don't have all the answers. Many of these challenges are ones I face daily.
I often desire more than I have.
I stress about making investment returns.
I get anxious about the things I don't have.
But that's why I started to turn to Jesus for answers. The world’s answers will never be sufficient.
Does this mean throwing financial common sense totally out the window?
No. There is wisdom and stewardship in all we do.
But it does mean we’re NOT take all advice offered to us by friends, neighbors, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, either.
What we invest in and how we make those decisions reveals our true loves and true motives.
In the end, money is one of those things that will rust. So while it is important, it's not the rock in our lives.
Yet most people aren't given the pathway to live in this way.
When typical advance stops at tithing and stewardship, you will be left with a shallow understanding of money.
When there’s no practical guidance, the principles aren’t tested and applied in real life. They are often discarded as just Sunday sermonizing.
The practical advice most people do get, however, are designed to turn your thoughts and concerns away from the Gospel. This slowly, imperceptibly, can corrode your soul and leave Christ and the work at the cross out of your daily life.
This series intends to challenge you, stretch you, give you hope, and change your life when it comes to personal finance, money, and the Gospel.