I was discussing a podcast with an old Christian friend and leader. He challenged me by asking
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a christian who said they had a problem with money, have you?”
I thought about it for a bit and couldn’t really think of anyone who had confessed that to me but I said that on reflection I think I have a problem with money. It’s strange that so few people should say such a thing as after all Jesus talked about money (and the problems of money) A LOT. In fact, he probably talks about that more than any other subject.
I’ve thought about it a bit more since then and it got me to thinking, what do christians admit to having a problem with? And what don’t they admit to having a problem with but actually do? Well I’m not going to talk about that question but I’ve got a few other thoughts.
Money, Sex and Power
The unholy trinity of desires which Richard Foster pointed out in his book (on the same title) have long been known for their destructive powers in people’s lives. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of people who’s lives have gone to pot because of an unhealthy pursuit of one or more of these things. It’s not hard to see it in the Christian world where another pastor is thrown out because of an affair, or being too controlling and excommunicating anyone who dares oppose their regime (and don’t even get me started on Money seeking, private jet flying prosperity preachers).
But maybe that’s because it’s a reflection of what we are told to seek after nowadays.
What the world wants
Think about it, culture tells us that basically if you gain a large amount of one or more of these items (money, sex or power) you are successful (add in fame into the mix because you should). How do you know a successful businessman? Well he’s rich of course. How do you know the popular guy at university? We’ll he could (and does) sleep with anyone he wants? What makes a successful politician? Well they got their way and damn anyone who tried to stop them.
Those definitions of success are all around us and hard to resist. I think the church fairs a bit better on Sex (a bit) as they usually have pretty clear definitions of what is wrong there (though many, many people are falling short of that) but when it comes to money or power? Well the definitions are so different aren’t they.
It’s good to pursue money, (as long as you use it for good things).
It’s good to pursue power (as long as you use it for good things
I originally wrote “it’s okay to…” for both of those but I don’t think that is actually the case. We’re told you should seek to become rich and powerful…(oh yeah because you can do some good if you do).
When you contrast that with Paul’s example who never once seemed to pursue money. Sure he asked for some financial help from people and worked a job to help “pay the bills” but he never really seemed to seek money. Instead he looked to do good things, kingdom things, Godly things first.
Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all this will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, – 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Likewise Paul told the Thessalonians to seek a quiet life and work with their hands, that hardly sounds like the type of existence that would lead to getting very rich or powerful.
Maybe you can be a great christian and be rich and powerful, but honestly I don’t trust myself with either of those things. I’ve been much more generous when I’ve really struggled financially, and I’ve been more true to myself when I’ve had less influence. Maybe I just need to mature, but I don’t want to pursue money, sex or power.