15th Nov, 2007

Who, or What, Do You Worship?

This month’s SynchroBlog is a variety of bloggers’ thoughts on Money and The Church. You’ll find a great number of fantastic posts linked at the end of this ramble. Money and the Church are two hot topics. They both engender feelings of love and hate in people. Money is both needed and detested – loved one moment, and despised the next. Church is increasingly becoming a topic like money – both loved and despised. Put the two topics together and it goes nuclear. So, here goes my thoughts related to these topics.materialism.jpg

Since I have been in “Christian” circles I have heard 100+ people quote the below verses, noting them as one of their favorites, and I have held them dear as well.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In short to worship God is to offer ourselves completely to Him as a living sacrifice.

Clearly, if we are to offer our bodies, our entire selves, as living sacrifices there are subsets of our entire selves that must also be offered. So, it shouldn’t be shocking to write the same verses in this way:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your wallets, your retirement funds, your stock portfolios, your checkbooks, your accounts, your jobs, your entire purses as sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.

But, I think if that were how those verses had been written they would be quoted much less often. In fact, I know that has been true for me most of my life, and, as a result, I must conclude that the thing I worshiped more than God was money. We all know that Jesus told us long ago we cannot worship both God and Mammon (“More”), but we seem to try time and time again. In fact our entire culture is built upon it.

When ministries and people have needs for funds and we hear about them, even when they are ministries that we desire to give to, we often don’t go to God and ask Him, “Lord, how much do you want me to give?” Instead, we turn to our budget and our wallets and ask it “Lord Budget, do I have any extra to give to this need?” And, of course, the budget always seems to be like whats-in-your-wallet.jpgthe famous Capital One commercials. We have no faith that God will provide everything we need to accomplish His word in and through us; instead, we are blinded by our devotion to our budgets to all God can do through us. In fact, how often have you gotten upset with a church for asking for money too often? Don’t we know we serve an infinite God? Only the enemy tells us the lie that there is a finite number of resources available to God’s children.

I know in my own life I have lived as though the bible said things like this:

But seek first your job and your financial portfolio, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Give to everyone who asks you when they have something to sell you that you want, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, sue them.

That last verse keeps resonating with me. What it reallys says is to “give to everyone who asks of you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Because of Jesus’ teachings on money and giving, I really don’t understand some very commonplace things that occur in churches and ministries today. For example:

(1) The big fad of microlending… how does it fit in with this teaching?

(2) Just this past week my nephew wanted to sell me a calendar to “support his youth’s mission trip.” Interesting concept. Buy something I don’t need at too high of a price so that a mere pittance of the total cost can help support a mission trip. Why wouldn’t I just give the 20 bucks?

These things creep into churches because our culture, including our church culture, is built not on giving and receiving but on buying and selling. It is built on having more stuff, regardless of need and sometimes regardless of want! But the Kingdom is built on giving and receiving, serving and loving.

It is no accident that there are about 10 times more verses about money and finances in the bible than on almost any other subject. It is no accident that Jesus pitted God against Mammon in the verse I mentioned above. Money has us by our throats and the only way to combat it is to become more and more generous and grateful and to escape the vicious merry go round of more and materialism that our culture teaches us. We must walk in the opposite spirit. We must not be conformed any longer to the ways of this world and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds through the teachings of our One True Lord, Jesus.

Enjoy others’ thoughts at the below links.

The Check That Controls at Igneous Quill
Pushing The Camel: Why there might be more rich people in Heaven than in your local Church at Fernando’s desk
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz at Hello Said Jenelle
Zaque at Johnny Beloved
Walking with the Camels at Calacirian
Greed and Bitterness: Why Nobody’s Got it Right About Money and The Church at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Wealth Amidst Powers at Theocity
Money and the Church: A Fulltime Story at The Pursuit
But I Gave at Church at The Assembling of the Church
Moving Out of Jesus Neighborhood at Be the Revolution
Money and the Church: why the big fuss? at Mike’s Musings
Coffee Hour Morality at One Hand Clapping
Bling Bling in the Holy of Holies at In Reba’s World
Magazinial Outreach at Decompressing Faith
Money’s too tight to mention at Out of the Cocoon
Bullshit at The Agent B Files
The Bourgeois Elephant in the Missional/Emergent Living Room at Headspace
When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories
Who, or What, Do You Worship at Charis Shalom
Greed at Hollow Again
Silver and Gold Have We – Oops! at Subversive Influence
The Church and Money at Khanya
Tithe Schmithe at Sue at Discombobula

Responses

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[…] Living Room at Headspace When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories Who, or What, Do You Worship at at Charis Shalom Tithe Scmithe at Discombobula The Church and Money at Khanya Greed at Hollow […]

Thank you 🙂

[…] Who, or What, Do You Worship at Charis Shalom by Bryan Riley […]

Yes, those are some of my favourite verses as well, but especially the “be not conformed to this world”, because so often we are conformed to the world’s way of thinking, rather than to our new mind in Christ. So we are like the seed that sprouted, and got choked by weeds, the cares of the world.

So what shapes our mind? There’s a group here called “Heartlines” that provides resources for “living godly values”, but I wonder if we can really do that when the world’s values, like greed, are so overwhelming.

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