-by Leslie McAdoo
This week we talked about money. In the church culture I’ve grown up in, that’s not really a thing. You don’t talk about money. In the social circles I’ve been in and around for the last 23 (as of Monday) years and counting, that’s not really a thing. You don’t talk about money. You don’t ask what people make. You don’t talk about scholarships or student loans. Etc.
It turns out, I love talking about money. In particular, I love talking about what the Bible and Jesus have to say about money. We looked in the Old Testament at some of the systems that God put in place to govern what people did with their money. He set up a year every seven years to the the ground rest, to cancel debts and release servants. He set up a year every 50 years to return land back to its original owner. He set up tithing, where people came and shared with one another of the blessing God had given them. He set up gleaning, where the poor and disadvantaged could provide for themselves in a way that empowered them, instead of just being handouts. He set up a system where the people He had chosen to spiritually lead the Israelites (the priests and the Levites) were provided for.
We talked at length about these things, but I’ll hit some of the things that were highlights for me:
- The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee are fascinating. God tells his people to intentionally put themselves in a position where they have to depend on Him for provision of food, since they couldn’t work the ground. These years were years in which people who were in debt or who were struggling financially could be restored. We talked about how this combats generational poverty, because if it worked the way it was supposed to, every family would be given back their land every 50 years. Israelites could only be in debt to one another for at most 7 years, because debts were cancelled on Sabbath years. But, in the same way that they combat generational poverty, they combated generational wealth. Because in the same way that a family was returned their land, families or individuals had to give them back. In the same way that the system was supposed to prevent depriving generations of families from their land, it was supposed to prevent families vastly accumulating wealth. These systems were a sort of reset button for the economy that God installed. But why would He do it? Because He knew that if He left society is full of broken people, who would, if left unchecked, try and accumulate wealth at the expense of others.
- We talked about that passage in Acts. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I’ve read this passage several times, and there are several things I’ve gotten out of it. But thinking about what this means as far as money, I was just struck by the magnitude of what was happening. People were SELLING HOUSES. I don’t know if these people had extra houses just lying around or were selling the roof over their head. I just think that this exemplifies the way that God hoped that His people would treat their resources. This puts them in a place of sheer dependence on the provision of God, which I believe is His desire, and were able to be used by God to provide for others who potentially were in the same place (where they had to trust in God’s provision). What a counter-intuitive but beautiful cycle.
I kind of wanted to tie everything that I’ve been thinking into coherent thoughts. I think God wants me to do more with my money than give to churches or organizations monthly. Don’t give me wrong, I think those things are important, and I do those things. But I think God desires for more creative things with money. Through Scripture, we get to see a glimpse of what an economy that God designs looks like. And I am excited to try and follow God with my money. I think we as a church are too scared to admit that God might actually call us to sacrifice in a big way financially. We convince ourselves that Jesus wants us to be fiscally responsible, and that means taking care of us and our family first, and giving of what is left. But I don’t know that we see that as much as we’d like. Jesus was homeless for crying out loud. He asked Simon, Andrew, James, John and Levi (to name a few) to leave good financial situations (the fishermen just had the catch of their lives) to follow Him. He did ask the rich young ruler to sell everything… Honestly, who do we trust to take care of us and our families financially? Us? Or the Creator of the universe, who literally promise to shower down blessings (Malachi 3:8-12) when we follow Him with our resources?
Look. I don’t believe that Jesus wants everyone who reads this to sell everything they own and be homeless. I do believe that for some of us, the provision of God for our future needs is in what He is giving us now. HOWEVER, I in no way believe that taking care of myself and my family financially should trump what Jesus asks of me. If Jesus asks me to give of what I was going to save in a month, who am I to say “Actually, You’ve already given me that to protect myself against what might happen in the future.” How would that make sense? (As an aside for this example, I fundamentally believe that Jesus would rather have me depend on Him for what might happen in the future, instead of convincing myself that I can and have to take care of me.) It’s up to all of us to constantly be in touch with what Jesus is asking us to do with our money, to find creative ways to follow Him with our resources, and to trust that when He asks something of us, He’s prepared to handle the financial risk to us.
I promised that I wouldn’t ask you to sell everything you own. I won’t. I believe that that passage is talking about more than money. BUT, I think it is talking about money quite a bit, and I think we all could use a good look in the mirror about the way we think about our resources. The things we have are just gifts from God anyway. Why are we so tight-fisted when we hold on to them? What if God did call us to sell everything and give it to the poor? Who are we to tell Him no?
-by Leslie McAdoo