Summary: Some Christians say "it is a sin to be poor". Some say "it is a sin to be rich" What should our attitude to earning money be?
“The only time you ever preach about money is when you are talking about tithing” - When somebody said that to me several months ago it hit home. Of course as a Christian Priest, I preach about Christian giving. You wouldn’t expect otherwise. And people clearly listen to those sermons because people in this church are generous in their giving and regularly raise their giving. But if the bible tells us to give 10% of our money back to God - what about the other 90%? It’s a fair point - why haven’t I preached on that? Christianity is about all our life, not just the bits we do in a church building. So what does God have to say about money? Not the bit we give back to him through our tithe - but the rest of it? There are so many issues surrounding the subject of money, and so rarely do they get preached on. So over this Easter season, we are going to have a sermon series on money.
Where do we start? Let’s start with making money. Good or bad?
Christians have never been united in their view of this.
Two extremes -
View 1 “It’s a sin to be poor”
View 2: to be a”Gospel Christian” an “evangelical Christian” - is to have no money AT ALL; no posessions AT ALL, and to beg each day for food for that day’s meals
View one is the view of the “health and wealth” movement, very common in America, but also amongst certain Pentecostals in this country and the third world. The actual quote “It’s a sin to be poor” comes from Randy Gage, the so-called Millionaire Messiah.
View two was the view of the extreme Spiritual Franciscans. A true Christian, truly signed up for God would own nothing at all. That house of yours, that car, anything more than a single set of clothes, that food in the freezer, that money in the bank account, that pension that you’ll get when you retire. If you were truly signed up for Jesus, a Gospel Christian, an evangelical Christian, you would not have any of those.
Why might it be a sin to be poor?
If we are poor, are we a burden on other people? The homeless druggy on the streets gets a decent meal at night because of the donations of hard working people who are having been slaving away for long hours in the office. Is it right for him to sponge off them while they work.
If we are poor, do we fail to live up to our responsibilities? A man can father 9 different children by 8 different women, knowing that so long as he stays out of work, he’ll never have to pay a penny to support them. The state, ie tax payers, ie people who work responsibly, will pay for his mess. Look at what Jesus says about not providing for those we are responsible for in Mark 7:10-12
if we are poor, can we properly help other people? Bill Gates has given $30 billion dollars to charity. Could he have done that if he were not rich?
God promises to bless us - so does lack of money mean lack of God’s blessing mean God doesn’t approve of us?
Or is having money a sin?
The magnificat tells us God has “filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty away” (Lk 1:53)
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven (Lk 18:25)
Is not putting money aside, saving up for a rainy day, getting insured, taking out a pension - is that not a sign of lack of trust in Jesus to provide. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith?” (Matt 6:30)
“one thing you lack - sell all you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then come follow me” (Lk 18:22) - was that just for him, or if we are to come follow Jesus,do we have to do the same?
Which is right then? I’m going to take my queue from the famous 18th Century Christian, St John Wesley, who taught “Gain as much as you can; Save as much as you can; give as much as you can”. This is a phrase I am going to come back to repeatedly over the next few weeks, and it is a phrase that is more that is more challenging than it first appears.
Wesley’s first rule about money was Gain all you can. Despite its potential for misuse, money in itself is something good. There is no end to the good it can do: “In the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. it gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”