I have a suspicion that the reason why Jesus spoke so much about money is because he knew I'd be reading the Bible and would need to hear it! Jesus had more to say on money than almost any other topic. Jesus said that the love of financial wealth is a great corrupter...yet almost all of us want to be corrupted!
In our series "The Curse and the Cure", I've been teaching on some of those effects of living in a broken world and how Jesus is the cure for what ails us. Here are some thoughts I shared with our church as we gathered Sunday about money (and our frustration with the lack of it):
1] Remember who owns the universe (Psalm 24:1). Everything belongs to God. The last time I checked, "everything" means everything. Since we are His, we live in God's economy where success and value is measured differently.
2] We should embrace work (Colossians 3:23-24; Proverbs 22:29). No matter what job we have, we should do what we can with what we've been given. There's no shame in taking responsibility for your family. You may not have much, but it is respectable and honorable to do your best. The struggle comes when we seem to work harder and harder but still struggle to find enough money at the end of the month. Some of us know what it is like to pray "give us Lord our daily bread", not "give us Lord our 401K".
3] Do your best to avoid debt (Proverbs 22:7). The average America checking account has $4,436 in it. (Insert laughter here). But the average family also has about $16,000 in credit card debt. The good news is that makes the average American family about $19 trillion dollars richer than the US government! Debt is a crippler. It is -- as scripture teaches us -- a bit like slavery. We should aim for financial freedom.
4] We should teach our children about money (Proverbs 22:6). It's interesting that Proverbs 22:6 is written in the context of financial wisdom. I think one of the greatest financial gifts we can give our children is a love for work and a willingness to take responsibility. Instant gratification will only work to undermine their financial future. Additionally, we should help cultivate a generous spirit in our children.
5] Be content (Proverbs 30:15). (Insert hypocrite warning here because I am guilty as charged!) We live in a culture built on more, more, more! As a kid, I had my favorite swimming holes. Sometimes we had to swim at "Leech Beach" when we visited my uncle in Michigan. We'd have to conduct a thorough leech check after our swim. Leeches are blood-sucking parasites. If we're not careful, that's what our culture can teach us to become. We've latched on to this idea that more is what we are entitled to.
6] We need to realize the real source of our value (1 Peter 1:18-19). Our culture measures our worth on three things: beauty, money, and stuff. But what are the other indicators of value that our culture does not recognize? We should be careful about falling into the hopeless trap that our worth is dependent on our house, car, clothes, or bank account. When we look to God, we can reimagine our value based on a different kind of worth -- the one given to us by God and paid for with the life of His son.
7] We should be generous (Proverbs 11:24-25; Luke 12:48). It's a fact that some of the world's poorest people are the most generous. God expects generosity from us because He's been generous to us. The wealth of love we've received teaches us to give, and hoarding what we have is not a pathway out of financial fear. We will never have enough by hoarding. Generosity is God's remedy to the curse of our greed.
Our hope always lies in God's cure for the curse. The systems of the world which corrupt, enslave, and use people doesn't offer us much hope. As I journaled a few years ago, "I've known plenty of rich and I've known plenty of poor, and I can tell you which lives I have admired more."
Jesus shows us another Way