After reading the recent Time article, I can’t help but be left with the thought that if one of God’s top priorities is to shower us with riches, then there are an awful lot of us outside of God’s will. The message has many different names – Word of Faith. Health and Wealth. Name It and Claim It. Prosperity Gospel – but the essence of the teaching is still the same. God wants you to be rich.

“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –John 10:10

Sure it sounds good in the sales pitch: join us and get rich. The truth is more along the lines of accept and follow Christ and you are only going to be making your life harder. Get to be thought of as intellectually simple. Or blind, irrational, and fanatic. And those are on good days. I never got how this teaching got around the story of Job. For that matter, a Christ-like life didn’t end all that well for Christ himself and he most certainly could have named and claimed himself right off the cross.

I thought this kind of stuff had gone the way of the televangelist, discredited and distrusted. How often to we have to re-learn the lesson that when you start mixing in money to any situation, it will eventually bring out our worst. Some churches do a tither’s confession, having people confess not tithing what they should to the church. This “God will bless you if you give Him what is His first” smacks of a type of spiritual investment scheme reminiscent of the ancient Catholic scam of indulgence.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” –1 Timothy 6:10

Aspects of our modern culture have insinuated themselves into the fabric of the church, deterring or outright corrupting its ministry. Values such as corporate policy and philosophy have been bought into by the church. Some people see the main job of the pastor as that of businessman, and the church as a business. The pastor becomes the CEO and the elders the board of directors. Offerings or tithes become income, or worse, profit; and this reduces the Gospel to little more than a product they’re trying to push. The biggest question I was left wondering was “what is the Gospel?”

Of course money is tied to liberation. However the liberation theology required doesn’t match up with the individualism and materialism and narcissism of the prosperity message. Partly, it is a point of pride, an embrace of the values of “the world” and culture, namely, a sort of “collective individualism”. What I mean by this is that the individual churches want to make names for themselves, want to be able to do what they want, when they want, how they want, and most importantly, on their terms. While they are out building bigger structures in their name, our rich churches spend too little time pursuing social justice and fighting poverty here and now.

Money itself is neither good nor evil. The “love of money,” the part of the verse that is often forgotten when quoting this verse, is where the problems come in. Most pastors are afraid to talk about money. When you see a pastor’s lips move on the topic of money, all you can picture is his heavily made up wife holding the collection plate, and they know it. It’s a lot harder to instruct people on how we are to find our riches, our prosperity, our happiness in knowing God and enjoying Him, then living accordingly.

I believe in giving, but I don’t believe in tithes and don’t think you can make a good biblical argument for it. I’ve seen a few “Manage your Money God’s Way” classes and I’ve always left thinking: look, take a financial management class – sprinkling verses in the margins aren’t going to help me develop a budget any better. Both boil down to our hearts and an attitude of generosity: If I’m not giving or doing have a charitable spirit with my $2, I’m going to be no better with my $2M. Giving is a heart thing and money only makes you more of what you already are. Which is why we need to come to understand tithing as a process of spiritual formation.

Giving is something we do not only to support the work of the church, but also as a way of organizing even the financial parts of our lives around life with God. I see giving as a form of worship. Acknowledging that all that we have comes from God, so we set aside a portion. Sure, there are bills that have to get paid, but more importantly, we are called not only to receive, but also to give. One of the things we talk about is not having the values of this world; one such value being this consumer-mentality that our culture is driven by. Tithing reminds us to re-prioritize our spending habits. When we think about God and giving first, it helps breaks those chains, forming in us less the need to consume, and more the need to participate and bless others.

“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” –Luke 18:25

Actually, I have no real conclusion. I’m still praying for God to test me with wealth.

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