Archive for the ‘money’ Category

The Prosperity Gospel

I have a question for all of my charismatic friends.  Why is it that when ever I hear about charismatics or pentecostals, at some point in the conversation the prosperity gospel issue eventually gets mentioned.  Help me understand why.  I’m didn’t grow up a charismatic or pentecostal and this may be a gross oversimplification or just the friends I’ve recently talked with, or Lakeland being fresh in peoples minds.  Help out a brother.


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The Cost Of Greed

The other night during the Presidential election, it was obvious that people are beginning to admit that we’re now in a crisis…and it’s not going to go away any time soon.  We want it to, but this is one consequence that we’re just going to have to experience.

It is funny the awareness that hind sight gives you about something.  And in today’s case we’re becoming increasingly aware of the cost of greed. We feel its affects on a daily basis now.  And watching the debate I began to wonder, when did we buy into this lie that greed works.  And it struck me how quickly I could pinpoint it.  It came from the movie Wall Street.

There’s a pivotal moment in the movie when Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is wrestling with his soul.  He’s asking himself if he really wants to follow the powerful maverick named Gordon Gekko.  And during a shareholder meeting, he hears the following speech.

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.” (Gordon Gekko)

At this moment, Bud is hooked.  He buys the lie that greed works.

And what is sad is that we all bought the lie right along with Bud. This quote burned into people minds.  It did into mine.  I remember watching that movie and saying, Yeah, maybe greed isn’t such a bad thing.  Maybe it does provide clarity, purging the bloated aspects of what doesn’t work.  And I lived in the middle of Silicon Valley, where this statement became a mantra of sorts.  We bought it hook, line and sinker.

And much of the last 20 years has been living the affects and cost of that choice to buy into the lie.  We’ve enjoyed the cheap money, the grab for wealth, the assumption that it will never end.  We’ve enjoyed the rising standard of living, with a sudden awareness of its real cost.  We’ve seen fake wealth, the plastic personas, and the abrupt shame of a foreclosed sign.

Greed, for lack of a better word, doesn’t work.  It never did.  We just wanted to believe it would.

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Sinking In Debt

So I’m doing a little reading on the stock market and came across this quote.

“Financial contracts tied to Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) amount to more than $300 trillion — or $45,000 for every person in the world.”

If I’m getting this right, that means that the world is at least 3,000,000,000,000 in debt. That’s a lot of zeros.  Tell me that doesn’t sound like hell on earth.  And there is no way that can feel good.

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I Love Satire

Satire has a way of exposing significant issues.  This video offers the two extremes: the spoiled child and the impoverished child.  I love the comparison.

My wife and I were talking about this and realized that the problem lies on both ends.  Wealth that leads to affluenza, which is another way of saying selfishness, is not the solution.  But lack of wealth, or poverty is not the solution either.

This is why the Gospel makes sense to me.  It calls us to be stewards of what we’ve been given to address poverty, and in the process we get to be love to those around us.

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Churches have simply got to stop trying new ways to teach people to give them money and pretending its new.

I get several leadership emails during the month.  And I just got one that discusses the conflict of giving in a culture that avoids fund raising.  And to be fair, this isn’t about that email.  It’s about the general idea of trying new ways to teach people to do the old thing.

There is a new dialog about tithing called, “Giving Generously.”  I get that. In fact there are professional seminars, workshops you can buy, classes you can order from those professionals, and even videos that supposedly teach people how to give generously.  But there is one fatal flaw to this framework.  The subtle presupposition is that we’re giving generously to the church (ie. building/pros).  And I’m not saying that these things can’t be supported.  I can’t imagine what would happen if every church walked away from its building…well yes I can, but that’s another story.

If giving generously leads me to the same option of giving a check on Sunday…then it’s the same thing, even if it’s with a different heart.  I would suggest that it is not the heart that needs to change but the process all together.

Giving generously, to work, has to be led by the Spirit.  Giving becomes something we do in the moment, not one day a week.  It has to be keyed in to what God is already doing, otherwise it becomes lost in the void.  It’s detached from any present mission other than facilitating what the leadership is doing.  And the current situation assumes and even asks churches to give collectively so that pastors can give in directed fashion.  I get that too.  But does it rob people of a huge avenue of stepping into trust?  Does it keep them detached from following the leading of the Holy Spirit?  And it is this leading and following that is deeply missing from spiritual formation.

To follow the Spirit’s leading will likely call me to give more than I am comfortable with.  Not because there is a 10% number or there is a right number.  The purpose of this stretching is to develop trust.  And like God establishes in Jubilee, its all His anyways.  He just wants to make sure we know that.  And it stepping into that, we release our protective mechanisms, our “jealous lovers” as Bono would say.  We’re letting go of what we are possessed by.

I just heard a story about a woman who gave her car to a homeless woman because she felt God called her to do it.  And when asked why, she said, “It felt rich.”  That is awesome because it reveals so much.  In the giving, in the letting go of our stuff we open the space for the Holy Spirit to enter and transform, to redeem and shape in ways we can’t even imagine.  That’s what I want.

If the only message people are hearing (and its not the only message) is to give generously…to the church, then its the old thing with a new wrapper.

PS: Please don’t assume that I’m speaking about your church or any church in general.  If your church doesn’t do this, then cool.

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In 2003 just before the war, gas prices were $1.40 and climbing.  Ugh.

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“I think this idea we are to render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s is an interesting one. And I think a lot of time we miss the point of what Jesus was doing there. I think Jesus is spinning everything on its head and calling into question what is Caesar’s. Caesar can have his coins, right, Caesar can print a piece of metal with his picture on it. Give it back to him. But I’ve made humanity and Caesar has no right to that.”

Shane Claiborne, speaking to Krista Tippett

That is awesome!

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