About Me


Powered by Blogger.
Monday, December 5, 2011

Money and Christian Faith

One of our holiday traditions is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  We have a delightful recording of Patrick Stewart reading it that we listen to repeatedly as we drive in the car, we also have a DVD of a movie version, and, if we are lucky like we are this year, we get to see a staged performance. People who are more discerning critics of literature than I point out that this is not Dickens' best work.  But even though the plot may be contrived and the writing forced at times, I love it because it is so marvelously biblical.  It is almost pure biblical exposition of some of Jesus teachings on money.  Matthew 6 comes to mind in particular.  A Christmas Carol also echoes the Hebrew prophets in a 19th century English sort of way.

Dickens has me thinking about Christian practices regarding wealth.  So does this thought provoking piece by Jim Pankratz in the latest issue of Marketplace (the publication of Mennonite Economic Development Associates), and this review by Walter Brueggemann of this book.

The Bible, it seems to me, is not particularly interested in frugality, simple living, stewardship, or fiscal responsibility.  The Bible is quite interested in generosity.  The Bible is especially interested in joyful generosity.  Too often, even our best work with money in the church is fear based, focused on managing what we have well, lest we lose it or waste it.  The Bible calls us to love and joy based work with money.  And this is precisely the transformation that took place in Ebeneezer Scrooge's life. He did not change from someone who hated Christmas to someone who liked it, or felt obligated to observe it.  His entire way of being changed from living out of fear to living out of love.

As Christians, we believe Jesus transforms us from fear to love.  Essential to this is an ever deeper awareness of God's generosity.  We see this spirit of generosity in Mary's costly anointing of Jesus.  We see it in Zacchaeus's joyful abandon as his soul awakens to God's abundance.  We see it in the practice of the early church as they give up their own possessions trusting in God's provision and the generosity of their fellow believers.

What does it take to cultivate a spirit of generosity (other than a visitation by three spirits)?  What do we do with real limits ecologically?  How do we deal with money differently in a much more complex economy than the biblical writers knew?  These questions linger.  But I feel clarity that God is calling me anew to a life of generosity.


KBP said...

Thanks for these thoughts. I am an overseas member of CMC and have attended a church for ex-pats here in Laos the past 15 years. I serve on the church committee and I read these thoughts the morning after a church committee meeting where we were making decisions about how to decrease our church savings and give generously. In a place where corruption is abundant and we have been 'taken advantage of' in the past, giving with fear comes more easily than giving with love. Thanks for the reminder which I forwarded to the others on the committee. Peace, Kris Peachey