So… of late I am trying to push myself into NEW thoughts about things. Amazingly, I find that hard to do. One new thought must find its place among all the old ones or else I will just be plumb crazy. Right?
Do you wanna be blown this way and that by every wind of doctrine? If I start having new thoughts about snake-handling worship, I run the risk of handling snakes!
Therefore, what happens (and sometimes this is hard to see from my own vantage point), like birds on a wire when the chief bird, or the new challenger to the pecking order, comes along and takes the prime spot, the rest make a wave motion as each other bird must give up its spot to make room for the new one only to reclaim the next spot down. Only in my case, there is all this mental furniture you gotta move. Some of it is heavy lifting, and so forth. And so, if that new bird turns out to be corrupt, phony, bluffing or whatever, then I have to move all the other stuff back like it was, and I mean… man! I had my levels set like I like them!
Deep enough yet?
Yeah. Point being, my new thoughts have to dance with my old ones before I just accept them willy-nilly. I often have wondered over the course of my life, it’s easy (relatively) to accept Jesus in my life – especially in seventh grade at summer camp! I simply make a public declaration that I want to be like my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents before me, like my pastor, my uncle, my cousins, my music teacher, my Sunday school teacher, and at least three quarters of the people I know personally. That public declaration bit is the only part that’s new – really.
But if I were a Jew of the first century, and I saw Jesus walking into town with his entourage, would I accept him then? If I saw Jesus flipping tables in the temple, would I accept him then? If I saw Jesus killed like a criminal at the manipulative directions of my pastor, Sunday school teacher, and the dean at the local Christian college, would I be so quick to “accept Jesus in my life” then???
Well, that kind of thing has bearings on a lot of stuff, really.
All of that is a long way of introducing my topic. Not even introducing it yet, really, since all I am doing is adjusting the lens through which to look at it.
Here’s what I really want to talk about: Money. Business and finance through a specifically Christian lens.
I never made it a central point to argue against Corbett, Fikkert, and Lupton for holding “small business classes” in church. I gave dishonorable mention to it, but I didn’t go against such a thing hammer and tong. Yet, it sticks in my craw alright. And the passing blow I gave it basically just asked, “When does Jesus, Peter, Paul, or any other Bible teacher/writer ever hold a How-to-run-a-small-business seminar for the disciples? Is that the Sermon on Wall Street? And for that matter, doesn’t Jesus and a few others make it clear you are to share your wealth?
And I don’t mean to just single out Corbett and Fikkert for this either. Who the hell is Dave Ramsey? What the heck is a Christian Business Network or even a Christian Centered Business?
We have freight trains of eisegesis rolling this nonsense into the Bible, stamping a verse citation on it, and yet if you really just read the book, the rug is pulled out from under that stuff on page after page.
But you gotta think some new thoughts to get your vision cleared up on that. We have a health-n-wealth gospel that took over America at least 50 years ago. It’s a new thought just realizing that both me AND my church heritage are a part of it. We just aren’t flashy about it. But we “sold out” a long time ago.
For the one or two people still with me for this paragraph and what follows, allow me to explore some “new thoughts.” They are not all that new to me, but a few are, and I have always held them at arm’s length. But perhaps it’s time to dig into them a bit. If they don’t bear up in a week or two, I can always move the furniture back, but I need to see if some rearrangement of old stuff isn’t in order to make room for the new.
God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. Go read Genesis 1 and 2 again if you need to verify this, but in that first week, God – the creator – doesn’t create a single dime. Not one penny. Certainly not a dollar.
It will be a long time before people start minting coins and stamping images on them and all that evil stuff. They will barter and trade in salt a long time before we reach the point of Mammon running things.
So, you got these naked people all gardening and trusting God, and they don’t hide anything from him or one another. They are known by God and know him. There isn’t any privacy, no individual agendas, no personal dreams of grandeur or wealth. Instead, there is complete trust and harmony. And money does NOT make the world go round.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone to tell you otherwise today!
God made those first humans naked, vulnerable, innocent, naive even, pure, open, trusting, and in his own image and then gave them dominion rule over all the other creatures. The world was designed to work differently than we currently imagine it. There was work, but no sweat of the brow! The work there was humble, not ambitious for personal gain or notoriety. There is no greed or fear there. In fact, on the contrary these people seem well equipped to look at the sparrows and the lilies of the field and trust God’s providence.
AND THEY ARE NAKED AND VULNERABLE!
Contrast this with my experience working today.
I got an education, took out loans, got insurance policies, and “invested in the future” so I could make application to work with strangers I don’t know and earn a paycheck with which I would formulate and balance a budget, from which I would secure housing, food, transportation, clothing, and “invest in the future.”
Oh, oh, oh… oh… yeah… and give to the church collection and to charity too. (Though giving must take care not to “enable” any naked, vulnerable, least-of-these image-bearers in their poor choices.)
Let me get into this at a deeper level now.
I apply, that is I fill out a form and send it in, to work at the job. On this form, I brag about myself and puff up my image as best I can. There is a temptation to misrepresent myself, however, it’s considered skillful if I can puff up my image imaginatively while not crossing the line of dishonesty.
The application will be reviewed by an individual or committee (or several offices in some cases) where my claims will be verified, evaluated, discussed by strangers who attempt to decide whether I will be a fit and an asset to their business. They don’t know me, but they will learn about me from my application, and through my references – often these are people they don’t know too.
Then when I finally land a job, I will finally become known to the others – the boss, coworkers, and perhaps underlings – where I will develop personal relationships, but for the most part most of those personal relationships will remain partially or completely dependent upon Money. Money will always be an underlying reason why I am there, why others are there, behind what we do, and thus foundational to our relationship(s).
I will spend eight, ten, or twelve hours a day with these people, usually away from my wife, my kids – people with whom I relate on grounds which have little or nothing to do with money (at least ideally). My wife will spend the bulk of her day in a similar set of dynamics, and my kids will likewise be at school or daycare being cared for by professionals who in generations past do the work I would be doing for the most important people in my life.
In this way, money is the medium through which I relate to some of the most significant people in my life, and my desire for, and acquisition of, money draws me away from those who are even more significant in my life. I behave professional at work too. There are all manner of topics I do not speak about at work which are near and dear to me because they can cause friction among coworkers. I also have secrets, desires, vacation plans, investments, medical issues all of which I keep private, and these people I spend my whole day with every day may not know any or some of it.
I am not known by others. I wonder if I am known by myself and by God, truth be told.
I am who I am based in part on who I am with. When I was a teenager, we talked about peer pressure. Now that I am older, we don’t discuss that anymore, and no doubt it’s different for young people than old, but that doesn’t mean there’s no issue there.
Consider how my behavior changes around my own small child or grandchild from when I am in a committee meeting. As an isolated observation, that’s not saying much, but if you figure I am in committee meetings for six or eight hours a week but with my child only six waking hours a week too, the perspective comes to bear on it, and this isn’t looking like the world God designed anymore.
If I were living 100 years ago on the American frontier, my job would probably be farming or some other agricultural business, and it would be a family business. I would be born into it. I would have several brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins all in the same business or related business, and I would not apply to my position at all. We would not be strangers, and I would work with my dad and my brothers from sunup to sundown. I would not collect a paycheck at all, but the family would share everything we have with everyone else.
We would all know each other’s secrets, passions, foibles and sins as well as our strengths. There would be no anonymity and the competition for business would be vastly tempered. We would not have insurance policies, but like good neighbors, our neighbors would be good to us!
I’m not so sure money is serving humanity all that well anymore.
I know it seems like I am picking on something so benign on the one hand and so pervasive on the other that you can’t hardly imagine our world without it, but before the American Civil War, the world didn’t imagine itself without slavery either.
If environmentalists can imagine us ditching our cars and SUVs for the sake of clean air, well, I get it. That’s a tall order, but it’s not like you don’t understand what they are talking about and why.
We need some new thoughts here, and I want to push some through.