I love business. I think it is one of the most noble and worthwhile pursuits anyone can embark upon. Unfortunately, Christians have a bizarre and distorted view of money that has led us to demonize businessmen and women, leaving them to feel like second-class citizens whose only purpose and value is to fill the coffers on Sunday morning. To those who have ever struggled to come to terms with your desire to prosper and wonder if it is Godly or not, this post is for you.
To be totally frank, I have no idea what “The Prosperity Gospel” is. I hear disparaging remarks about it all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone explain to me its core tenants. All I hear are snide remarks about “God wanting you to be healthy, wealthy and wise” as if that were a bad thing.
Hold on a second. Are you telling me God wants you to be sick, poor and stupid? I’m pretty certain God does want you to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Let’s take a closer look at those three.
If God doesn’t want His people healthy, why was such a large component of Jesus’s ministry healing the sick – healing all who came to him? Why did Jesus commission his disciples to go out and heal? Jesus healed out of compassion, out of love for people. And since Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing, he evidently saw it in the heart of God to heal people. Unless you have received a divine word of Judgment, assume that your sickness if from Satan, not from God.
There are whole books of the Bible devoted to helping foolish people become wise. They are called Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Collectively, the Jews refer to these books as Wisdom Literature. I think we can pretty well bank on God wanting His people to grow in wisdom.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor.” He also said, “Blessed are you who hunger now,” yet a few chapters later, Jesus is miraculously feeding the multitudes. Why was he taking away their blessing!?
Jesus was clearly speaking in metaphor in the Beatitudes and Luke 6. Physical hunger has no virtue in it and neither does physical poverty. Lacking the basic necessities of life does not make you a blessing to other people, it makes you a burden.
We need only look to the Bible to see that many wealthy men followed God wholeheartedly – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Job. In ancient Jewish tradition, wealth was a seen as a requirement for the Spirit of God to rest on someone. In order to be a prophet, one had to be “strong, wise, wealthy and humble.” That is oral tradition and not Scripture, but I think it is appropriate to mention.
Christianity’s Mental Handicap
So you agree that God wants you to be healthy and wise, but still have trouble swallowing the idea that God wants you to be wealthy? Perhaps you’re remembering Jesus’s words to the rich young man, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then come, follow me.”
We use and abuse this story in Christianity. We drag up every negative reference to money in Scripture and use it devoid of any context. The simple truth is that there is more about the Godly use of money and righteous business practices in the Bible than there is about any other topic.
Jesus gave that particular advice to that particular young man because his wealth had become an idol that prevented him from following Jesus. If your wealth ever becomes your master, that is the only recourse to follow – get rid of it! Your soul belongs to Jesus, not to Mammon. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that wealth prohibits us from following God.
Wealth and Eternal Rewards
Here is the more compelling piece to me. When the Master hands out various sums of money to his servants in Matthew 25, who are the ones that were rewarded? The ones who increased the amount of money they had! Even scarier, the one who did nothing with his Master’s money was thrown out of the Master’s Presence.
And let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus is in the middle of a discourse on the End Times. This is an End Times parable through and through. Jesus is talking about eternal rewards when he rewards the servants. The servants who were faithful to grow their Master’s money on the earth received significant heavenly rewards – they were put in charge of many things (entire cities in Luke) because they had the mindset to expand the Kingdom and developed administrative skills useful to the King.
Anyone who has ever handled significant amounts of wealth knows the burden it can be. Money has a way of revealing who and what we truly are. A generous person becomes a philanthropist. A greedy person hoards their wealth and eventually loses themselves to it. A wishy-washy person becomes absolutely paralyzed. Money makes us more of what we are, so it is of paramount importance that we are men and women of character. The servants who prospered in Jesus’s parable did so righteously. They didn’t steal any of their Master’s money to use for their own purposes, they didn’t squander it in foolish pursuits. They were trustworthy individuals who wanted to wisely secure the best return they could for their Master.
In reward for their character and faithfulness, the servants were promoted far beyond what they could have ever imagined. The newly crowned King had significant posts to fill in His Kingdom and needed people he could trust, people who had already proven their faithfulness and desire to serve.
I’ll admit, meditating on this passage has really rocked me. Up until this point I didn’t think God really cared what my bank account would be when I left this earth and went to be with him – I am rethinking that in light of this End Times money management parable.
Tithing, Saving and Investing
I am a huge fan of tithing – I think it is an essential part of Christian discipleship. Tithing is far more than an Old Testament Law – it is a Principle of Faith. The Principle of Tithing predates the Old Covenant by some 500 years. Tithing was instituted when Abraham encountered Melkizedek, Priest of God Most High. It was an act of faith and thankfulness that so moved God’s heart that He made it a permanent part of Jewish life from then on.
The way I understand tithing is this: Everything I get I receive from God, it is all His. However, He makes me a deal and says that if I will return 10% to His house then I can keep the rest. Giving 10% of my income to secure God’s blessing and favor on my financial life – absolutely!
Once I tithe, I can do what I want with my money. I can spend it all on whatever suits me, I can give it away, I can save it or I can invest it. At this point, it becomes my decision what to do with what I have. If I choose to live within my means in order to save or invest, that is my perogative.
So let’s say I save 10% of my income for a year. I now have a decent size chunk of change, is that wrong? No, of course not. Neither am I compelled to give it away. Money that would have otherwise been wasted on selfish desires can now become a tool to help myself and others.
Now let’s say I invest that money in the stock market (for simplicity’s sake). It is a good year and I make some money. My belief is that I should tithe from the interest that I earned, however large or small that amount may be. By tithing from my investments, I have now contributed to the Kingdom twofold: first from my initial tithe and second from my earned interest. I also have the potential to contribute even more in coming years as my investments increase and compound. Using money as a tool, I have made myself a better servant through wisdom.
Rather than saving, couldn’t I have just given it all away? Sure. But then I would have no savings or cushion for life. What if I or my wife got sick? I’d have to go into debt or ask for help from family and friends. I don’t want to be a burden to the people I care about, especially not if it is well within my power to prevent.
Tom’s Shoes is a good example. I once heard Blake Mycoskie, CEO of Tom’s Shoes, talk about his business during Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit. I don’t remember the actual figures used in the interview, but the theme of the conversation was this:
Blake had a sum of money. He could have used that money to put shoes on 1,000 kid’s feet, and that would have been noble. Instead, he started a business that puts 1,000 pairs of shoes on kid’s feet every year. There is a profitable servant.
Let’s look at another example. Say someone inherits a million dollars. They could sow it all into the Kingdom right away – and that would be great! They also would have nothing left to contribute at that point beyond what they were already doing. But instead, say they invested the million and sowed the interest into the Kingdom. It might take a decade before they had sown a million dollars, but now that money will continue to generate interest to finance the Kingdom for years, even decades, to come. I have nothing against short term impact, I think it is wonderful. But I’m primarily concerned with sustainability and building the infrastructure necessary to advance the Kingdom over the long haul. A million dollars can feed a lot of hungry people, but they will be hungry again tomorrow. If we haven’t built them a sustainable future we have only postponed their suffering, not solved it.
Financing the Kingdom
I want to help people discover a vision for financing the Kingdom. It is something that I am passionate about and that I think about often. King David sowed millions of dollars into the Temple and payed singers and musicians to worship God night and days for years. What if I could do the same with missions? What if I could accrue enough money in investments to pay out a million dollars a year to finance mission work throughout the world? What if I could fund my congregation so extravagantly that all our staff were well cared for, we never had to turn away people in need and we could house all the homeless in our city in apartments the congregation owned, free of charge?
I want people to dream big. I want people to have clear, ambitious and faith-full goals for their lives. I want people to start dreaming about sowing millions or billions of dollars into the Kingdom in their lifetime. Why not?
Perhaps those ideas are too big and too abstract. Then start at home. What would it look like for you to start a business in your town whose primary goal was to advance the Kingdom? Maybe you sell groceries, but you use a portion of your proceeds to fund a women’s shelter. Maybe you are an accountant, but you really want to minister to inmates. You might not be able to during tax season, but you can fund someone who can.
Money is not an impure or dirty thing. Money is the byproduct of righteousness. Doing business justly, treating people well and with a sincere desire to serve, supplying them with services they need or appreciate – this is business God’s way and it will build a loyal clientele and the natural byproduct of satisfied customers is income.
I believe the next wave of revival is going to come from the business sector. I hope we are ready for it. I hope we have men and women of character strategically positioned to reap a great harvest of souls and to finance a prayer and missions movement that will not end until Jesus returns. Amen.