God and Money
"I stood in the midst of the place in silence and watched those that bought and sold. On the faces of those that sold I saw only expressions of a calm and concentrated ministration. As soon as one buyer was contented, they turned graciously to another and listened until they perfectly understood what he had come seeking. And once they had provided what the customer had desired, such a look of satisfaction lingered on their faces, as of having just had a great success.
"When I turned to watch the faces of those who bought, in like manner I saw complete humility--yet it was not humility because they sought a favor, for with their humility was mingled the total confidence of receiving all that they sought. It was truly a pleasure to see how everyone knew what his desire was, and then made his choice readily and with decision. I perceived also that everyone spoke not merely respectfully, but gratefully, to him who served him. And the kindly greeting and partings made me wonder how every inhabitant of such a huge city would know every other. But I soon saw that it came not of individual knowledge, but of universal love.
"And as I stood watching, suddenly it came to me that I had yet to see a single coin passed. So I began to keep my eyes on those who were buying. A certain woman was picking out a large quantity of silk, but when she had made her purchase, she simply took it in he arms and carried it out of the shop and did not pay. So I turned to watch another, but when he carried away his goods he paid no money either. I said to myself, 'These must be well-known persons who trade here often. The shopkeeper knows them and will bill them at a later time.' So I turned to another, but he did not pay either! Then I began to observe that those who were selling were writing nothing down concerning each sale. They were making no record of each purchase or keeping track of what was owed them.
"I went out at last with my guide and we seated ourselves under a tree on the bank of a quiet stream and I began to question him. 'Tell me, sir,' I said, 'the meaning of what I have seen. I do not yet understand how these happy people do their business without passing a single coin.' And he answered. 'Where greed and ambition and self-love rule, there must be money; where there is neither greed nor ambition nor self-love, money is useless.' And I asked, 'Is it by barter that they go about their affairs? For I saw no exchange of any sort.' 'No,' answered my guide, 'if you had gone into any shop in the city, you would have seen the same thing. Where no greed, ambition, or selfishness exists, need and desire can have free rein, for they can work no evil. Here men can give freely to whoever asks of him without thought of return, because all his own needs will be likewise supplied by others.
By giving, each also receives. There are no advantages to be gained or sought. The sole desire is to more greatly serve. This world is contrary to your world. Everything here is upside down. The man here that does the greatest service, that helps others the most in the obtaining of their honest desires, is the man who stands in the highest regard with the Lord of the place, and his great reward and honor is to be enabled to spend himself yet more for the good of his fellows. So when one man asks, "Give me, friend, of your loaves of bread," the baker or shopkeeper may answer, "Take of them, friend, as many as you need." That is indeed a potent motive toward diligence.
It is much stronger than the desire to hoard or excel or accumulate passing wealth. What a greater incentive it is to share the bliss of God who hoards nothing but always gives liberally. The joy of a man here is to give away what he has made, to make glad the heart of another and in so doing, grow. This doctrine appears strange and unbelievable to the man in whom the well of life is yet sealed. There have never been many at a time in the old world who could thus enter into the joy of their Lord. Surely you know of a few in your world who are thus in their hearts, who would willingly consent to be as nothing, so to give life to their fellows. In this city so it is with everyone.'
"Could it be?" wondered the curate, breaking the silence that followed.
"Not in this world," asserted the draper.
"To doubt that it could be," declared the Polworth, "would be to doubt whether the kingdom of heaven be but a foolish fancy or a divine idea."
Wealth and Money in the New Testament
Jesus clearly and starkly sets forth the choice we have:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate God and love Money or he will be devoted to God and despise Money. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Mt 6:24)
Or you can reverse the proper nouns:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate Money and love God; or he will be devoted to Money and despise God. You cannot serve both Money and God.
In our materialistic culture these are cutting words that go against the foundational values of our capitalistic system. And it's obvious from the context of the surrounding verses that Jesus intended exactly what He said and purposely did not intend to leave us any wiggle room.
Jesus makes this stark comment about God and Money in the context of two commands. One command precedes and the other follows:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven... For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (Mt 6:9-21)
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear... The pagans run after these things, but your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and food and clothing will be given to you as well. (Mt 6:25, 32, 33)
Jesus gave us two commands bracketing a decision we must make. If we make the right decision about serving, loving, and being devoted to God and hating and despising Money, we are putting our confidence and trust in God. Then Jesus' commands are easier to follow.
This is the basic teaching in the New Testament about money. Everything else is just commentary.
Continued on next page
More by Perry Bigelow
- A Developer's Perspective on Healthy Communities
- The Builder-Developer as a Steward of God's Resources
- Builder of the Year Acceptance Speech
- Building and Development Philosophy: Cultural and Environmental Sustainability
- 13th Annual Affordable Comfort Conference
- 1st Annual National Green Building Conference
- Bibliography - Neighborhood Planning, Community & Ecology
- The Spirituality of Sustainability
- Stewardship of Creation
- God and Money
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger
- Excerpts from "Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community"
- Devotional - Listening to God Daily
- Bibliography for "God and Money" and "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger"