Monday, August 21, 2006

3 Things You Can Do With Your Wealth:

1. Spend it entirely on yourself.

2. Spend some on yourself; give some of it away.

3. Spend only what you need and give everything else away.

Every Christian I know lives in category 2. But I wonder if we shouldn't live in category 3. A few thoughts:

First, in light of treasure in heaven vs. treasure on earth, anything one spends on one's self on Earth in excess of what"needs" is pure foolishness.

Second, how can one justify spending her abundance on herself when there are others in the world who do not have their needs met?

The only answer I've heard is that "God wants you to enjoy your wealth." Is this true or false?


Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

I am a known heretic to my own wife and to many Christians who know me more than to just say 'Hello', because I have confessed and tried to practice whenever I could, option 3. This is not to my credit, but entirely to God's glory and my shame, because as I say, I've been rebuked on many occasions when I spoke up to endorse the third option.

I confess that I am at least a coward if not also a hypocrite, because though I believe option 3 is the right one, I have for most of my life (married life, 33 years) caved in to the demands and opinions motivating the demands of my family members.

In the last year and a half, more or less, I have tried my best to follow option 3 as my personal option, while letting my wife and family members do what they think is best, but it has cost me more than money. The Lord has given me the possibility of serving Him as I wanted to when I first came to Him at the age of 24, but not without persecutions. I don't know where this will all lead, but I take it one day at a time. If you've read any of my blog posts, perhaps you can see what is happening in my life.

The blessing of God is not material abundance but spiritual, a foretaste of the love and unity that we will experience in eternity with God, yes, we can have a foretaste now, as the Word declares (Mark 10:29-30). But many in the church have talked themselves into the prosperity gospel, and that's what I am in large part surrounded by. Pray for Romanós the sinner (and possibly the heretic).

Proverbs 31 work in progress said...

First, forgive me for commenting with out actually knowing you. I saw where you had left a kind word with a friend and I decided to learn who you are. Anyway, my name is Laura

"God wants you to enjoy your wealth"

I'm not so sure about this statement. Here's what i know for scripture: What we have belongs to God. Everything. Nothing was ever ours, we were just charged with the responsibility of taking care of God's stuff for Him...this is called stewardship. Anyway...if a person truly grasps that the money (or posessions)they think they have isn't actually theirs, they might use it would hope...and seek the Father's will for that money (or thing). Those that have been blessed with wealth were blessed so that theyin turn could bless. If they forget this important step, they will find that though they have all they could desire on earth, they will come up empty before the Creator.

Travis and Michelle said...

This is a very timely post, as my wife and I just visited a financial advisor for the first time earlier this morning. Good food for thought!

Let me put forth an example of a Christian who I believe would belong in category 3.

A family buys the cheapest clothes possible (e.g. thrift store), except where the requirements of a job dictate otherwise. All meals are cooked in the home and food is purchased in bulk to maximize savings. The family drives purchases used automobiles and drives them as long as financially feasible. Children get automobiles when they can purchase one themselves. Gifts given are of no monetary value, either crafted by hand or a service. The family owns their home, which was paid off in 15 years to minimize the amount of interest which they would pay. A retirement plan is put in place to provide this minimum level of support at retirement age. Every financial decision is taken in the light of the following question: 'How can I give more of what God has given me back to Him?' All excess income is given to the church (not local, but global.)

Does this represent a category 3 Christian? Is this the goal we should be striving towards? I think in some respects I am looking for a set of measurable criteria to compare to, when in actuality it is an internal attitude.

jose said...

Do not muzzle the ox. The laborer is worthy of his wages. A person has every right to use her earnings as she sees fit.

A follower of Christ relinquishes many of their rights. Especially, as Laura said, in light of the fact that God owns it all.

Was it C.S. Lewis who put forth a principle that our giving should be sacrificial, that is, it should hurt us a little? Romanós is right. I'm too much of a coward if not also a hypocrite.

jose said...

I'd like to talk more about to work out differing convictions with someone close to you, like a wife or a parent. Maybe I'll blog it myself.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

I hope it's alright to comment on a comment… the one left by Travis & Michelle.

Reading thru your list of the attributes of a category 3 Christian gave me a bit of a shudder. It sounds all so drab and abstemious and, if I may say so, somehow mechanical.

It reminds me of some of the foolish thinking my wife Anastasia and I entertained when first married over 33 years ago. We had just emerged (actually only I emerged) from life in an urban New Age commune, where everyone was "vegetarian", drug-free and spent an hour a day meditating, naked, in an attic "puja parlor" (don't ask!). Anyway, my wife and I (actually, only I really) was still trying to live a "pure" life-style, but she did buy into the rigorous diet we observed in the commune. It was so meticulous, we even had little daily nutrient logs which we filled in as we consumed our 1/2 cup of raw sunflower seeds to get our daily allotment of linoleic acid! We ate one bowl of boiled veggies a day, and a little bit of cheese. We also ate such delicacies as boiled barley with honey and butter. Back in 1973, I remember our weekly grocery bill for the two of us was $5 Canadian (we lived in Edmonton). The point I am making is that such folks as the New Ager that I was (my wife went along reluctantly) always tried to follow RULES, whether it was diet, or economics, or whatever. It was a very religious attitude. Once again, building a kind of tower of babel. The ideals change, but the frustrating climb is always the same. You fail and, either admit it and go on with your life, or you don't admit it, and get more and more dishonest with yourself. Actually the third possibility is the one I took, give your life to Jesus and let Him get it in order (with your cooperation, of course).

Back to the category 3 Christian…

This is how I would describe a category 3 Christian:
1) Seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
2) Sets aside first the offering to God (monetary) according to reason and conscience.
3) Sets aside the food offering (in kind, if possible) from the household larder.
4) Studies the bible, and prays, daily as a household, to seek wisdom and guidance on every matter.
5) Doesn't welcome or participate in any form of recreation or entertainment injurious to the individual soul or the family's welfare.

Wait a minute! Weren't we discussing a category 3 Christian, one who works, takes only what he needs, and gives the rest away? Well, yes, but it's by implementing a lifestyle centered on the principles above that a category 3 economy will gradually emerge.

What I want to say about category 3 is that it is a life full of joy, and it does not exclude objects and occasions of joy, of largesse, of celebration and the costs thereof. Don't forget that one of the tithes in the Old Covenant consisted of taking a tenth of your produce and going to Jerusalem and feasting on it in Yahweh's presence! A category 3 Christian can and must walk in newness, newness of life yes, but new shoes, a new dress, some unexpected present from spouse, parent or child. These are all things that we do, in fact, need. What we DON'T need is all the worthless waste that stems from boastful and arrogant spectacularism, the application of Reno and Vegas and Hollywood glitz to the already seductive pomp that passes in this world for value.

Have I lost you?
Sorry for the wordiness.
It's really all in the first principle cited above, "Seek first the Kingdom of God…" because we know the result… "all these other things will be added to you as well." And in the right proportion. And yes, looking back on what happens, if you still want to play the metrics game, you might be able to say, "I'm a castegory 3."

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Oops! I meant to write, "I'm a category 3." (NOT a castegory 3!)

Kenny said...

I understand much of what is being said here to be as follows: we need to have an internal attitude of stewardship, not an outward set of extensive rules.

But I think rules have gotten a bad rap. Rules do not equal legalism. If the sum total of your spiritual life is a set of rules without any further purpose, or with the purpose to justify yourself, that is legalism. But if rules are a set of goads meant to guide you to "living up to that which you have already obtained," then I think those rules are godly.

For example, I realize that God wants from me an inward spirit of discipleship, worship, and spirituality - not some outward religious performance. However, I find that if I rely on my inward attitude but set up no external "rules," then I ended up not living out the inward attitude. For example, I can have a wonderful feeling of love for Jesus inside me, but if I don't get up an hour early for a quiet time, then it just doesn't happen. So there it is, a rule: Get up at 7 a.m. and have a quiet time. And everything in my life is like this for me.

So granting the inward attitude of stewardship, what should I do with the extra $20 in my pocket? If you say to me, 'it's a case by case' decision,' I find that the weight of worldliness drags too many of my financial decisions into this world and fails to carry them into the next.

Perhaps you are not like me, and your good intentions guide you continuously into a joyous, spontaneous, orthodox, religious practice. As for me, I need more explicit guidance.

Travis and Michelle said...

Hey Kenny,

Thanks for the congrats. :)

About the pot of coffee a day...well too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. I would recommend no more than 2 cups per day. Coffee is chock full of caffeine, which is a diuretic and causes frequent urination. This negates some, not all, of the hydration benefits that come with beverage consumption. It is better than drinking nothing at all, but water intake is important too. It is questionable as to whether there are any underlying health benefits of coffee, some studies say there are, but it seems that not enough research has been done to make any definitive statements. I will try to find more information on the topic.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Kenny, you wrote, "Perhaps you are not like me, and your good intentions guide you continuously into a joyous, spontaneous, orthodox, religious practice. As for me, I need more explicit guidance."

I'm not sure if this comment reflects on what I was trying to explain, but I want to confess that in my case, no, good intentions do NOT alone guide me into a joyous, spontaneous…da da da…religious practice. Of course not! Just like anyone else, I have to structure my daily life by commitment in details, yes, like getting up at 4 a.m. to pray and read the bible, then get ready for work, to be there by 6 a.m., etc. That's the structure. Do I always succeed? No, but I know what I've committed to and try to stay on the mark. The same with fasting, with setting aside the offerings, etc. After all, yes, I am a Greek Orthodox, and though I downplay that so as not to detract from the salvation message that I am trying to convey, I do conform even to the rigors of my faith environment. If I didn't, I couldn't get away with saying things on my blog such as "I am a Greek Orthodox Christian, but not Orthodoxy, only Christ matters." I want to communicate and fellowship with any follower of Christ on a basis of equality and essential biblical faith, without giving the impression that Orthodoxy is somehow superior to someone else's faith environment.

Back to the point, yes, I too need and make use of the "more explicit guidance" that you say you need, in order to match my actions to my faith. I don't know that I agree with those who say that we are judged by God "for our good intentions" versus what we actually do. Good intentions that are daydreaming and wishful thinking, definitely are not in our favor. Good intentions that we attempt to carry out but fail to complete, that's another matter. That's where I agree with C.S. Lewis, who said, "God does not judge us as though we didn't have difficulties to overcome."

Anyway, sorry for the wordy explanation. I'm probably muddying the waters again. I only want to affirm the good things you have to say withoyut myself being misunderstood.

Jeff said...

OK, time for a non-Christian's perspective.

I think we must consider this question first: are we giving for giving's sake, or are we giving with a specific goal (namely, the betterment of the lives of our fellow man) in mind? I find the latter to be superior, but the goal must be righteous...

Here's another thing to consider. The Jewish thinker Maimonides ranked the forms of giving from worthiest to least worthy. The highest ranking was not a gift of posession; rather, it was to get a person a job or a steady source of income (think about the old give a man a fish vs. teach a man how to fish proverb). In other words, the greatest gift is the gift of self-sufficience.

So answer me this: in Christian thought, would a man who maintained his riches while finding others jobs and/or teaching them marketable skills be more or less righteous than one who simply gave away his possessions?

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Jeff, unfortunately the question you asked has no answer from a Christian perspective. There is no standard of righteousness that can be used in the way you suggest. True, Maimonides could rate this situation, based on Jewish thought. A Christian could do something like this but would be making the evaluation outside the Christian faith ethos.

"All our righteousness is filthy rags" removes us from the place where comparing righteousness is concerned.

It is the call of Jesus, a specific, personal call to a specific individual, that commands, "sell all that you have, give the money to the poor, and follow Me." This is recorded in the New Testament, but it happens right up to the present time: Jesus (who is not dead but personally alive and present in today's world) can and does call a person and enjoin the same command as quoted above. That person either follows and obeys, or "goes away sorrowful." Either way, the person called, and the actions taken, do not qualify the person as righteous or not. Again, from a Christian perspective, that is neither what righteousness is nor how it is applied.

Also, in calling people to follow Him, notice He did not then, nor does He now, always enjoin the command to "sell all thou hast." This is simply up to Jesus.

As for the wealthy man who uses his wealth wisely to provide means of livelihood for destitute persons, that is always laudable from a Christian perspective, and certainly many of the sayings of Jesus Christ will be applicable to this situation, for example, "the good steward," and "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me." This being so, however, no righteousness can be imputed to this philanthropic wealthy man, because "when you have done everything you were commanded to do, you are to say, We are unworthy servants." This is rather hard luck on us Christians, I suppose, from a non-Christian's point of view. But actually, it is rather a relief to know that our part is not to "save the world" but only to follow, and to obey, the Son of God who goes before and does everything for us.

Good question, and I ask you and the others to forgive me for even taking a stab at answering it. It isn't that I don't believe what I tried to explain; I just don't know if I've explained it clearly enough. Perhaps one of the other followers of Jesus in this arena can answer better.