Posts Tagged 'money'

Confession: I Went to a Joel Osteen Event

Well, I’ve got a lot on my mind I suppose.  Ever since I heard Joel Osteen speak the other night at the Valley View Casino Center, my mind has been a bit busy processing the whole experience.  Through some mixture of luck and providence, my friend happened to meet Osteen downtown before the event.  When Osteen heard we were planting a church in San Diego, he graciously offered free tickets to the event.  For this I am thankful, and even though I didn’t speak to Joel, I was able to meet his wife and thank them for the tickets.

There are a few reasons I never thought I’d go to a Joel Osteen event.

1.  I like having ‘Christian street-cred’ as it were.  I guess this is more of a confession than something I’m proud of.  I’m part of that generation that identifies with others through shared consumer experiences (gaming systems, ipods, clothes, books, music genres).  We tend to get along with others who’ve bought the same stuff as us.  Groups that consume certain things usually don’t like groups that consume other things.  (Metal heads think artsy folk lovers suck at life; mac users question the character of PC users; etc).

All that being said, I know that my social points in this culture tend to go up or down depending on which concerts I go to or which books I’m reading, or how many people liked my last status on facebook.  It’s ‘cool’ in young Christianity to have read every Donald Miller book, to be disillusioned with the Church, to be at odds with the Republican party, to own at least two pairs of Tom’s shoes, and most of all: to abhor T.V. Evangelists.

That being said, with the risk of losing my ‘cool’ points, why would I ever go to see the TV preacher with probably the biggest following in the world?  Well, hopefully it’s because I’m finally seeing ‘cool’ as illusory, fleeting, cheap and… well, uncool.  But it probably had something to do with free tickets.

In all honesty, I think Christians need to be able to interact with spheres within Christianity that are different than they’re own.  We may not agree with everybody, but at least we can learn from each other.  I went to hear Joel Osteen last night, knowing that I disagree with much of his ministry and knowing that I would lose ‘cool’ points, because I believe it’s important to listen to others so you know where they’re coming from… and possible even to see which areas of their heart/teaching have not yet been gripped by the Gospel.

2.  When you’re watching Osteen on T.V., you can change channels… this is not the case in person.

3.  The main reason is because the Gospel is about more than just my personal finances and dreams.  The Jesus I serve called his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross every day, and follow him.  He preached that if we spent our lives on what our foolish hearts want, we’ll lose our lives.  Conversely, if we are to spend our lives (labor, recreation, family, free time, effort, energy, treasure) on Jesus, that’s when we’ll find what it truly means to be alive.

The prosperity Gospel is so appealing because it’s laced with truths from Scripture.  The truth is, God does love us.  The truth is, God does want the best for our life.  The truth is that God does have joy for us and a special plan for our lives.  The breakdown of the prosperity doctrine is the assumption that WE know what’s best for our lives now.  It’s the idea that God’s greatest purpose and joy is to help US reach our OWN dreams and desires for our lives.  The prosperity Gospel fails because it assumes that the Gospel is ALL about ME.

I guess I just believe that the Gospel might actually be God’s story instead of our own.  His dream might be better than my own.  My money actually might be his, not my own.

The truth in Scripture is that God does bless his followers.  I think where Osteen tends to go wrong in his teaching is assuming what God’s blessing will look like : usually more money, better health, or success in your field of work.  There are many examples in Scripture of God blessing people monetarily, healthwise, and in their jobs.  Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Naaman, even some guy named Jabez.  But Scripture also teaches us that blessings come in other forms.

Actually, the new testament encourages believers to rejoice especially in their sufferings.  In the new testament, there were both people who sold everything they owned for the sake of the kingdom, and people who kept the homes and land they owned as resources for the kingdom.  Their were Christians in courtrooms and high places, and their were Christians being persecuted and martyred.  Who was God blessing then?  Who is God blessing now?

Has God blessed the Christian in the U.S. that now has enough money to pay for his mortgage and the two cars and new boat, or has he blessed the Christian in southern India who fears for his life in the next outburst of violence against the Way?  Which of these has God blessed more?  Who am I to say?  More importantly, who am I to tell God the manner in which he may bless me?  How arrogant is it for me to assume I know what I need more than God knows?

Am I preaching a Gospel of poverty?  I hope not.  I hope I am not making the point that we should seek out suffering and persecution… and that we should run off and leave all that we’ve known like that guy from Into The Wild, simply to die in the woods alone.  What I’m saying is that it is time that the church began to believe that it’s real treasure lies in Christ.  Paul says in Philippians 3 that whatever he once counted as gain, he now counts as loss.  But that’s not the end.  He’s able to count it all loss because he’s found something of greater value. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…”

Whether I have much or little, let me be content in the fact that I know Christ, and that he has made me thoroughly loved and acceptable to God.  Let this be the source of my utmost joy – in sickness or pain, in riches or poverty, in failure or success.  “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Ephesians begins with the claim that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  Blessed: past tense.  Many times the prosperity Gospel is to preoccupied with the “next blessing” God will drop in our lives that it fails to emphasize the treasure that has already been given to us in Christ.  We’ve already been given more than this entire world could ever offer… and yet we so often overlook that in search of  “a blessing.”

God, let us once again find joy in YOU, not just in the gifts you give us.

God does love you, want to bless you, and lead you in his plan for your life.  But take Jesus at his word:

“…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 in the sermon on the mount).

I’m ending this because it’s turning into more of a rant than a blog.  I hope one day that it can be said of me : “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (phil 4)


Musings on Money: A non-comprehensive compilation of recent thoughts

We all know money doesn’t make you happy.  Or at least most of us know that.  It is said that money reveals who you truly are inside.  Money gives you options.  Options to possess things.  Some things good, some things superficial, some things questionable at best.  A new car, health insurance, new jeans, hair product, groceries, diapers, college funds, bills, a house.  But health insurance doesn’t give you health any more than new jeans give you good friends.  Having a degree doesn’t mean you’re  truly educated just like paying your bills only gives you freedom for 30 days.

We need money to survive.  God knows that.  And we all know money won’t make us happy, but we all tend to act like it will.  We generally make decisions in life that will lead us to more money, assuming we’ll be content when we have more money.  Considering that progression, why don’t we just choose to be content first?  Choose to be happy first, then make our money decisions.  Shape our money decisions around the truth instead of making our money decisions in spite of truth.  This way of thinking would seem to make more sense to me.

But instead of choosing this way, we most often throw our best efforts and energy into winning a race that doesn’t matter.  We bring no possessions into this life and we take no possessions out of it.  Only what you do for Christ will last.  Jesus said not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt and the thief can steal, but to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.  This is a truth that most Christians profess.

But time and life have a way of lying to us.  The longer we are here, the more we believe we belong here.  The more we believe we belong here, the more we behave like this life is the means and the end.  And the more we live like that, the more we tend to play off Jesus’ words about money as allegorical– or as if the truths they contain are meant for others and not for us.

We rob the gospel of its power when we act as though Jesus didn’t mean what he said.  We rob the Christian life of its witness when we live as though all we are living for can be found here on earth.  As believers, we are called to look toward our eternal inheritance; to recognize that this world is not our home; that we are passing through.  In fact, Paul said that Christians who aren’t looking forward to eternity are the most miserable people on earth (I Cor 15: especially verse 19).

Only one passion can fuel the human heart.  Vying for two passions is like cheering for both teams in a competition:  when the games ends, you’re not sure if you won or lost.  It’s like trying to run in two races at the same time headed in opposite directions.  Jesus said that No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve both God and Mammon (mammon being the god of money.)  We have to make a choice.  This is the truth, and the reason it stings is because truth pierces.  Truth divides.  Truth separates between what is true and what is a lie, what is the light and what is dark.

What am I saying?  Is it wrong to be rich?  Is it wrong to have money?  By no means.  I am saying that Jesus says it’s about as difficult for a rich man to enter heaven as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  I’m saying that when we make decisions, we should choose God.  If he gives you money, great.  If he doesn’t, it’s still great.  Paul said he learned to be content with much or with little.  (“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13)

Also, what I’m saying is that if you’re reading this, the odds are that you already are rich, myself included.  We’re probably both very rich in the global sense of the word.  Let me give a few examples.

  • You’re educated enough to read
  • blessed enough to have a computer/access to the internet
  • if you have a car, you are among only around 8% of people on earth who own a vehicle
  • if you have access to potable water today, you’re doing better than at least a billion people today in that aspect
  • are you in an air-conditioned room
  • do you have electricity
  • the average annual income of Kenyans is $353, less than one dollar a day; but a decent job for a college student would make more than that in a week
  • should I mention the people who died of hunger today (1 person every 3.6 seconds)

You are rich.  I am rich.  We are rich.

What am I saying?  Choose God.  Don’t just make him the first choice in a list of priorities.  Make him the only choice.  The only way to serve god and money is if you’re serving Mammon (the god of money); and that’s no way to spend your life.  You’re going to be at the end of your life one day, and you’re going to say either something like this :” I spent my life on things that count, I spent my life on Jesus.”  Or something like this: “I wish I had lived my life more fully for God and chosen him in everything.”

I heard of a man who had a great heart for sacrifice and giving.  He had an acquaintance who asked him, “Don’t you think you’ve ever given too much?” to which the man quickly replied, “Do you think you’ll still ask me that when we’re dead?”

I’m saying we’re rich, both in the kingdom reality and in the reality of our broken world.  How can our world ever see the eternal hope we have in the kingdom if we live our lives as if the real goal is the temporary riches our broken world has to offer?  I want to recognize I am blessed, but I also want to be a good steward.  With knowledge comes responsibility.  Jesus put it this way: to whom much is given, much is required.  If I claim to be a follower of Jesus, I want to do my best to live like I believe what he said.  I want to do my best to close the gap between what I believe and how I behave.  I want to declare the message with my mouth and demonstrate it with my life.  Let’s do that!…. or at least take our best stab at it!