Money Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Money

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Ironically, preaching about cold, hard cash often probes the deepest nerves of faith. This simple medium of exchange is perhaps the world's most destructive idol, but can also be used for great good.

In Scripture

Old Testament Money or wealth is not bad in itself. Some of the most prominent and godly people in the Old Testament, like Abraham, were wealthy (Gen. 13:2). Wealth is meant to enrich the whole community, not only the individual. When the wealthy give or lend to the poor (Deut. 15:10, 16:17), their riches bless the community. Charging of interest is forbidden (Ex. 22:25). Lending is meant to be a form of sharing wealth rather than accumulating it. A number of stories illustrate the pitfalls of greed, including Achan's theft (Josh. 7) and the saga of Solomon, whose great wealth leads to religious apostasy. The wisdom literature is full of advice and warning about wealth and handling one's money (Prov. 23:4,5; 30:8-9; Eccles. 5:10, 7:11) The book of Amos describes a society in which concentrated wealth destroys the poor and corrupts the rich, bringing God's judgment (see Amos 4).

New Testament Jesus warned against the idolatrous lure of wealth, (or "mammon," as it is sometimes translated). "You cannot serve God and wealth" (Luke 16:13). Visited by a wealthy young man, Jesus invited him to give his riches away to the poor. When the young man walked away disappointed, Jesus commented: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:26). In a parable Jesus tells of a man obsessed with expanding his wealth who suddenly dies. Jesus' closing comment says it all: "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God" (Luke 12:13-21). In an enigmatic scene, the Pharisees try to entrap Jesus by getting him to comment on the explosive subject of taxes. Jesus shows them a coin bearing Caesar's likeness and says, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Mark 12:17, NIV). This comment doesn't close the issue, but opens it up in dramatic new ways. Storing up "treasure in heaven" pays far greater dividends than storing them on earth (Matt. 6:19-21).

An Issue in the Early Church Strikingly, money quickly becomes an issue in the earliest days of the church. Luke notes in Acts that the community was characterized by an ethic of sharing, in which everyone's needs were cared for from a common purse (Acts 2:45, 4:32-35). However, this also becomes the basis for Ananias and his wife Sapphira to break faith with the community by lying about their wealth in the hope of keeping it for themselves. They wanted the reputation for generosity while hoarding their wealth.

Blessings and Dangers Paul's letters carry on the biblical tradition regarding wealth, noting its blessings and dangers. Many of his converts seem to be relatively well off, such as Lydia (Acts 16:14). He doesn't tell them to divest, but warns them not to "set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches" (1 Tim. 6:17-18). He calls the love of money "the root of all kinds of evil" that can destroy faith (1 Tim. 6:10). The antidote to this poison is to hold it lightly and to give generously (2 Cor. 8 and 9, 1 Tim 6:18).

Points to Ponder

The real lure of accumulating wealth is not the numbers in a bank account, but the illusion of power and self-sufficiency that wealth seems to bring. Ultimately, as in the case of the wealthy landowner in Jesus' parable, (Luke 12:13-21) death claims all.

Fair Wages I know of one preacher who, after preaching a sermon on the justice of fair wages, was physically accosted by a parishioner in a hallway after church. He happened to own one of the biggest businesses in town that was known for its low-level salaries. Ironically, he angrily told the preacher to stick to "preaching the Bible."

Source of all Kinds of Evil When Paul says "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil," he points to its idolatrous lure. While the "all kinds" might be an exaggeration, one is hard pressed to find a more likely candidate as the source of evil in the world.

In his Beatitudes, Jesus announced that the poor are "blessed." This surprising statement turns the conventional wisdom of wealth as a blessing from God upside down. Given the tendency of wealth to bring the illusion of self-sufficiency, Jesus points out that poverty and neediness (physical and spiritual) bring one into a right relationship with God.

Doing Good Money seems to do the most good when it's given away. It brings deep satisfaction to the giver and great good to those in need.

Ulrich Zwingli "Even if we were not sinful by nature, the sin of having private property would suffice to condemn us before God; for that which he gives us freely, we appropriate to ourselves."

John Wesley "Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart."

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.