Since the beginning of time, there has always been a problem between man, money and God. Whenever a pastor or minister begins to address finances, the shutters come up.
It is widely believed that the Church is only after everyone's money. They're reluctant to give it away and in respect of the Church of England and the Catholic Church they're never far away from some financial scandal or complaint when it comes to cash.
Personally I believe that money is the single most contentious and destructive element that exists throughout the Christian faith throughout the world yet no one wants to be the first to address it on any scale because they're fearful they'll end up without any!
I think that greed and fear are the main drivers especially with people in Church and by that I mean the pastors and church workers. Let me explain.
It's all well and good making a case for others to be frugal and to live in any eventuality being happy or content just like the Apostle Paul. But in most cases, the reality is "I'm alright Jack!". The church workers are paid for the work they do but there are Christians and seekers who are living in very difficult circumstances fail to get taken care of by the Church. It's always someone elses responsibility!
On the one hand activating mission abroad is commendable yet when it's to the detriment of the local community it's little wonder that the Church can't up it's attendance figures if the focus is on tea and biscuits and not practical help.
I'm not simply advocating that Christianity begins at home, I'm saying that we most definitely have missed the mark when it comes to us Christians fulfilling our Biblical obligations.
I'm all for people being massively successful and so is God, he's the one that gives us our abilities and desires.
But if that's the case, what's the point? We work hard, earn the cash, store it in a bank and in a house and then sit on it until we die, passing on what's left to the next generation to do the same.
In the Book of Acts, in the early days of Christianity, the Christians sold their property and land to fund their collective lives. These acts were selfless, their joy immense and thousands were added to their number because those around them saw faith in action. It was not only spiritual but also practical and tangible.
The contrast between then and now is incomparable, but I wonder what we have really lost?
Jesus said that we would do greater deeds than him. And by greater, he meant more (John 14:12) Jesus' life was selfless from the beginning of his ministry. All he did was serve others. He sent us the Holy Spirit as promised and in the early days "stuff happened". The power that was present in the Apostle Peter healed people simply as he walked past them (I'm paraphrasing as the Bible says he healed them as his shadow cast over the sick).
Nowadays, apart from the odd handful of miracles we cannot say that we have ever done greater things than Jesus.
Without going in to loads of detail, I just want to cover some basic points; Babylon is where money, slavery and everything to do with the occult originated from. So when you hear someone say that (the love of) money is the root of all evil, it begins to make sense, i.e. that there is a correlation between money and the way we behave around it.
No matter how aggressively someone tells me that money doesn't have them, it's always followed up by them telling me that we're supposed to live a frugal life like the Apostle Paul, i.e. just having enough. And any leaning to wanting an abundance is viewed as being abhorrent. Frugality is not mentioned in the Bible, but abundance is! And yes, I do know that we're are blessed to be a blessing and that includes financially. So having an abundance of money is not to be selfish with it.
So here we are, blood bought Children of the Most High God and loved more than we can ever begin to imagine, yet we're scratching around, playing with Scriptures to make our Christian communities sound good, but the reality is that we haven't scratched the surface of our intended earthly destinies.
The Church is happy to receive a constant few quid in the offerings but wont teach on tithing, giving and blessing others financially. And if they attempt to do so, there are always the naysayers who chirp up "Oh, but we're under grace" "We're in the New Testament, not the Covenant of the Old Testament" and the other great one is "God loves a cheerful giver, so I'm happy to give my spare change!"
Our financial mechanics have got so messed up that we're most definitely dancing to the tune of the enemy.
Our culture encourages us to horde money and try and protect it because we perceive it to have value. When it comes to our faith, we put on an oh so pious act, feigning holiness and telling each other that God is more important than anything and we all make out that we believe what each other is saying.
I recently read 'Nevertheless" by John Kirkby who set up Christians Against Poverty (CAP Money as it is known). He based everything on faith. Faith for salaries, faith for rent in fact faith for all his income. It certainly wasn't easy.
John Kirkby believed that the Church would support him and after contacting eighty churches, not one of them offered any financial help. It was very much, 'well, you have your vision, so why don't you crack on with it because we're alright Jack'. So much for being all part of the Body of Christ! But this attitude is based upon centuries of an unhealthy understanding of money and our lack of faith in God as our provider.
I heard another story recently that a Bishop, upon being told that some of the figures on the annual accounts actually related to cash in the bank (I'm talking millions) immediately embarked on a spending spree like there was no tomorrow, redecorating his home! And no, none was spent on the needy.
Apart from the obvious, hording millions and not distributing it in the first place is simply endemic of the fear and greed that surrounds money. Plus the fact that the enemy will blind people and make them do the strangest things.
The problem is based upon a desperation of holding on to money and not believing in God to bring more money our way. Jesus said when he was in Caperneaum that he was amazed at their unbelief and therefore could only perform a few miracles.
The same is applicable to the Church, i.e. the collective unbelief that God will not provide has forced everyone to rely on money. And when someone has a financial need, no one is prepared to help because A) the Church has failed at setting an example B) the Church has failed to teach anyone, especially wealthy people what they should do with and behave with money.
However, if the Church won't rely on God's provision and spend its money, how on earth can we expect the correct response from the congregation?
There is a mutual distrust between those with money and the Church. When I tell people that they should love God more than their spouses and therefore give to God accordingly, I get strange looks!
When Jesus was fasting in the desert after he was baptised, satan offered Jesus all the glory of the kingdoms of the earth if he would worship him. Jesus replied "You must worship the Lord you God and serve only him". So when it comes to money, who's worshiping what or whom?
No matter how little we feel the necessity to rely on money, that seemingly basic act alone has an impact on the trust we place in and on God.
A standard response is to mention the prosperity gospel. Of course, placing all of one's focus on acquiring money by applying Biblical principles would be wrong. People who play that game are no different to the snake oil salesmen selling Internet Marketing schemes. Let me explain...
Internet marketers profess that they have found the ultimate methodology to help budding entrepreneurs sell staggering amounts of products if they apply their strategies. To acquire these pearls of wisdom one has to buy in to the marketing company's resources. In other words, "cross my palm with silver and you'll make fortune"
Purveyors of the prosperity gospel do the same thing, but when it comes to the 'normal' Church, it can be seen that the individuals are paid to do the work they're expected to, but fail to help both ends of the spectrum deal with money and fail to teach those in real need how to change their approach to money for fear of being negatively labelled and so they perpetuate the status quo.
With 2000 years of Christianity one would have thought that we'd have worked it out by now. Trouble is, whenever someone is identified as being wealthy or generous, there are many people who would want to take advantage, the Church included.
But to correlate the power given to us by grace to the damaging affect unbelief has on Christians such as unforgiveness, doubting God's power and a reliance on money all contributes to disempowering the Body of the Church.
But then again, many people become Christians for selfish reasons. They don't see that the point is to be genuinely grafted in to the Body of Christ so that the remaining time we have on this earth can be spent in sharing what this transition in to faith really means (i.e. sharing the Good News) and acknowledging that we're in training for the next stage of our existence in eternity.
Instead its based upon how they feel and what's in it for them. The whole salvation thing is all well and good, but the reason for their attendance at Church is personal and social and they certainly have no intention on spreading the word and so they remain in the same 'state' year after year without seeing any breakthrough, whether it's healing, relational or financial.
Jesus said that we will always have the poor among us, but I seriously don't believe he was referring to Christians, especially blood bought Children of God. He also said we can't serve money and God.
So the question is, how do you feel about money? How do you or your church behave with it? Have you experienced breakthrough regarding finances and if so why do you think it happened?
Assuming the best! Could you imagine what it would be like to heal people simply because you walked past them and know that God uses you as a channel of his power. And what if you knew that this came about because of your genuine belief that God was your provider in everything, your Jehovah Jireh
We need to take a long hard look at how we as Christians are going to behave next year. Will it be the case of "we'll do what we've always done, so we'll get what we've always got" or will 2015 be the year of genuine trust in God that really does move mountains?