Recently, we explored five conclusions about money from the Old Testament. In that article, I claimed that there was consistent theological truth around money from Genesis to Revelation. Since we looked at five conclusions from the Old Testament then, let’s examine five conclusions from the life and teachings of Jesus and see just how consistent this teaching is. These conclusions can be found in the same treatise we explored before, Neither Poverty nor Riches, by Dr. Craig Blomberg.
1. Community is central to a life of generosity. Without community it is difficult for us to be generous and for us to have an outlet for our generosity. “The only way God’s people can consistently obey all of his commands is as the entire Christian community worldwide” (p. 145). We are created to live in community and to share generously with those around us. This communal perspective and sharing draws us together as followers of Jesus and provides a faithful witness to others as they see the love of Christ on display. How central to your life are opportunities to share and engage with your community?
2. Reckless generosity is the right response of faith. The picture we see Jesus paint of the godly are those who are rather radical or reckless in their generosity. Never do we get a picture of godly materialism. “It goes too far to say that one cannot be rich and be a disciple of Jesus, but what never appears in the Gospels are well to do followers of Jesus who are not simultaneously generous in almsgiving and in divesting themselves of surplus wealth for the sake of those in need” (p.145). The Gospels call all of us to live a life that is contrary to the worldly materialism we see around us and to be generous to those in need. We do this because we know that the things of this world will lead us away from God. How have you seen a desire for the world make it more difficult for you to follow God in your life? In what ways have you seen generosity help to grow your faith?
3. Periodic celebration is a worthwhile form of worship. When we take the material gifts God has provided to us and we turn them back to celebration and worship, we honor Him and His name. The key to these celebrations is that even if they end up being lavish, they do not become the norm for our lives. They will be periodic and intentionally celebratory of who God is and what He has done. How can you celebrate God with the use of your resources in a way that draws you into deeper worship of Him?
4. Riches are not a reward for righteousness. Jesus goes out of His way to reject the Jewish assumption that riches were God’s reward for righteous living. As Dr. Blomberg puts it, “The covenant model assumes material reward for piety never reappears in Jesus’ teaching, and is explicitly contradicted throughout” (p. 145). Holiness and nearness to God are rewards for righteous living and are both things that will draw us closer to God instead of having the danger of drawing us away from Him. Seen as such, riches can be viewed as a tool to be used, but not as a reward to be sought. How have you seen others assume that material blessing is equivalent to the blessing of God? How can you shift your perspective so that you can see more of God as the blessing each of us should pursue?
5. The call to follow Jesus is the call to leave everything. In the end, the main call of Jesus is to follow His example of self-denying sacrifice and to join Him on the narrow road of holiness and obedience. The purpose of our lives isn’t the accumulation (or even the distribution) of material things, it is to demonstrate that God is our greatest treasure and He is the only worthwhile pursuit of our lives. How we use and deploy our material things will either draw us deeper into this great call or demonstrate that we still believe that this world is superior to the call to follow Jesus. What does the way you view and use money demonstrate to others about what your greatest treasure is?
To learn more about what the Bible says about a theology of money see the following resources:
Blomberg, Craig L. (1999). Neither Poverty nor Riches: A biblical theology of material possessions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Blue, Michael (2020). Free to Follow: Discover the riches of a surrendered life. Austin, TX: Thirst Land Press.