This week’s article is the final one about money. Hopefully if you’ve been following the articles you’ll have had the chance to think hard about what it means to follow Jesus with our stuff, but more than that, hopefully you’ve actually done something in response to all this. As with most things, the first step is often the hardest and we can be tempted to delay action until every doubt, questions or quibble is sorted (which it will never be!). So let this final article prompt you once more, if you haven’t yet, to take the plunge rather than spend forever wondering exactly how deep the water is…
It’s fair to say that the manner in which this material has been tackled has had ‘typical’ British (Western?) churches in mind as they most commonly are: e.g., there is paid ministers, most members have average/above average incomes, churches are usually legally charities and businesses, etc. Most applications may vary considerably in churches that are configured differently.
It is the case that in some churches ministry is unpaid and church leaders either work alongside their ministry, have retired or have some other independent means. Or, occasionally, the congregation is too poor to support a minister. Other churches may be so small they do not need a ‘full time’ minister. The list of alternative could go on…
In such cases I would still assert the validity of the principles discussed in these blogs, but their application may be quite different. Having less paid staff can release a lot more money to be given to mission and poor-care; churches with little means may express their generosity in time, care, exchange of skills and services in something resembling a gift-economy rather than our dominant monetary way of conceiving such things. Those of us in more ‘normal’ churches may have much to learn from those who do things quite differently…
In any marriage it is desirable for husband and wife to share all their possessions and make financial decisions together. It is quite natural for there to have to be significant compromise when it comes to giving in the ways these blogs have described. There are clearly many ways a couple may resolve this; here are two additional thoughts:
Even unbelievers will warm to many of the expressions of Christian love such giving facilitates, it may be easier to act together under common grace to give specifically to these causes, or give to a church that has a clear priority in serving the poor and the needy.
These conversations must primarily be a chance for you to demonstrate to your spouse the impact following Jesus has on your life/choices, combined with a determination to love your spouse like Jesus loves them. What happens in your conversations and relationship is more important than the particular outcome.
The Bible doesn’t talk about gambling (or the lottery!). Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean it has nothing relevant to say. The main moral issues tied up with gambling are the following:
Gambling is addictive and, like all addictions, has a huge (negative) impact on many peoples lives. Like many addictions, it often starts with small, informal steps, but can develop in devastating ways. Again, like other addictions, the internet only facilitates access to, and hidden-ness of, the addiction.
Gambling is a problem disproportionately present amongst the poor. Gambling companies target poorer communities and advertising is often focussed on the myth of ‘escaping’ through a big win. Thus, gambling tends to further impoverish the poor.
For the few who do ‘win big’, it is a deeply unethical way of gaining money. No work is involved (the common means God gives us to meet our material needs) and the money received is taken from others, including many poor and addicted.
The industry itself is deeply unethical, whose need to make profit is, by necessity, prioritised above the wellbeing of those who are damaged by its products.
Different Christians will take different positions on whether or not we should ever gamble in any way, just as they do with alcohol (to which at least two of the above points applies equally). My own position is that I refuse to gamble with any bookies/betting companies, would never buy a lottery ticket and would be unhappy for my church to take lottery funding. However, when amongst friends, I am happy to put £5 in the pot for a poker night or to bet a couple of quid on how many runs England will make in the cricket game I’m watching. To me, there is no risk involved and no unhealthy patterns being developed (of course, if one of my friends was tempted to gamble, that would be a different story…) That’s where I am internally settled, but it may be different for you.
These articles have generally assumed some level of capability to manage money, but this is not the case for all of us. If this is a struggle for you, here’s some suggestions:
Identify a friend/someone in church who is good at this kind of thing and ask them if they would be willing to help you. It may involve significant change for you, but if you are willing for someone else to challenge and support you, a simple friendship may well be enough! Like most other areas of discipleship, we rarely need an expert, but often just someone one step ahead who is willing to help.
If you don’t know anyone, https://capuk.org/ is a Christian charity specifically for those in debt or struggling with money issues. On their website you can search for what is going on locally that may help you.
Finally, talk to your church leaders (or me, if you attend ACC)! Many of them will be aware of what may help locally and be happy to put you in touch with someone that can help.
You’ll notice that I haven’t recommended any material. That’s deliberate! For those who struggle with this, the key thing is a relationship with someone who can help; it is far more likely to make the difference than trying it on your own.