97%.

November 8, 2007 at 10:39 am 3 comments

Our daughter Traci’s ongoing attempt to adopt an African baby has opened her eyes to world poverty in some new ways and she has opened mine.  Our son Brad’s recent posts on the Christian response to the poor, environment and other issues that seem to have trouble sticking to the Christian communities conscience, have also been on my mind recently and so I thought I might write this morning on the subject of our resources.  I suspect I will lose a few readers and make a few others angry but feel free to respond with an alternative message, should I write something that is incorrect or Biblically false.

It’s hard to deny that capitalism is the best economic system around. It creates wealth far better than feudalism, communism, socialism or any other system one could name. But for all its advantages, capitalism has one major drawback that Kingdom people need to be concerned about: it needs people to stay perpetually hungry for more. If Americans as a whole ever followed Paul’s instruction to be content with basic food and clothing and not pursue wealth  (1Timothy 6:6-11), the system would come to a grinding halt. The undeniable truth is that capitalism runs on greed.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as greedy, in fact many of us see ourselves as barely getting by, let alone greedy but consider these facts as evidence of a society wide greed: Americans enjoy a lifestyle that is four times the global average.  Yet we on average spend 97 to 98 percent of our wealth on ourselves, despite the fact that close to a billion people live on the threshold of starvation with 40,000 dying each day of issues related to poverty, malnutrition and preventable or treatable disease. What other word can we use to describe our hoarding of resources while neighbors lack adequate food, shelter and medicine?  If I could think of another word I would gladly use it because greed sounds so mean spirited and judgemental but I can’t think of another word, other than selfish and it doesn’t sound much better.

Jesus had a lot to say about greed and the need to care for the poor and if we to call ourselves Jesus followers or Kingdom citizens then what Jesus said should get high notice from us.

Jesus lists greed as a sin right next to adultery (Mark 7:22). He criticized the religious leaders of his day for being preoccupied with maintaining a nice religious exterior while their hearts were full of “greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew. 3:25; Luke 11:39). These people meticulously followed religious rules, but because they loved money (Luke 16:14) they “neglected the more important matters of the law” which include “justice” and “mercy” (Matthew. 23:23). In other words, their religious appearance notwithstanding, these people hoarded resources and didn’t share with the poor. For Jesus, this failure made the rest of their religious behavior irrelevant. (Don’t get mad at me, it’s in the Book)

I once preached a message with this title “The Myth of Bigger Barns”.  I have never been more criticised for a message in all my speaking life.  The message came from Luke 12:16-19 and is the story of a successful farmer who does so well the only recourse he sees is to tear down his smaller barns and build bigger ones so I will have room to store everything.  After he built his bigger barns, hoarded his great wealth he could sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have stored enough away for years to come.  Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!(NLT)  In other words, with his stored up wealth, he could sit back, take it easy and enjoy the good life that capitalism produces. (please, I am not promoting communism or some other ism, just making a point)

I would guess most of us viewing this successful farmer’s handling of his great harvest would see it the same way Mr. Bigger Barns did. The man is really guilty of nothing more than being a good capitalist! You come upon some extra cash, so you enjoy life more and retire a little early. It’s called the American dream. What’s the big deal?  What would you do?  What would I do,  I’m the kind of person who dreams of winning Powerball?!

But read the rest of Bigger Barn’s story.  Jesus said that God called the man a “fool,” for it turned out this man was going to die that very night. And then, ominously, Jesus said, This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich towards God. (12:20-21).

Take a moment to read 1Timothy 6:6ff.  It is pretty much written for all of us who long to hit the jackpot. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (9)

Bigger’s problem is not having wealth so much as it was his greed. He only seems to think about what this new found wealth could do for him and greed led him to a heart that was not rich toward God.

Here is my point, and I would love to hear some opposing viewpoints to this post; following Jesus, being a Kingdom person, means what we have, what we earn, what we have in the bank, what we have saved for retirement is not our personal possession and thus we are to be consistently seeking His wisdom for how we spend it.  Whatever He says we are to enjoy, we should enjoy away and whatever He says to give away we are to joyfully give away. (Read 1Timothy 6, really, read it) But doesn’t this question beg an answer? Why do we enjoy away far more than we give away?

So much of the American church focuses on the tithe as the number we are supposed to give away but it seems to me, in a country where we keep 97% of our resources for ourselves, the bigger question has to be what percentage are we supposed to keep!

Don’t we all need to seriously consider or reconsider whether we are listening to or obeying the Father when surrounded by 40,000 preventable deaths every day, the wealthiest people on the planet spend all but 3% of their income on themselves?

Are we greedy or just ignorant?  As Kingdom people what are we to do about this disparity?  What are you doing that is more representative of the Father’s desire for His kids?  When we make so much money, compared to most of the rest of the world, why do we struggle from paycheck to paycheck?  If we are faithfully tithing (10%) is that all that is required for a Kingdom person?

This is one of those posts where I really hope you will post make some comments.  Especially comments of a redemptive nature.  How can we break out of the greed mold that capitalism is designed to keep us in and into the generous mold of the Kingdom?

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Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Jesus, Kingdom, The Father, Thoughts.

The Father isn’t worried. Eyob Mark Armstrong

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg  |  November 8, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Brad H thanks for the comment and for your honesty. I am responding to say it is not just your generation. my generation is very little better when it comes to resources. the boomer generation is the wealthiest in history and the stingiest. while the “senior adult” population might do the tithe thing their problem is they think that is enough. we may give our 10% but the rest is mine.

    i think the point has to be, it’s not mine. if i can just get to the place where i understand whose resources they are, i can begin to do some things to start living as a responsible Kingdom citizen. tithing is an old covenant deal, under the new convenant we are to “give as it has been given to us…”

    greg

  • 2. love1wins  |  November 8, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Great thoughts! I am sorry to hear you got a negative response to preaching on Bigger Barns. I used the same passage a few weeks ago in a sermon entitled “The Problem we All Live With.” Personally, I got a great response to the delivery of the message- but what I am really look for is a great response in the actions of the people who heard the message.
    This issue really requires changing your thinking about the problem.
    Again, thanks for the great thoughts on this problem that we all live with.

  • 3. Brad  |  November 8, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    I don’t really have anything deeply insightful to say; just that I feel spanked. Spanked by conviction; the truth of everything you wrote here is something we need to be reminded of often. I have a huge problem with wanting more and better things (my Christmas wish/want list is a mile long). My greed at times seems to never be quenched.

    “Most of us don’t think of ourselves as greedy, in fact many of us see ourselves as barely getting by, let alone greedy”… I cant even count how many things that I have said of this nature, some of my financial issues are natural consequences of our early decisions in life but we still have a house, plenty of food, and health. We have things far beyond the necessities and yet still struggle with tithing anything let alone 10% or more. Why is it we/my generation and younger struggle to tithe? Is it just my generation? Why is it just 10% when we do?

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