Ever convinced of my own greed and naiveté regarding money and its use in the kingdom, I attended J.W. Hartgrove's workshop at CCDA, appropriately entitled "God's Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel."
Hartgrove, a leader in the New Monastic movement, author and member of the Rutba House community in Durham, NC, gave us his honest reflections on money and shared several stories that gave us a glimpse of the possibility of imagining another way.
Money is a force to be reconciled with; we all encounter the Siren call of the greenback. Jesus plainly said we can only have one Master. Will it be Christ or Money (among the ranks of similar idols)? As we consider money's mastery over us, Hartgrove's shared these five thoughts, summarized incompletely here.
He argued that Americans like to develop comprehensive strategies and plans for investing money, but perhaps Jesus offered us tactics instead. Tactics slowly infiltrate the system, cracking and eroding its oppressive power.
#1 - Subversive Serving
Matthew 20:26-28 - Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus did not squash the disciples desire to be great here. Those who do not have money, often desire money, b/c it is such a visible sign of power in our economy. But in God's Economy, serving is the new power.
#2 - Eternal Investments
Matthew 6:19-21 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Use money now as a means to store up treasure in heaven, i.e. have an eternal perspective - don't use it for yourself! As someone once said, "The best things in life are meant to be given away."
#3 - Use $$ To Make Friends
Luke 16:1-15 - ...The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Yup. Jesus said it. Use worldly wealth to gain friends. Seriously. Only Jesus could have said something this outrageous and have the Church take it seriously. But the problem is we don't take it seriously. We hoard our money and use it to bless ourselves.
#4 - "Give to the one who asks"
Matthew 5:42 - Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Jesus does not necessarily say "give exactly what they ask"; he says, "give to the one." Should we be the poor man's first accuser before God by refusing him money "in case" he may use it for sinful reasons? This is a hard saying from Jesus. I'll be the first to admit it.
#5 - Gracious Politics
Matthew 22:17-22 - Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?...Whose portrait is this [on the denarius]? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
You can't help but chuckle after Jesus leaves his accusers silent here. He flips their question on its head. Caesar has his "image bearers" (i.e money) and God has his (i.e people). Caesar will ask for his taxes and we do well to respond graciously. But, Jesus wants our whole being. And we do well to give him everything.