Wednesday, November 14, 2007


*This post is part of a synchroblog on the subject “Money and the Church”. So, sorry if some of this material sounds familiar. Other blogs on this subject are linked at the end of this post.

Does god want you to be rich? Does he want your best life now? And what is that best life supposed to look like? Does it involve having nice stuff? I don’t know. Probably not.

Based on all possible common evidence, the guy we christians follow (Jesus) had very little possessions if anything. He was recorded to have said, “The son of man (that is, himself) has no place to lay his head.

Yet many Christ followers look at god as a loving father who wants “the best” for his children. How should we define “the best”? Somehow, “the best” for gulag-bound North Korean christians probably doesn’t equate with “the best” for westernized suburbia christians. Just a guess.

Twice recorded in Luke, Jesus sends out his followers to share the good news to neighboring towns. And both times, he instructs them to bring nothing: no extra clothes and no money. I suspect this is partially because money (or money-making devices) combined with the good news is a terrible testimony to the world.

Kind of like, this god/faith thing real or are we a bunch of charlatans?

The people who don’t follow Christ can’t take our message seriously if we’re consumed with trying to make a buck from this message in any way.

George Carlin, the least quoted person in church, once did a comedy schtick that mocked people who believed in “an invisible guy in the clouds that watches your every move. He demands you follow his ten rules, and if you break just one, it’s eternal torment in hell for you baby. Oh, and by the way...God loves you”. The crowd roared. And then George added:

“Oh yeah, by the way...this god, he needs MONEY. Lots and lots of MONEY.” More screams of laughter. “He sees and knows your every move, but this god can’t seem to manage his damn money. So he needs yours”.

What a sad message to those non-believers that we christians follow a guy who fed 5000 people with some kid’s lunch, yet we refuse to start up a church, ministry, or whatever the lord tells us to do...until “you pledge $50 a month in support”.

Uncle George (that is, 1800’s British orphanage operator George Muller, not Carlin) is one of the few missionaries who refused to advertise his needs to people. He went straight to the father and to no other with his needs. Through days, months, sometimes years of waiting, the lord always provided just as need arrived. The waiting can be grueling.

Waiting is a difficult concept when we bow to the god of convenience. This false god has the most prominent pedestal in American culture and has many followers.

But the non-believers of his day witnessed Uncle George's faith and actions, who never performed a show for money. And many were turned to this loving god through his examples.

Money is not a bad thing. It is a resource that can make stuff happen sometimes. Good stuff. Like feeding and sheltering people, research towards disease elimination, paying daily bills, or whatever.

Money-making combined with gospel telling, extravagant and or wasteful living, and placing personal comforts over human suffering is a terrible testimony to the rest of the world.

Let god’s provision be the testimony, not the manipulation game towards others.

**special thanks to the freelance writer of Boston for the link on the mansion photo...

The Check That Controls at Igneous Quill
Pushing The Camel: Why there might be more rich people in Heaven than in your local Church at Fernando's desk
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz at Hello Said Jenelle
Zaque at Johnny Beloved
Walking with the Camels at Calacirian
Greed and Bitterness: Why Nobody's Got it Right About Money and The Church at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Kirk Bartha at Theocity
Money and the Church: A Fulltime Story at The Pursuit
But I Gave at Church at The Assembling of the Church
Moving Out of Jesus Neighborhood at Be the Revolution
Money and the Church: why the big fuss? at Mike's Musings
Coffee Hour Morality at One Hand Clapping
Bling Bling in the Holy of Holies at In Reba's World
Magazinial Outreach at Decompressing Faith
Money's too tight to mention at Out of the Cocoon
Bullshit at The Agent B Files
The Bourgeois Elephant in the Missional/Emergent Living Room at Headspace
When the Church Gives at Payneful Memories
Who, or What, Do You Worship at at Charis Shalom
Greed at Hollow Again
Silver and Gold Have We - Oops! at Subversive Influence


Jenelle said...

You're legit because you live what you dish out. I really like that you can quote Jesus and Carlin and talk about Uncle George all coherently.

Put on that old MC Hammer song, "Too Legit 2 Quit" and do a little dance.

fernando said...

One of my old school friends used to say that church was "...a circus around your wallet." So true.

I recalll back in theological college, running a few classmates through a simple test. Take all the benefits of a typical suburban pastoral role (not megachurch, just normalchurch). Not only the stipend, but also housing, travel expenses, education, whatever it might be (including discounts, favours, gifts). Then calculate how much a person in a normal job would have to earn to receive all that - oh and don't forget tax!

It was stunning to watch people's eyes narrow as they were confronted with a number larger than they might ever have earned were it not for "the ministry."

Agent B said...

Thanks Nells. Your kind words and internet friendship are valuable to me.

Agent B said...

Fernando: great quote. And that test is very true.

At the church I was once employed at, the head pastor made around $70K/year after all benefits were added in, etc.

The median income in my town is around $24K-$28K. And those of us on the lower rungs of the church employment were making poverty wages (as measured by the US govt).


Sally said...

Excellent post

yes money is a resource, no more and no less! We should treat it like all God's gifts with respect and integrity.

Bryan Riley said...

This is a perfect post. Great work. This is a spiritual war we are in and money and more are one of the most difficult strongholds.

miller said...

"we refuse to start up a church, ministry, or whatever the lord tells us to do..."

yeah, we refuse for lots of reasons. the truth of the matter is that i know quite a few people personally who have refused for reasons of money.

some of them i live pretty close to.

and see fairly frequently...


Agent B said...

Miller - if you refer to "The Table"...

That was a low blow.

True - I am not doing a store front version of that because I lack money, facility, etc.

So I am doing a hap-hazard neighborhood version of the same thing...

...and seeing/praying if the store-front version would be any better.

miller said...


first: respect! i love you man and i believe in you and what you are attempting in your neighborhood.

second: it was a reference to the table... and other things as well, like my own "ministry" so if it was a low blow you weren't the only one to catch it.

third: it wasn't meant as a low blow... just a thought provoker

fourth: refer back to the first.


JesusFreak said...

I live in a VERY small town and the pastor at the church I work at is paid (including pension, housing exclusion, health insurance, pastor's business expense, pastor's personal expense, and then regular salary)$80,000 a year. Now, that is frigging ridiculous! But for some reason, we don't have enough money to make monthly donations to our local resource centers.

Agent B said...

Sally & Bryan: thanks for the kind words and for stopping by.

Miller: yeah, well, ok.

JF: oh man, you have no idea...

When I was employed by a church as their "benevolent director", the head pastor made like over $70K/year after all of his benefits were figured in.

Meanwhile, my wife and I (we worked together for one paycheck) were earning below (US govt defined) poverty wages. And eating out from the church's food pantry we served from.

I mean hey, no one put a gun to our heads to accept that job. (We actually received no pay at all for the first 3 months). But it puts a whole new spin on "the last shall be first...I think.

ConcernedEngineer said...

Agent B,
Last year, my group at church did a series on "The Bible and Finances" based on "Crown Financial Ministries." Very interesting and thought provoking and revealing. The Bible has A LOT to say about money, and I think we would all do well to learn from the whole counsel of Scripture and then to follow God in the obedience that comes from faith.
God bless.

ConcernedEngineer said...

Here's a thought.

Jerry Seinfeld made something like $90 million last year.

Professional athletes make millions of dollars a year.
They make this kind of money partly because "Christians" (both authentic Christians and non-authentic Christins) love entertainment.

Meanwhile... Christian school teachers often make less than $25,000 a year, and don't get health insurance.


In what are we investing?

And for the record, Christ taught us to render to God's what is God's and to render to Caesar's what is Caesar's. He said this after asking "Whose inscription is on this coin?" In other words, "Who'se image is on this coing?"

Arguably, children bear God's image - not Caesars. So, we should be rendering them to God, and making sure that the content they are taught and the manner in which they are educated is glorifying to God. After all, the chief end of man is to glorify God, so that must also be the chief end of education. Arguably then... giving our children over to the state to be educated is rendering to Caesar those which bear the image of God.