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This was originally posted on Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.
This was an obvious practical expression of Jesus’ radical economic teachings.
“Blessed are you who are poor”, he said, “but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:20, 24). It’s clear that Jesus didn’t want us to be rich.
This is also evident when he said that we should not store up treasures on earth:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Article written for the Multiply Network.
In late November and early December last year, a group of youth from the Jesus Fellowship went to Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in India. They visited Berachah Children’s Home, a ministry led by pastor Kiran Paul that houses and helps 180 children. The Home is supported by the Multiply Network.
Honor Hunter was really impacted by being in India for the first time. “When we arrived I was really tired but I was amazed how beautiful it was,” she says. “It felt like a completely different world. Rice fields and really bright blue birds. The people from Berachah were so welcoming. Kiran Paul, the pastor, was sick in meningitis but still came to the airport to greet us.
“They have hardly anything so they put God first, not possessions. When the children prayed and were so emotional and desperate. Over here, kids don’t get too involved with God. Wealth is too much of a distraction for us. But in India they go through horrible things and they see that God is love and that they need him as an anchor point.” (more…)
All complex civilisations in human history have eventually collapsed. As the complexity of the Babylonian, Roman and Maya empires increased, their administration eventually became to costly and inflexible, leaving the whole system vulnerable to any famine, war or social uprising that would tear it totally apart. The inevitable collapse were seldom instantaneous, it could take decades or even centuries. What it always produced however was decreased complexity with more decentralised governance, more poverty, rural living and a smaller population.
I am fully convinced that if Jesus doesn’t return to end history soon, we will see modern civilisation collapsing. With modern civilisation I refer to the political and economic structure that is based in the “Western”, white part of the world but that influences all nations of the earth and use their resources. It is totally impossible for its complexity to remain on this level or even higher; sooner or later most of our societies will be thrown back to pre-industrial times, and millions will die.
This gloomy prediction of course contradict the myth of eternal Progress that has been a dominant paradigm in the West. Just like in the early days of the Roman empire, increased wealth, health, education and technology made people believe that the future will be eternally bright, everything will get better and more efficient.
This is very different from a Biblical worldview which predicts that the sinfulness of man will constantly follow and eventually consume us. The book of Revelation talks about how the pseudo-glorious city of Babylon, representing power, wealth and civilisation, will collapse: (more…)
Trump has won the election, which is nothing less than a disaster for the world. He doesn’t care about climate change and his policies will most likely kill millions of people around the world due to climate inaction. He is anti-immigration and wants to block out people fleeing from poverty and war, which might very well kill many of them too. And his willingness to engage in nuclear war is unprecedented, if his irrational rage makes him go crazy on Twitter, what will he do when he has nuclear launch codes at his disposal?
It’s not a mystery why he’s popular though. The American working class and rural population know that they have been screwed by the urban elite – poor Americans have almost seen nothing of the economic growth of the last decades. Of course, somebody who has benefited from that growth in a very unethical fashion is Trump himself.But people tend to see him as a successful businessman (which he’s not) who can save the American economy (which he won’t) by protectionism and putting America first, making it “great again”.
The fact that his policies are tremendously bad for the rest of the world don’t matter too much to them because it’s America that’s going to be great, not necessarily Mozambique or India. They could say things like climate change being a hoax (“invented by the Chinese” as Trump has claimed) or that Syrian refugees are terrorists. What this shows is not just that they haven’t taken the time to listen to those in the majority world who are already suffering from climate change or those fleeing from war, but also a lack of empathy to these people. (more…)
I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.
The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:
In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.
Are there any reasons to believe that colourful stage lights and fog machines are anything else than the toys of Christian stage technicians and a compensation for lack of Biblical revival? No. The global trend of churches investing billions of dollars in superfluous show equipment has increased dramatically over just the last few decades, but not many have asked themselves why we do it and what happens to church when we do it.
Of course, if someone dares to question this unbiblical practice that person is easily dismissed as someone who doesn’t understand young people or who isn’t into culturally relevant evangelism. So hi, I’m a young evangelist, and I hate stage lights. And fog machines, those horrible, stupid fog machines! How painfully obvious isn’t it that modern, Western churches lack God when they literally try to fabricate something which the Scriptures describes as a manifestation of the Lord’s presence?
As I’ve explained in my God vs Wealth series, Jesus doesn’t want us to be rich but live as simply as possible so that we can give as much to the poor as possible. This applies not just to individual disciples but to churches as well. There are hundreds of millions of Christians around the world living in poverty. If we truly think that they are our brothers and sisters, we can’t ignore their suffering by spending loads of money on superfluities.
As John puts it: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17) (more…)
Guest post by Taruna Rettinger
Blessed are the poor and blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are the poor
Why do you want richness?
Blessed are the poor
Why do you keep slaves for your comfort?
Blessed are the poor
Why do you seek wealth on earth?
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want to feel rich
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want to be served by others
Blessed are the poor in spirit
But you want wealth here and now
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So feel your poverty in spirit and cry for Heaven
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”
So strive for poverty and long to live with God
Prepare to be uncomfortable.
I wrote three years ago about how absurd it is that Christians often are expected to “dress up” as they attend church meetings, wearing clothing that’s more expensive and “proper” than what they normally wear. The reason this is absurd is that the Bible never commands it – on the contrary, it prohibits Christians to wear expensive clothes at all times, not just on church meetings. I’ve made a video when I discuss this:
The New Testament particularly addresses Christian women, telling them to not wear jewelry or expensive clothing:
“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (1 Tim 2:9-10)
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.” (1 Peter 3:3)
Kris Vallotton at Bethel Church recently held a sermon called “Poverty, Riches and Wealth” which is nothing less than pure, economic prosperity preaching. His conclusions are basically that all Christians with some few exceptions should be rich and that wealth isn’t a problem as long as it multiplies and grows exponentially. In this video I respond to his arguments and show why they don’t work:
As you may know, I’ve argued that Christians should not be rich in my God vs Wealth series and I recently did a Holy Hangout on prosperity theology with some friends where I criticized the “health and wealth gospel” for being unbiblical and hurtful.
Now, some people have told me that Vallotton’s position actually is “balanced” and even close to my own, that he’s not that off after all. I strongly disagree. I was surprised to hear how radical his prosperity thinking was and how deliberately he ignored or distorted relevant Bible passages.
Vallotton starts off in 1 Tim 6, arguing that love of money isn’t the root to all evil but a root to some evil (the text actually says a root to all evil). He does not mention verses 5-9 at all, probably because they crush all forms of economic prosperity theology. Verse 5 talk about “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (more…)
Does a strong faith in God lead to a prosperous life filled with health and wealth? Since the 1950’s, several Pentecostal and charismatic preachers have been arguing that followers of Jesus should be rich and successful. Oftentimes, they have put their teachings into practice by possessing expensive jet planes and huge mansions.
In this Holy Hangout I talk with design student and Vineyarder Friederike Berghauer from Germany and former Vineyard pastor and blogger Joshua Hopping from the United States. We discuss what prosperity really is, the historical roots to why “Health and Wealth” teaching originated, why it’s popular in Latin America and Africa, Biblical texts that challenge traditional prosperity teaching and the role of contentment and suffering in a Christian’s life.
If you have a suggestion on a topic for a future Hangout and/or want to join, just contact me!
How was Christian community of goods practically organized in the time of the Bible and how should it be organized today?
There are many myths and misconceptions about the apostolic church in Jerusalem and its community of goods. I’ve encountered people who think that all the disciples became homeless and unemployed as “those who owned land or houses sold them” (Acts 4:34), so that community of goods was more about having nothing in common rather than everything in common. In reality, however, they bought new houses after the resources were redistributed equally (8:3). Likewise, they probably bought new land and/or got other sources of income than agriculture.
The reason for doing this was most likely the fact that some people lived in quite luxurious homes while others were living in poor homes or even on the street. Selling everything and collecting the money in one pile under the oversight of the apostles made it possible for the church to provide a descent living for everybody, so that “there were no needy persons among them.” (4:34).
Now, we must remember that in the time of the New Testament there were no bank accounts. Everyone got paid in cash when they received their salary. This meant that even after the initial Great Selling of Everything, Christians in Jerusalem would receive their income individually (and most women, children and disabled people would not have any income at all). (more…)
So it’s no secret that several American prosperity preachers are ridiculously rich. When I’m out speaking about the importance of combining signs and wonders with simplicity and community of goods, my favourite bad example is charismatic Word of Faith leader Kenneth Copeland, who owns a mansion worth six million dollars, two private jets and his own airport, the Kenneth Copeland Airport, where he keeps his jets close to his million-dollar mansion. Most of his money is from ordinary people, who donate thinking that they’re doing something good for God’s Kingdom and that God will bless them with riches as well.
In a recent video, Copeland and Jesse Duplantis give some horrible reasons for why they “need” their luxurious jet planes: they need to stand up and pray, avoid people who want them to pray for them and who are filled with demons, sleep on the plane and travel long distances across America basically every single day. Now, you can stand up and pray on a commercial airline, or sit doing it; ministering to people is obviously a good thing and if you tired just tell them; and rather than spending millions of dollars on these pieces of luxury, I think it would be healthy for these men to travel less and sleep in normal beds more often.
Not only are private jets incredibly expensive when you buy them, but as J. Lee Grady has pointed out, maintenance costs about four million dollars per year, and a flight costs about 100 times more compared to using a normal plane. Flying is very harmful to the environment, and that harm increases enormously when using a private jet instead of a plane that many people fit into; just like buses are better for God’s creation than cars.
Mammonism, the idea that it’s OK for Christians to accumulate and possess wealth, has brought too many saints into ruin and destruction. This teaching kills poor people, as well as corrupts the sanctification process of the rich. Mammon, Wealth, is an enemy to God and it’s really important that we strive for simplicity and equality instead of trying to be as rich as possible.
I have been talking a lot about this in my God vs Wealth Youtube series, and I’ve written about it in my e-book God vs Inequality, but I still felt the need to gather all arguments I have for why Christians shouldn’t be rich in one lecture. It’s one hour long, and you can watch it right here:
In the video I discuss Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching on wealth and poverty, the wealth of patriarchs and kings in the Old Testament and why it’s not normative for Christians, the woman and the alabaster jar, prosperity theology, and much more. I pray that this will equip God’s people to promote simplicity and equality even more.
Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.
In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”
The moral argument for why wealth is wrong, on the other hand, is brilliantly summarized by the apostle John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” As I explained in my article about a Christian World Vision, Jesus-followers should without doubt apply the same moralic standpoint on non-believers as well. (more…)
Jesus calls wealth “deceptive” and said that it stifles the obedience to the word of God like thorns (Matthew 13:22). Paul says that we should be content with food and clothing and says that those who want to get rich fall into temptation and snares, which throws men into destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6: 8-9). James takes an even harsher view: “Listen, you rich, weep and howl for all miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches will rot and your clothes devoured by moths. “(James 5: 1-2) Even Jesus lamenented the rich, while he praised the poor as blessed (Luke 6: 20-24).
The more money and gadgets wealthy people keep for themselves, the less they give to the poor by definition. You can not spend a hundred on makeup while providing the same hundred to a humanitarian organization. The Apostle John writes: “If anyone has earthly possessions and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). John the Baptist proclaimed: “Whoever has two tunics should share with the one that has none, and he who has food should do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)
How does the rich Christian relate to the Bible’s radical teaching on wealth control and economic equality? Many do not feel particularly comfortable with it and try to find theological justifications why they can nevertheless be rich. An example of this is the prosperity theology, “Health and Wealth” – message, which says that Christians not only can but should be rich as a result of a strong faith. My impression is that this theology is rarer today than, for example in the 1980s, and that most Christians now agree with St. Paul that prosperity preachers “have lost the truth when they say that fear of God should lead to pofitability.” (1 Timothy 6: 5). (more…)