Welcome back.

I have two posts today. This one and another below. Here’s a question to get things going:

  • Is it a Christ following value to create wealth?

Sam Rima dropped by our place yesterday and inspired us to ask, what is our wealth for?

Also, check out “into the mystic…” reader and contributor Peter Kim’s blog for his pov on this: “Being Rich is Not Bad (August 11).

This is especially relevant today with the catastrophe in Niger happening before our very eyes.

What do you think?

Photograph moon rising over Cafe Santorini (photographer: Manus)

Into the mystic…

Alex McManus


46 responses to “Following Christ or Culture? (1)”

  1. Nicolas Nelson Avatar

    This is something my wife and I are wrestling through right now, having been inner city missionaries for 13.5 years and now finding ourselves building a home in Los Angeles, and being able to fill it with my parents’ furniture and art.

    I had seen, and frequently defended, a life of little wealth as a good and godly thing, the proper aspiration of nearly all serious followers of Christ. I saw a place for wealthy Christians in the kingdom, sure, but generally held to Roger Greenway’s views as expressed in his (still excellent) article “18 Barrels and Two Large Crates” (EMQ 1992): whatever our income, we need to examine our lifestyles, and ask ourselves if our belongings inhibit our belonging. A surfeit of belongings seemed to correlate with a lack of concern for others, particularly “the least” (Matthew 25:40, 45).

    Now I find God has brought me into, as I see it, more balance. Roger’s bottom-line question is as relevant and penetrating as ever, but my vision for ministry has grown to include more kinds of people than just the destitute urban poor. I found myself in a place where my _lack_ of belongings, and the poor quality of my home, inhibited my belonging with many of the new kinds of people I was called to embrace.

    Related to this, the apparent correlation of wealth and lack of concern for the least has been broken, for me. It is now clear that wealth/poverty, amount or absence of belongings, has little to do with how concerned a person is for others… the very poor can be just as callous as the very rich, and those who are financially strapped can own far more stuff than many who enjoy top-tax-bracket incomes. The real correlation of compassion vs. callousness is with our loyalty to a master, either Jesus or Mammon (that lovely oldfashioned word that sounds risque to our unchurched friends!).

    I have recently been “beating importunately upon” the parable of the shrewd steward, and it has yielded fascinating insights to me… but that is far too involved to get into on this blog! (if anyone is interested I might post the whole evolving exegetical enchilada on my own blog though)

  2. Alex Avatar

    Nic, always thoughtful. Thanks. Here’s a question for you: Is “balance” a Christ following virtue?

  3. Mike Avatar

    I’m not trying to avoid your question… but I wonder if wealth is really created? Or is it hoarded?

    Certainly we don’t want to be known as hoarders of wealth, while so many lack the very necessities of life, but the bottom line (at least for most of us who will ever read this blog) is that we are swimming (or drowning) in the wealth that is around us.

    I wouldn’t say that it’s wrong for me to have been born in, and to live in, a wealthy nation, but if I’m employing that wealth only for my own benefit… definitely not a Christ following value. Everything He did was for the other. I keep hearing Him say, “Seek first the kingdom…” “Whatever you do for the least of these…” I keep seeing Him empty Himself in order to touch us.

    I guess my opinion is that wealth is there and if ‘creating’ it means hoarding it, then that’s not a Christ following value. But on the backside of that pile of coins is the potential for a measure of compassionate relief. We can’t share what we don’t have.

  4. Alex Avatar

    Mike. Thanks for the comment. I think you’re right about hoarding. You write: “I guess my opinion is that wealth is ‘there’…” Just so I can understand your thoughts, where is “there”?

  5. Sam Avatar

    Great Question Alex … one that I enjoyed discussing with you Friday. And, Thanks so much for the Hospitality a true gift you and Niza have! I have never felt at home more quickly than I did at your house, and Niza’s lunch was AMAZING, really!

    Regarding Nic’scomment I would say I appreciate his grappling with the issue. One of my concerns is that one of the inherent characteristics of material wealth is that it has a tendency to impact our heart in direct proportion to the amount of it we possess and I do not believe that it is something we as humans can necessarily control. The more we possess and the more valuable it is, the more it tends to control us (which is to say, that is where our heart increasingly is directed). A simple test of this principle is the “Rich Young Ruler Test.” Could you honestly sell it all anf give it to the poor and follow Jesus elsewhere if that is what He called you to do? Obviously, the one with fewer possessions (and who is a committed Christ-follower) will find it much easier to follow, while those like the rich young ruler, will find it much more difficult. We do not even realize the insideous affect material wealth has on us, until it is too late – that is it’s inherent danger! It’s not that wealth is evil, it the affect it has on us that is evil. That is why Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to get into Heaven. Even the disciples recognized the radical nature of this statement as they replied, “Then who can get into heaven?” I’m afraid that just living in the west (U.S.) has caused us to lose ALL perspective on material wealth. The current wealth we collectively possess as Christians could literally change the face of planet earth if we made it available to the Master; truly seeking first His Kingdom above all else — and, paradoxically, we would be the winners as HE met ALL of our needs and more! It’s time to get radical!

  6. Lori Avatar

    Sam, I agree with you on many levels.
    1. The McManus’ have an incredible gift of hospitality
    2. Niza is a great cook
    3. The more we have, the more we struggle.
    I think the big question is, where is the line for you? At what point are you personally convicted over having too much? There is definitely a place for affluence (someone has to support missionaries!), but the real question is your ability to be a good steward with it…
    Alex’s initial question was about creating wealth, but isn’t wealth a measure of work? I think Jesus is definitely pro-working, but the true nature of our hearts is revealed when we take the check home.

  7. Lori Avatar

    PS… Love the podcast…I get to hear you AND Niza at the same time! Keep making them!

  8. SAM Avatar

    Lori … very good point! I think the line for me is when I am not able to live without my material wealth at a moments notice for the sake of following the call; again, the “Rich Young Ruler” test is relevant, I think. It helps us descern when we possess the things, or they have begun to possess us. That, I believe, is an important issue.

  9. ginny Avatar

    this is a really interesting discussion. i really appreciate the thoughts and suggestions on the ‘rich young ruler’ test. for what it’s worth, i also think that we need to be ready to let go of whatever material wealth we have accumulated as needed to continue on our journey toward God. as soon as we let what we’ve accumulated to get in the way of who we’ve been created to be, we place those ‘things’ right in between ourselves and God.

    i also think that i’m called to share what i have ‘in common.’ this means that whatever i have, i believe it’s here to share with others. this starts in our home and neighborhood and extends as far as we can–no borders. i’ve come to appreciate the difference between a scarcity mentality (glass is half empty) and perspective of abundance (glass is half full). with a perspective of abundance, there’s always more than i need, plenty to share–plenty of loaves and fishes.

    thanks for the encouragement to reflect…and act.

  10. Anne Jackson Avatar

    Hey Alex,
    Just wanted to say hey, and was thinking about you guys today. Miss you guys a lot! 🙂

  11. Sally Schilling Avatar

    What if you haven’t the material wealth, but because of status or prestige, you have other benefits that are difficult to give up. Henri Nouwen comes to mind – already a priest without material wealth, he left his prestigous post to live among the least of them. Could we do that?

  12. Joshua Shanklin Avatar

    In reading through Acts 2 with a friend today, this wealth question came up as we were discussing “all the believers lived in wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” Our discussion led us to comparing economic systems. Acts 2 reminds us of communism (supernatural, voluntary, love inspired communism). Forced, fear motivated communism didn’t work. (Which always leaves me so in awe and curious about China, Chinese Communism, and the Church in China.) Compare this to our current capitalistic economic system, generally fueled by competition, and greed. Henri Nouwen says you cannot suffer with someone who you are in competiton with. As humans, created in God’s image, are we able to conclude that we were designed to live together with one another in something that resembles communism? Acts 2 ends with “every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” I realize there was alot more going on here than just sharing belongings, but if this financial approach to life, this supernatural, voluntary, love inspired communism contributes to advancing the Kingdom of God, then shouldn’t we examine it closely?

    So…is it a Christ following value to create wealth? Where’s the wealth going?

  13. Peter Avatar

    People may call me idealistic but I have this vision of Christian free market entrepreneurs creating wealth in order to improve the lives of those who do not otherwise have opportunities.

    Pura Vida Coffee is one example of a Christian company that created a business around giving good wages to coffee growers and using some profits to create schools and other social institutions in the areas they employee people.

    I just wonder if many “socially concerned” Christians like Sider and Campolo have too cynical of a view of capitalism and the free market. When people ask questions like “So…is it a Christ following value to create wealth? Where’s the wealth going?”, the answer is obvious to me–to improve the lives of those who currently live in poverty. But many people have this cynical view that business is only good for people generating more wealth for themselves.

    I don’t agree that as people gain more wealth, they grow in love with it more. I grew up in a working class family and I saw everyone around me basically working for the love of money. I saw more desire for money in that environment than I do in my current urban middle class situation.

  14. Michelle Avatar

    Great question, with other-worldly timing! Tonight at our new house church gathering, we were exploring the gifts we all bring to our community; the children and the adults were part of the scripture and discussion. I opened with Acts 2:42+ to describe the way that the first followers existed in community.

    My son (8 y.o.) opened the discussion by saying “I like that” and sitting in my lap, satisified with what he had heard. I asked him to tell us more, and he said “They were acting like real Christians…you know, normal. They sold their things and gave the money to those who needed it.” One of the men in the room pointed out that Sam’s version of “normal” doesn’t seem very normal to most of the world, and we all chewed on the fact that we are raising a generation of relatively wealthy children who know the one who has blessed them and don’t lay claim to that wealth, underneath it all. (One of the families in our house church is currently homeless, squatting where they can for now, so our corporate definition of wealth is fairly unconventional, but deeply true.)

    Yes, we are wealthy (by most standards), but the grasp can be loose and the door can be flung wide for all who are thirsty, tired, hungry, or sick. Don’t you think? It’s part of having a heart that is in step with the spirit, at peace in the choas (consumptive nature) of the world without giving in to the demands of the chaotic current.

  15. Brian Russell Avatar

    John Wesley had three simple rules for the early methodists that I continue to find helpful today:

    1) Earn all you can.
    2) Save all you can.
    3) Give all you can.

    It is important to remember that #s 1 and 2 were the means to realizing #3. Wesley himself made millions (in today’s dollars), but he gave a huge percentage (something like 90% if I recall correctly) away.

    Regardless of the amount of wealth, we need to refrain from an ostentatious lifestyle and embrace a more simplistic one so that our resources can be channeled toward “kingdom living.”

    This in itself is a powerful witness in our hipster, consumer driven culture that there is something much greater for which to live!

  16. Steve Watson Avatar

    > Is it a Christ following value to create wealth?

    I’ve thought about this for a couple of days. I echo Sam’s comments.

    In regards to Alex’s question, I think money (wealth) is neutral. As other commenters have alluded, heart response and motivations affect where it falls on the spectrum.

    Some comments and what I’ve heard in American churches have me concerned that we (Western followers of Christ) have dropped the ball somewhere between exegesis and contextualization. The words and message that Jesus portrayed seems farther removed from our Western attempts to explain how followers should deal with wealth, money, responsibilities and hindrances.

    When was the last time you heard a preacher stand before a crowd of rich men and invite them to ‘sell all their possessions and give them to the poor’ (Lk 18)? When did we hear of preachers being sent out with instructions to ‘take nothing for the journey’ (Lk 9)? Do we ‘justify ourselves in the eyes of men yet God knows our hearts’ in regards to how we justify our money (Lk 16)?

    In an effort to make the message palatable to the wealthiest group of people in history, who are daily inundated with messages of wealth and prosperity, have we contextualized the hard words of Jesus to the point that they’ve lost the firmness he spoke with?

    “Yes, but no one wants to hear that message in churches.” “No one will respond if that message is preached.” “We live in the 21st century with much different circumstances, we’re preaching the core of his message to those who will hear.”

    Jesus spoke more about money than He did most other topics. As much as we like to think we are so much different, there were very rich people who walked away saddened because they couldn’t respond to his hard message. There were wealthy people who came out to be among the poor and hear of this one who had news of the Kingdom of God. There were people who abandoned everything – livelihood, families, tax responsibilities, who knows maybe even loans on their fishing boats – to follow after a man who promised them a life of purpose and promise beyond the wealth of this world.

    We live thousands of years later and light years beyond the culture but if Jesus’ message is still needed today, we must be faithful to accurately represent what he has entrusted us with. Let us not in the name of contextualization and relevant messages, soft sell the radical message that Jesus still calls today.

    (not directed to anyone in particular here – just something on my heart as I’ve meditated on this idea)

  17. Mike Avatar


    What I meant by saying that the wealth is ‘there’ is that there is today a latent potential to capitalize on resources, experiences, information, other people, etc. in the world. This capital can be exploited for personal gain (i.e. hoarding it), put to use to build the kingdom and care for others, or simply left latent… but it’s there.

    That may be kind of a side-issue to what we’re really discussing here, though. The real issue may be how we define wealth. When Jesus talked about storing up treasure, that sounds like collecting wealth to me. But it’s a wealth that is nested in whole different economy. It’s a wealth that is eternal (and again, the potential to capitalize this wealth is latent all around us in the world today).

    If we can use our temporal, material wealth to build up the Kingdom of God – then we must. But we have to always keep in mind the economy of God, where material wealth is little more than dross in a life of service to Him.

    In that light, creating wealth isn’t just a Christ-following value – it was a command. (Not wealth on earth, but treasure in heaven)

  18. Alex Avatar


    I read Acts and think that the first century believing community has no more in common with communism than it does with capitalism.

    What say the rest of you?

  19. Mike Avatar

    I think it has more to do with the spirit of sacrificial generosity. When I was in high school, I used to tick people off by arguing for this kind of ‘Christian-communism’, but the more I understand about the nature of communism and the more I understand about the nature of God – the less I try to force that argument.

    These people in the early church were just living out what they saw Jesus do. They did whatever possible, parted with whatever necessary to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God was here and that values are different in that kingdom.

  20. Joseph Dworak Avatar

    Great discussion – I have thought about a lot of what is being talked about in this post. I will say one thing, that i have said before somewhere I am sure – I had an Agnostic philosophy professor in college – he believed in some higher power and was an expert in world religions. He said in class that the greatest example of humans he had ever encountered in all his studies was first century Christians. What a powerful witness they were.

    Now, I am not advocating communism – but I am advocating helping those around you however you can. Generosity is about giving more than you receive – do you do that? Do I do that? JVD

  21. Lu Avatar

    What a loaded question.
    I guess the first thing I need to know is, as Mike pointed out, how are you defining “wealth”? — Monetary wealth? Spiritual wealth? Emotional wealth? relational wealth? mental wealth?

    There’s the wealth of knowledge, wealth of family, wealth of relationships, wealth of wisdom, wealth of money, wealth of position, prestige or power, wealth of… well, you name it.

    Personally I think you’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about whether or not creating /wealth is a godly value, but whether or not one’s motivation for doing so is.

    Jesus told us to seek first His Kingdom, yes? So, if I’m seeking His Kingdom, but discover in the process that I could better accomplish the task He’s placed before me and release the passions He’s placed in me with a higher degree of education for myself, or by teaching others what I have learned, then is my motivation for creating wealth of knowledge godly? Does it fit in with the parable of the talents that someone mentioned earlier?

    I am convinced that every kind of wealth can be used for evil or for good. I, like several others have mentioned, strongly disagree with the idea that the more we have the more in love with it we are. I have seen many who have very little angrily covet what others have and are driven to get some of their own. I have also seen many who have great wealth — relationally, emotionally, spiritually, wisdom, knowledge, whatever else you can think — and they do not horde it in any way, but fling it freely and generously to all who need, or even who are there.

    This is what I see in Acts 2. Not communism, but community. A huge difference. People who live in true community give their wealth to those in need, and are willing to do whatever it takes (selling one’s possessions, for example) to ensure that those needs are met. They give out of their wealth of knowledge, of time, or strengths/abilities/gifts, of emotions, of love, of compassion, of wisdom, of physical strength, and yes, even their money. They give because their hearts are focused on Jesus, and it is His Kingdom right here on earth that they seek.

    It is about our hearts. That is God is most concerned about. He doesn’t want our “wealth”, He wants our hearts. What we do from there in order to increase His Kingdom, bring it about right here right now, is really up to us.

  22. Sally Schilling Avatar

    Aren’t communism and capitalism religions? Was the Acts church a religion? I don’t think so. The minute we attempt to define God’s church by imposing man made religions, categories and philosophies on it, we limit the potential of the church organism and constrain the Holy Spirit.

  23. Mike Avatar

    Lu–I agree with you. I think the question needs to go to motivation. Are we using what God has given us for the sake of advancing the kingdom?

    Also, if we can use the “parable of the talents” as an example, God will hold those who have a greater capacity to earn money more accountable for how they use it in this world.

  24. Peter Avatar

    Lu, I like your comments.

    Sally–although I commend the heart behind your words, I have to express some strong disagreement. Because we are human, the church is inevitably expressed through man-made institutions, categories and philosophies. Sociology, anthropology, economics, and other social sciences are used to help explain the human experience. It would be ignorant to ignore all of these and just say something like “the Bible is the only social science textbook I need”; whether we recognize it or not, we all have a baseline worldview that’s shaped not just by the Bible but also by various worldly philosophies.

    As much as we tend to idealize the Acts 2 community, it was far from ideal. The only “ideal” community we will ever experience will be in heaven. The Acts 2 community suffered from the same limitations that all church communities are bound by, simply because we are sinful human beings in need of God’s forgiveness.

  25. Michael Binder Avatar
    Michael Binder

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to read all of your thoughts on this topic, as I’m new to Alex’s blog. I’ve heard Sam speak on this several times as well, and he has very good thoughts. 2 Cor. 8:3-4 strikes me in these types of conversations as very helpful. Paul describes that Macedonian churches as giving as much as they were able, “and even beyond their ability (to give)”. I think this resonates with many of the comments made in here in that there is a question of willingness that is key. Are we willing to give when we have the opportunity, are we willing to give even beyond what we can afford (note Alex’s question on biblical nature of balance in life)? I for one cannot note a personal time where I gave to the point where I went into debt. And while I don’t think this verse demands we do so, it does seem to underscore the importance of understanding our own willingness to do so.

  26. Sally Schilling Avatar

    My apologies for not having explained and qualified my earlier statements and questions. First, each of us has been enculturated early on by a secular culture producing our worldview, and reinforced by the daily choices we make. Unfortunately most followers of Jesus experience and maintain a dichotomy of worldviews – the second being our Jesus worldview. The lens with which we study the data WILL interpret the data, but which lens are we using?
    Because of the complexity, history and broad nature of the socio economic systems of our secular culture, we lean toward application without studying, identifying, vigilantly applying, or moving beyond them.
    Ideally we blend the two worldviews. Whether we blend, use one or the other, we must be informed and aware of the categories and not just casually flow with them. Yes, theologians, academians and interested individuals most likely are, but my experience within the general population does not indicate a need to know and pursue.
    I do think viewing and participating in the church with a secular worldview, imposes self limits on our understanding of the church. (But God can and will do whatever he wants to change that – too.)
    We’re in agreement on Acts 2 church, and the only truly ideal church being when our journey is complete on earth.

  27. Alex Avatar

    Luke tells us that the early believing community had individuals and families bringing of their “own” wealth [not the State’s wealth or the Church’s –in the sense of an institution–wealth] and sharing it with others.

    In our conversation with Sam Rima, his concern was with capitalism as “the accumulation of capital” in the sense of hoarding wealth.

    Peter’s view is that those with the gift of creating wealth can actually be a gift to others because through their reinvestment of that wealth they create opportunities for others.

    I love Brian’s trilogy:

    Earn all you can
    Save all you can
    Give all you can

    What if we tweaked it like this?

    Create all the wealth you can
    Save what you need
    Invest in opportunities for others all you can
    Give all you can

    or how about this?

    earn much
    horde nothing
    save what is needed
    invest plenty
    give everything

    What do you think?

  28. Steve Watson Avatar

    Alex, I like it. Good suggestions for living. And definitely counter cultural.

  29. Bill Clark Avatar

    As a political economist and follower of Christ I find this topic tantalizing….I have a tone of other obligations pressing on me at the moment, but I hope to get back to read all these comments carefully.

    But at the end of the day, Brian’s paraphrase of Wesley may say it all. Rick Warren, for example, seems to be modelling that beautifully at the moment.


  30. Joshua Shanklin Avatar

    It would be interesting to ask this question of those who don’t have the opportunity to create wealth. It’s been challenging, examining our American lifestyle with my wife and our friends this week. What if the answer to the original question was No, it’s not a Christ following value to create wealth. That’s a much tougher pill to swallow. In a moment of honesty, I hope the answer is yes, then my life won’t have to change as much.

    Alex, based on websters and broken down to basics, I’m told what to do with my money, or I get to decide what to do with my money. Either way, the fallen heart of man gets in the way. Acts 2 transcends these systems in that these are people living out fully as followers of Jesus. It’s the supernatural seen in the natural. Ohh to live there more often.

    By the way Alex, I’m still intrigued by China. Any suggested paths to learning more?

  31. Alex Avatar

    Josh, good contribution.

    On China…I have several friends serving in China. One suggested learning path would be to connect with them and get on their newsletters. You’ll get an inside view of what moving to and living in China is like. Let me know if you’re interested.

    On Creating Wealth… Josh, I suggest that if the answer to our question — is creating wealth a Christ-following value? — is “yes” our lives would have to change more than if the answer were “no”…and in more positive (and difficult) ways too.

    Totally agree with you about the “fallen heart” getting in the way. This is Sam’s concern. What needs to happen to keep capitalism from becoming nothing more than the accumulation and hoarding of wealth. And yes, I agree the Christ following community described in Acts is definitely not communist and certainly not capitalistic…it is in it’s economic practices following Christ somewhat.

  32. Alex Avatar

    Bill, there you are. I was wondering if you were going to chime in.
    There’s a question I’ve been wondering about and you’re the guy I want to ask.

    Q: Has capitalism been better than Marxism for the poor or vice versa?

    Family friend, Viv Grigg, suggests that capitalism is better for the poor in his book, Cry of the Urban Poor. Moreover, Viv (who is a New Zealander) notes that Peter Berger has adequately argued this fact in his book, “The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty premises about Prosperity, Equality and Liberty,” (New York: Basic Books, 1987).

  33. Steve Watson Avatar

    On China:
    Josh, a few ideas to feed your intrigue. Find some Chinese in your area and meet friends to spend time with. Go visit China. Watch their TV and Movies. Find a Chinese Church. Learn Chinese. Read about China. Let it well up inside of you until it feels like it’s going to burst.

    Alex, I’d be pleased to get on your friends newsletters too. I start Mandarin classes in a couple of weeks.

  34. Peter Avatar

    Whether capitalism or communism/socialism is better for the “poor” is a complex question because “wealth” is a relative term.

    In a capitalist system, there are inherent class divisions. You’ll have the poor and the rich and everything in between.

    In an idealistic socialist system, there are no class divisions. There would be no such thing as the “poor”. (I would argue that human nature would prevent anything close to “ideal” socialism existing since those in power would likely form an upper class, thus creating a two-class society.)

    So the question is are we comfortable with the idea of there being such a thing as “poor” and “rich”? I get the sense that a lot of Christians I know are uncomfortable with capitalism because they feel like there’s something wrong with acknowledging that class divisions have to exist. I sense they have a feeling of guilt that they were lucky enough to be beneficiaries of the capitalist system while others seem to have difficulties getting by.

  35. Joseph Dworak Avatar

    I have some friends who live in Sweden. A proud socialist country. They offer free education, through the doctoral level and a great health care & benefits package for all who qualify. Now, I don’t know the exact economics on this, but I think their system is about to implode because it cannot pay for itself – on a side note, there is a mini-revival going on there with Willow Creek church plants replacing the dead state church – pretty cool. JVD

  36. Joshua Shanklin Avatar

    Alex, I am very interested in getting in on the newsletters.

    Thanks for the encouragement Steve. Where are you taking Mandarin?

    Great insight Peter. We talked at dinner with a group of friends about this very thing. We’ve addressed the “pink elephant in the room” now what do we do about it?

  37. Steve Watson Avatar

    Josh, the local Chinese community has a school to teach their children Chinese language and culture. They have an adult class I’ll be in. I’ll get to be with Chinese and learn Chinese. I’ll start a foundation there and then look at more formal classes eventually. I’ll dig a bit and see if I can find anything where you live.

  38. Conrad Weber Avatar
    Conrad Weber

    I’m new to your blog, Alex…great question. I’ve wrestled a lot with this in my own recent life experiences…I’ve moved from college to church music staff to a couple of years in the corporate world to a current real estate venture involving owning and remodeling a bunch of apartments. I’ve never had the chance to possibly make a lot of money until now…so I’m living in this question these days…some random thoughts…

    -The creation of wealth itself is nothing more than a thing… in my opinion, and echoing several other comments already made, the use of the wealth created and the heart posture of the one creating the wealth are the important factors.

    -I’ve been blown away by how my heart can become comletely gripped with the potential of a deal that could pay off big…I’ve had to go grab a Bible after a meeting and detox with Matthew 6 to remind myself that my primary job is to seek God’s kingdom. I know now why Jesus told the rich ruler to sell everything…not because I’m rich but because I’ve tasted a sip of the money wine and it’s very, very good…and I can see how it could completely capture your heart. On the other hand, when you people, and I know several like this, who create a lot of wealth and are not a slave to it…and can freely give when called upon by God…they are an extremely powerful tool for the kingdom…not only can they give what they presently have, but they have the ability to keep creating and giving more. But I think it’s hard work to keep your heart in that place….probably easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle….and then I sometimes find myself wanting to be that kind of a person….so that I can get more money :(.

    -God’s been telling me lately that I need to focus on keeping my heart free from the love of money–and to start now…with whatever I’m making…by giving it away. I see guys who are tremendously gifted at making money, but the time when they’re really going to kick it in gear for the Kingdom is “out there” somewhere….when the next big deal comes through. Problem is, the next deal helps finance the next, and on it goes. If we can’t hold ten bucks loosely today, we’ll hold on even tighter to a hundred or a thousand down the road.

    -I think your remake of Brian’s trilogy is excellent, but we need to take a hard look at the “needed” part of “save what is needed.” As I hear daily reports of all the suffering going on in various parts of the world, I’m feeling more and more that our definition in the American church of what we “need” is unbelievably warped…and I’m not sure yet what to with that in my own life…as I type this on our new computer with a nice flat screen that we really “needed”. I’m not at all advocating legalistic sacrifice, but we don’t have a clue what “need” really is.

    -Final thought, sorry this got long…as I see the potential for money to be used for Kingdom good, I can’t help wondering if there’s a way to smear the lines between those in the business world and those in “full time ministry.” It wouldn’t be easy, but there has to be a way for talented money makers to walk with God in such a way that they understand that in the middle of creating wealth, they are to seek God’s Kingdom. Examples: I want to approach a builder friend of mine about this. He has multiple homes going up at the same time…he could easily buy a lot and put up a nice but affordable home for a needy family…and let them have it at or below cost…he could have one project like that going all the time and still have plenty of money left over. It wouldn’t be about throwing money at a church project, it would be about a Christ-follower doing kingdom work as a part of what he does in the marketplace.

    For myself..a tenant approached me today about wanting old supplies to put in a run-down house that’s been given to her…she’s a single mom trying to scrape some money together to fix up this house and move out of our apartments. I’m going to contact a local church who already has a team in place to do these types of mission projects–maybe we can get her help to fix it right. I might help myself lose a tenant, but maybe I can use this platform to futher the Kingdom…I am creating wealth, but it’s not all about me or the money…it’s about the Kingdom. Am I making sense? Gotta run..

  39. Pete from Genesis Avatar
    Pete from Genesis

    Wow. My first visit to the site, and this is a subject that has been more and more on my mind – I love the discussion !
    My own insight on this has been a long time coming; I used to think that I was living a life that wasn’t full of extravagance and excess, as I wasn’t making a lot of money. I have been learning more and more about what is really “needed” since I have now been living on less than ten thousand dollars a year ! Yes, that includes paying rent, having an old car, and still giving some to charity ( not a lot, but I try ).
    I understand that my “quality” of life ( by Western standards !) isn’t economically as wonderful as it was when I made more, but through the help of others in the body of Christ, I have all I need, and I appreciate even more that I have so much more than probably over 80% of the rest of the world. I was a lousy steward of my finances when I made more, and didn’t have the thankfulness and appreciation I have today – so I believe that my estimation of what I “needed” was completely colored by the society I lived in, and I have NEEDED this humbling experience in order to shatter those notions and create an attitude of gratitude for God’s care of me. I’m now glad I haven’t received what I’ve wanted, and REALLY glad I haven’t gotten what I DESERVE !!!
    I think money in the hands of an untempered spirit leads to idolatry and excess, self – righteous self centeredness in the extreme… although there are plenty of poor that have these same attributes, it is true !
    I have seen the lifestyle of socialism in communes and kibbutz, in the Amish enclaves and others, and it seems to work; the problem seems to come when Pride and Ego and Power overwhelms one or more of the participants.
    I could go on, but I’ll have to come back and read more; Thank you Alex, for inviting me !!!

  40. Alex Avatar

    Hey, Pete. You made it. Welcome.

  41. Marty Scherr Avatar

    Hello All –
    I am new to the site and I wanted to respond to all that has been said about the wealth question. I am by no means gifted in the area of writing so bear with me if you would. I have recently felt a call into fulltime Christian ministry in the area of camping. In order to fulfill this calling, I am need to sell my home, and save enough money to pay for a year of training during which I will not be able to make any income. I attend Quarry Church in Monticello, Minnesota: http://www.quarrychurch.org. In Church on Sunday and I happened to open my NIV Bible to Mark 6:8 ” These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” This passage reminded me that when Christ called us to ministry he often requires great sacrifice on our part. I also stumbled across the verse: Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
    I’m not saying that the pursuit of wealth is wrong, but I do believe that those who are called into ministry need to be careful that the pursuit of wealth is not distracting them from their mission. I believe the order of priority for Christians in regards to wealth is as follows:

    Determine your calling with God’s help
    Earn according to your calling
    Give what you are directed to give by God
    Save the rest and God will show you how you can use it wisely

    Let me know what think. Thanks.

  42. Alex Avatar


    Welcome to the mystic…

  43. Douglas Warkentin Avatar

    Christ value to create wealth.

    From the standpoint of the word wealth being somewhat universal, IE – wealth of what exactly?, I think it is a Christ value to create wealth. What we do with the wealth we accumulate is evident of which master we serve. Relational/Spiritual/Emotional/Physical/Monitary wealth. How do we use these to serve our King? Are we giving our wealth in a healthy, God honoring, Jesus following way? (see below)

    Went to see Cinderella Man. After, my wife comments about the era of the Depression and fear of its reoccurrence. My mind whirled with the realization that currently, people are living the great Depression right now. The scene when James J. Braddock enters the Gardens and asks for financial assistance to get his kids back. Some offer little (when they could give more), some offer much, some turn their heads and look away.

    What are we doing with our wealth, and I’m not talking just dollars and cents wealth!? That might be an even bigger question. (Hope I’m not too off topic….)

  44. […] This raises all bunch of other question about money and the accumulation of wealth being discussed over and into the mystic (Alex McManus blog) […]

  45. Andre Daley Avatar

    Great conversation Alex.
    Looks like my previous comment got cut off so I’ll try again.

    Alex said

    I love Brian’s trilogy:

    Earn all you can
    Save all you can
    Give all you can

    What if we tweaked it like this?

    Create all the wealth you can
    Save what you need
    Invest in opportunities for others all you can
    Give all you can

    My response: This is a good tweak but the problem of the NA culture’s seeming lack of interest in saving except to spend on something we want messes it up. I think also what we need so easily becomes everything.

    How do we speak to that cultural scenario from a Christian faith perspective?

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