Monday, March 13, 2006

"Sure, I'll manage that for you . . ."

It's unfortunate to me that the word that best encapsulates current evangelical teaching on money is 'stewardship.' I totally dig the reasoning that God owns everything, therefore, I must steward his stuff, not mine. However, we're running by a few steps that Jesus camped out on. I think it's fair to say that whenever Jesus talked about money, he talked like he was talking to a group of addicts. As always, I'm open to hearing some disagreement on that point, but I don't think the guts of his message was "steward it"; the guts of his teaching seems to be "put it down, and then take my hand." Now, what happens when you tell a group of addicts to 'steward' the object of their affection? . . . Something very similar to what we have now in American churches, I think. Of course, our whole lives become an issue of stewardship (being a good, trustworthy servant) eventually, but we've got to give up 'stewarding' our very lives before we're even a student of Jesus (again, according to Jesus). The first issue that must be dealt with, and repeated as necessary, is our white-knuckle grip on our lives, our dreams, our cash. Jesus' counsel is not to steward it, but to lose it, and follow him.

I know this has big implications. But the first issue to be dealt with when it comes to money isn't stewardship or tithing, but attachment, at least according to Jesus.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Serious Devotion

I don't think I'm done yet talking about money's tendency to hijack people that rightfully belong to Jesus. Maybe I won't be for a while. Oddly, I've actually been thinking more and more about the gospel. Specifically, the gospel of the reign of God coming to earth as announced and practiced by Jesus. The good news is that God, through Jesus, is becoming the organizing center of the world again, usurping and judging the current powers that be. I have to say, it's an amazing thought to me! God's will is going to be done here!! God's power and love are available here!!! The thing is, the more I think about the gospel in this way, the more I see how cash (and the dreams we think it can fulfill) is exactly the often preferred substitute for God and his gospel that Jesus said it was.

There's a (relatively) old song from nine inch nails (head like a hole) that has stuck with me from the first time I heard it. Something about the juxtaposition of 'god' and 'money' that was cutting, disturbing, and accurate:

god money i'll do anything for you
god money just tell me what you want me to
god money nail me up against the wall
god money don't want everything he wants it all
no, you can't take it . . .
no, you can't take that away from me . . .

god money's not looking for the cure
god money's not concerned about the sick among the pure
god money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised
god money's not one to choose
no, you can't take it
no, you can't take it
no, you can't take that away from me

Why, again, are Americans so busy? Why can't Americans have meaningful prayer time, or time for loving relationships and selfless service? Because we're devoted servants. We've got to take care of those tasks that serve our master's interests first. He says we can do the rest on our own time, whenever that may be.

Maybe we don't think that Jesus would take us as his servants. Or maybe we don't like or, more likely, don't really understand Jesus' dream for the world and for our lives in particular. Maybe we overestimate the extent of money's power, and fail to perceive the ways in which it will fail us. Maybe we're just unthinkingly doing what everyone does. Here's hoping we all rethink our devotion to money in light of Jesus' message: "The time's finally here. God has come to earth to rule and provide. Reconsider your life and trust this good news."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It's Still "News"

"God has finally come to rule the earth! Get on board with the real administration!"

If I asked 1000 random people to tell me what "the gospel" is in a sentence or two, I don't think I'd get one answer that has any similarity with the above statement. I think I might get a few like it if I limited the survey to people who identify as Christians. (I'll ask 30 PBA students tonight, so we'll see what turns up.) Now, I am not a guy that thinks there only a few ways to accurately talk about the good news that God has brought to humanity through Jesus--there are lots and lots, and even the best words can't fully capture it. In fact, I would love more people to think creatively about how to express the good news of Jesus. All that being said, though, the fact that even few Christians conceive of the gospel in a way that is at all similar to Jesus' announcement of it is, at least, worth some thought, at least for Christians.

Now, a couple of quick thoughts: Any version of the gospel is still news to me every morning when I wake up. I have to take a little time and effort to hear it right off the bat to have a decent shot of basing my day's decisions on it. I know I'm not alone in this. But what would happen, what would be different, if more and more people who already think about, remind themselves of, and otherwise try to "repent and believe" some version of the gospel started adding this version into the mix? And secondly, what if people who had never heard the gospel heard something like the above as their primary hearing? Assuming someone would still regard it as the best opportunity they had ever heard, what would they feel compelled to do in response? In addition to whatever those responses are, would the Lord's Prayer then become the standard and fitting prayer for new and old believers alike?