As a Christian, I have been misled about giving money. I hurl no accusations here. All the people I have known throughout the years who have taught me either formally or informally have been, as far as I know, good Christian folks. Therefore, I am going to chalk up this misinformation to ignorance—mine included. After all, I believed it all and didn’t bother to check what I’d heard against Scripture. For that, I have asked the Lord’s forgiveness. My ignorance was stunning. It’s embarrassing.
Here is one example. Have you ever heard this passage used in a teaching about giving money? “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 NKJV).
If you thought this verse was about cash, you were snookered. Bamboozled. Yes, I’ll say it—deceived. This is the verse in context:
“‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’ He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye’” (Luke 6:37–42 ESV).
What topic is Jesus is addressing here? Clearly, it is love, with an exhortation to forgive and a challenge to judgmentalism. When, how, or why someone snatched one sentence out of this teaching and applied it to money no one knows but the Lord. When I first discovered this, I had to force myself to keep placing that sentence back into its context. That’s how embedded in my Christian brain this out-of-context sentence was.
If you have taught or believed this, I recommend that you ask for the Lord’s forgiveness, too. You have been involved in Scripture twisting. Thankfully, we serve a loving and gracious God.
Perhaps you noticed that I did not apply any ulterior, deceptive motive in the use of this misapplied text by Christian teachers. I sincerely hope that is true. However, I would like to open a discussion about money and its enormous power—not only in the secular world but in the church world. I am greatly concerned about its influence in the Church, and the primary text that challenges me is the Parable of Sower. If you are familiar with this parable, you know that the Sower scattered seed that fell on four different environments: a path, rocky ground, thorny ground, and good soil. Without going into an exposition of the entire parable—which would be wonderful, by the way—the ground I would like to turn our attention to the thorny ground on which the third seed landed. Jesus explained why this seed was unfruitful: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
I don’t know if you spotted this, but Jesus tossed a spiritual grenade smack dab into the middle of the Christian world—well, the whole world, actually. His two stunning detonations are:
- Riches are deceitful. Corollary one: Wealth can be a spiritual enemy. Corollary two: I am a fool if I don’t think I have been deceived by riches.
- The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches cause the seeds that Jesus disperses, not to die, but to be unfruitful. And this, in my opinion, is one of the fundamental problems of the Church today and has been for a very long time.
There is much to say about this, and we will continue to look at the topic of money and Christian life in the next few posts. But my first proof concerning this crisis is the example of misapplication of Scripture referenced at the beginning of this post. Money has caused the truth of God’s Word not to die in the hearts of Christians but to render His glorious, heart-challenging truth to become unfruitful. Too many of us are lah-tee-dah believers, whose hearts are not laser focused on our astonishing Creator and Sustainer-of-all-that-exists God and Savior, but are engaged…elsewhere. The pervasive influence of wealth in the Church has resulted in a systematized tendency toward spiritual poverty.