Money. Cashola. Dosh. Mullah. Whatever we call it, we certainly burn through our fair share of it here in Australia. And it burns through many of us in our society, just as quickly. Here in Perth, the costs of living are extremely high. I am confronted on nearly a daily basis with the site of homelessness on the streets of our city. The faces; the aftermath of the ‘pressures of modern life’. Marketing, advertising and even our government encourage us to buy, buy, buy.
But we’re blessed here in Australia aren’t we? We’re called the lucky country; so much choice, so many options available for us at our fingertips. Many churches preach that God wants us to be materially wealthy. But is money and material wealth all it’s cracked up to be? Is wealth truly a blessing from God?
In ancient Israel and Judah, prosperity was just as much a curse for the nation as it was a blessing. The cycle of peace and prosperity was inevitably followed by moral corruption, then external oppression followed by running back to following the God of their fathers. Eat, sleep, deprave, repeat.
“…(Israel) forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer…” Judges 3:7-9
Prosperity often equated to periods of misery. They always seemed to attribute their wealth and comfort to have come from the false gods of their neighbours, or due to their own “awesomeness”, and forget whom it was created the world in which all the wealth and debt reside; and in whom we live and breathe and have our being. We neglect to consider the implications of a community’s unhealthy obsession with material wealth and possessions – and the resulting misery of those unable to keep up. There is a curse attached to this “blessing”.
The Language Barrier
Part of the problem is that our language is so confused; blessing, prosperity, wealth and money feel almost to by synonyms. But in scripture, they are not.
The word that the new Testament translators define as “blessing” is Makarios. This word, in the New Testament, is not talking about wealth and material goods.
3107/makários (“blessed”) describes a believer in enviable (“fortunate”) position from receiving God’s provisions (favor) – which (literally) extend(“make long, large”) His grace (benefits). This happens with receiving (obeying) the Lord’s inbirthings of faith. Hence, faith (4102/pístis) and 3107(makários) are closely associated (Ro 4:5-7,14:22,23; Rev 14:12,13).
In Christ, God gives us himself. This is the gospel; we get to call God ‘father’. We get to be family. This is the treasure that is worth selling everything we own to obtain (Matt 13:44). This is the coin that makes someone turn the whole house upside down in its search (Luke 15:8-10). A priceless item of beauty – that it makes everything else of value seem worthless.
To take the word blessing and use it in a financial narrative is like using Moet & Chandon in your toilet cistern.
It’s tearing up the Mona Lisa to use as toilet paper and using your smart phone to give it a good clean afterwards. It exposes our culture’s obsession with “things” and money, that we like sponges have absorbed.
Perhaps the church has become bored by the gospel? Maybe, after so long, the blessing we’ve received has lost its wonder and lustre. Our priceless item of beauty is not as desirable as it once was, and we think about what else we could have done with that money we paid for it. Maybe we’ve seen it all before, we’re bored with it now. Our society tells us about the things we must have, and perhaps we plan and dream about how we can use our gift to get those other things – and the lines between blessing and money blur.
We must learn to recognise that our understanding of blessings has been warped by the messages of our consumer driven society. Lets dust off our priceless gift, and gaze at it once more; gaze into the gospel until it begins to change us. How can being a child of God compare to anything that can be purchased or earned? What is God – chopped liver? We need to be amazed again; at how priceless our treasure actually is and what it cost for God to give it to us. The depth of our sin, and the height of God’s amazing love for us; that we should be called children of God.
When we view material wealth as the blessing scripture talks about, we are filling up our toilet cisterns. Excuse the analogy, but we need toilets, and dropping the kids off at the swimming pool is necessary; we need to do it and it is good that we do it.
Money in it’s right place is good, beneficial and healthy. It’s a great servant but a poor yet resilient, sneaky and unyielding master. Particularly in first world countries today; blessed rather, are we who are free from it’s grip.