Jesus and Money

Jesus and Money

Recently in a comment, I was challenged regarding posting my stock selections; the concern from Chris was that such financial considerations were incongruous with the teachings of Jesus.

Chris Says:
September 18th, 2007 at 11:03 am
I find it somewhat ironic and mildly amusing that your blog contains articles of spirituality along with your market trading activity, especially since the Bible states that Jesus suggested we should exercise caution in mixing the two. That said, you may be on to something. Perhaps church attendence would increase if the priests set up some of those red flashing LED signs with messages such as “The Holy Father recommends a buy today on Goldman Sachs at $192.50/share.”

First, I want to make something perfectly clear – I’m not hyping any particular stock. I’m tracking by own personal stock trades publicly based on a Mechanical Investing forum at the Motley Fool. If I buy something, feel free to sell it. Or buy it, makes no difference to me. I had been doing something similar on the Motley Fool forum but then I thought, hey, I have a blog. Shouldn’t I blog on my blog?
🙂

I challenged Chris to give me some scripture he was concerned about, and Chris brought up 3 perfect examples:

Chris Says:
September 18th, 2007 at 9:58 pm e
I offer these passages:

“Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.’” Matt. 21:12-13 (see similar Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-16)

“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.” Matt. 6:19-21 (see similar Luke 12:33-4)

Also the parable in Luke 12:16-21, which is portrays a prosperous farmer who wishes to tear down his barns and build bigger ones but is warned by God: “You fool…”, and is concluded by Jesus saying: “This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.”

Absolutely perfect choices; I’m going to add one more, Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Let’s tackle each of those and see how it applies.

  • Matthew 21:12-13

This passage has a lot of lessons in it; for instance, it shows Jesus being angry and having a temper. Aren’t Christians supposed to be peaceful and bland? Jesus shows that there is a place for anger and we can learn from how he expressed it. Jesus was angry that religious leaders were standing between God and His people; the people could only use certain currency sold at the temple at very high exchange rates, and they could only sacrifice certain unblemished doves sold at high prices inside the temple, one couldn’t bring their own dove. Jesus was angry at those who would make money and put a barrier in front of people trying to worship God.

But… what about the money? Is Jesus somehow saying money and Christians don’t go together? I don’t see that in this passage. There *may* be some application to those who are selling Christian books, but even that’s a stretch unless you’re required to buy the book to worship inside. Don’t get between people and God and attempt to make money; don’t charge for church parking or charge an admission or sell church clothing required to enter a sanctuary, stuff like that. But in this example at least, Jesus is not saying anything about Christians making money.

  • Matthew 6:19-21

This is far more applicable to Christians making money. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Jesus says you can’t take it with you; if your “treasure” is money, it’s lost when you die. If your “treasure” is the eternal presence of God, that’s far more lasting. Where is your treasure? Do you value the commands of Jesus more than the commands of your job? This is related to the commandment, “Thou shalt worship no false idols.” Some people worship money. They will run over people, be ruthless in their business dealings. Is it ok to lie, cheat and steal to make money? After all, it’s only business, not church, right? Jesus is shedding light on this fallacy; don’t make money your idol.

Does Jesus say not to make money at all? Some people certainly interpret it this way, but I think that flies in the face of examples of wealth in the bible. David and Solomon, for instance, were both incredibly wealthy, yet were also favored by God. Job was wealthy, then destitute, then wealthy again, all while being in God’s favor. I think this has to be balanced against passages like Matthew 25:14-28, the parable of the talents. Are we being good stewards of the talents God has provided? Everything comes from God; our intellect, our food, our health, our homes, everything. If we understand that our wealth, too, comes from God, we are called to use it for His glory and purposes. If we do that, we are good stewards. If we do not, but make the money itself the goal, then we are storing up treasures on earth.

So how does posting my Mechanical Investing strategy fit into this? I am showing my strategy for making money, but I haven’t shown what I’m doing with the money I’m making (or losing, as the case may be.) What am I doing with it? I appreciate the concern, but that’s between me and God. I believe I’m being faithful with what He has provided and being a good steward, but I’m not going to share the details. Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

  • Luke 12:16-21

This is a stern warning to those who are storing up treasures on earth. In this parable, a rich man has an abundance. Instead of sharing, the rich man builds even bigger storage sheds so he can keep it all for himself. We are cautioned again that greed and the accumulation of wealth for its own sake offends God; we are to use what He has provided wisely, to love our neighbors as ourselves. There may be some application here to excessive saving; I’ve heard it said that millionaires feel rich if they could just have $1 million more. It’s never enough; greed corrupts and leads one to idolize money.

But notice the judgment is primarily against the second barn in the parable, not the first. Was it ok for the rich man to store up crops for himself? Jesus doesn’t address that; Jesus instead condemns the building of a bigger barn to store even more crops. This leads me to believe that as long as one is faithful with our possessions, Jesus does not condemn. Sharing our homes, contributing to charity, taking care of neighbors, serving with our time, and tithing to our church are all good uses of our money.

But making money? It doesn’t appear God condemns that. Instead, God condemns hoarding money.

  • Matthew 19:24

Apparently it’s a huge balancing act. How much money is too much money? The bible doesn’t say; whether you are rich or poor, the hoarding of money is a bad thing. Even the poor widow that tithed her two pennies; if she kept the money for herself, would Jesus condemn her? I don’t know, but I do know that God looks at the heart, not the external actions or appearances. If the poor widow wanted to keep the pennies for herself but a neighbor needed one of them, I think the bible gives ample examples that we are to trust God to provide and we should be faithful with his gifts. I think it’s easier for the poor widow, though, than for the rich man; Jesus says that’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Ideally, when I die, I’ll have two pennies left. I’ll spend one penny on the funeral and give the other penny to charity. I don’t know what God’s plans are for me, but I’ll take this warning to heart; don’t idolize money, don’t be greedy, and that wealth has serious temptations to resist.

I was about to say something like, “See? My mechanical investing strategy is ok,” but I don’t think I’ll do that. Instead, I’ll ask you to share your thoughts. What do you think Jesus would say about investing in the stock market?

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The Five Love Languages

Ruh-roh. I saw this quiz over at Spin the Moon, and I already know I’m in trouble. I’m 99% sure my wife’s love language is “Acts of Service.” I’m pretty mine isn’t. Funny how God does that – I’m learning to be a better servant.

Ok, enough preamble. Let’s go take the quiz –

I feel loved when…
The Five Love Languages
My Primary Love Language is
Words of Affirmation

My Detailed Results:
Words of Affirmation: 11
Physical Touch: 9
Quality Time: 6
Receiving Gifts: 3
Acts of Service: 1

About this quiz

Unhappiness in relationships is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. It can be helpful to know what language you speak and what language those around you speak.

Tag 3 people so they can find out what their love language is.

Take the Quiz!

Check out the Book

Eww. That wasn’t pretty. What’s your love language?

Washington D.C.

Last week I wrote about Christian Submission to authorities so it seemed only right that a trip to Washington D.C. was in order. The wife & I planned a little mini-vacation to stay with a Russian friend in Alexandria, Virginia, just a piece up the ways (man it feels good to speak Texan again) from the capital. Capitol? Kapital? I’m pretty sure it’s “capitol” but that was one of those words I stumbled over every time in English papers.

We arrived Friday afternoon and unpacked and went to the Russian friend’s grandmother’s house for homemade something. I don’t know what it was, it looked like a gigantic chicken pot pie but it had ground beef and potatoes and Russian spices in it. Babushka (the grandmother) didn’t speak a lick of English, but she sure was a lof of fun, full of smiles and hugs. Afterwards, the Russian friend (let’s call her “the ex-wife of somebody named Boris” or TEWOSNB) took us to a Russian disco with her friend Igor. We didn’t particularly want to go to a Russian disco, but she was driving and was determined we should go. This sort of set the tone for the weekend as TEWOSNB was apparently ex-KGB or Russian mafia or something and made unilateral decisions frequently about how we were going to spend our time. We tried to make the best of it, but if you were going to Washington D.C. for the weekend, would disco dancing with Russian people who did not speak English be high on your sightseeing wish-list?

The next morning, up and out early to see the Smithsonian which of course cannot be viewed in a single day. Lot’s of activity going on; there was a kite festival on the Washington Mall as well as the Cherry Blossom Festival, so parking was scarce. We parked in Baltimore, I think. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History took most of the day; we saw the ice age exhibit, the geological exhibit and the Hope Diamond, and a fabulous orchid exhibit with hundreds of live orchids. I don’t know how they keep them all alive and blooming simultaneously. And then quick visits to the Mammal exhibit and the Sikh exhibit.

On the way back out, a walk around the White House which is no longer open to visitors except for pre-planned tours, so we had to setle for looking through the fence. I asked the security guard which was the best fence for jumping over, and he said the north side. Good information to know. I saw a few protestors outside demanding our troops be brought home from Iraq; out of a few thousand visitors during a festival week, there were maybe a half-dozen protestors. The mainstream media makes it seem there are thousands of protestors all the time.

A stop at the Post Office to ride to the top of the tower, the 2nd largest structure in Washington D.C. after the Washington Memorial, and then our day was complete. We walked back to Baltimore to fetch the car and home for dinner, then out to a play called Condensed Mikado, a shortened version of the comedic libretto Mikado. It was only an hour long and absolutely hysterical, I thoroughly enjoyed it. TEWOSNB slept through it, I think.

Sunday, breakfast at Babushka’s for Russian pancakes and then to church at the National Cathedral; the (priest?) gave a sermon on the horrors of war. I guess he was protestor number seven. I don’t know what denomination thich church is and I’m too lazy to look it up, but the structure was like a Catholic Church without the word “Catholic” written anywhere. Episcopalian? Lutheran? I don’t know, but the wafers weren’t as good as the Catholic Church and the wine was real wine but very bitter.

Afterwards, we walked around the Washington Mall, and a long walk it was. We started at the Lincoln Memorial, walked around the lake to enjoy the cherry blossoms, through the Vietnam Memorial and Korean Memorial, then the Teddy Roosevelt Memorial and then the Jefferson Memorial. Anybody that tells you that this nation isn’t founded on a belief in God has never visited these memorials; these great men praised their creator for His great gifts.

Then out to dinner with TEWOSNB and a different friend, Mark. Mark was an absolute delight; he was friendly, funny, knowledgeable, polite. Not at all a good fit for TEWOSNB, but since she was Russian and he worked from some secret government agency (he avoided even direct questions about it), it was like being out to dinner with international spies. Dinner was fabulous; TEWOSNB complained the wine wasn’t expensive enough.

Mark joined us Monday morning and took us up to Arlington Cemetery, and Mark turned out to be quite the military history buff, explaining various military events when we saw famous tombs, explaining the various insignias and so forth. Then up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which actually says “known but to God” on the side, not “unknown”) to watch the changing of the guards and the changing of the memorial wreath. Amazing precision and I was quite impressed. TEWOSNB said her feet hurt.

Mark then took us on a special treat – he had a security clearance for the Pentagon and could escort visitors, so he took us to lunch *inside* the Pentagon. Wow. We felt incredibly privileged when the couple in front of us were turned away, but *we* had an *escort* and were permitted entry. TEWOSNB said restaurant wasn’t up to her standards and wanted to leave, but we were having none of it. OK, so lunch wasn’t exactly haute cuisine, but hey, it was inside the Pentagon. We even got a tour of the various halls and saw were the 9/11 attack occurred (all repaired, of course). Department of Defense newspapers, the Pentagon newsroom, the office of the Secretary of the Army, very cool.

And back home again. And even though I didn’t get to vote on anything while I was there, I had a fabulous time.

Prayer for Patience

I received this via email, original author unknown, but it’s a powerful prayer:

Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.

Daily Manna – 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ‘They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Jesus reminds us not to store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasures in heaven. I am convinced that our mortal life reveals our true character, and that our true character endures forever, impacted by our mortal choices.

What are you doing with the blessings God has given to you? God has given you something – intelligence, strong muscles, a witty sense of humor, patience or compassion, material possessions. What are you doing with it? If you attempt to keep it all, you are sowing sparingly – and what you reap in Heaven will also be sparse. If you share and serve, you are planting seeds abundantly, and your eternal reward is also abundant.

We sometimes think that if we spread the wealth around, it’ll leave little for ourselves. We get stingy, greedy, selfish, and want to hold on to it. Not only does that leave little trust in Jesus – who will provide for your needs abundantly when you are serving Him – but it also reveals a love of materialism instead of a love for Christ. You know you can’t take it with you, don’t you?

Kenya Mission, Day 6

January 1, 2006

Today’s Swahili phrase: Jambo, which means “Howdy” in Texan. We used this word more than any other, I think, and it was so easy to pronounce.

I meant to write these faster and closer together, but the work load skyrocketed on me the last couple of weeks. Several of you have encouraged me to write the rest, and I’m happy to oblige. It was a powerful trip and the needs are great.

We woke up late because of the midnight service last night, then back to the same church for a late morning service. I confess that even with the dual Swahili/English translation, I had a very hard time with the accents and following along with the sermon. I immersed myself in my bible for much of the morning.

Afterward, this being New Year’s Day, there were limited opportunities for the day. We went to the Kitale Club and the 8 of us signed up for 9 holes of golf. And since we didn’t have any golf clubs, we all shared a set. Very amusing, and it took 3-1/2 hours to play 9 holes. The real goal for the afternoon, though, was to give some work to some local caddies. Job opportunities are scarce, Kitale golf isn’t exactly a money-maker, and the caddies were glad to work for an afternoon. The monkeys running out onto the golf course was fun to watch, though.

Then we stopped at the grocery store called Trans-Mattresses and picked up dinner supplies. I think we named the concoction “African spaghetti” and it had a very unusual flavor. I didn’t ask what the spices were. The grocery store had teenage boys begging on the street. These boys had no money, and what little they gained by begging they immediately spent on bottles of glue. It was very disturbing when they pressed their faces against the van windows, eyes glassy and yellow with a glue bottle dangling from their lip. I recognized one of the boys from an earlier stop there and commented that 7 hours of sniffing glue seemed a very long time. Our pastor said that boy had been there since 2002.

After the African spaghetti, we sat down to make bracelets to give away. These prayer bracelets were made of a rawhide string and 5 colored breads: gold, black, red, white, then green. We would share a story when we gave these gifts; the gold represented Heaven, but we were separated from Heaven because of sin (black). Christ’s blood cleanses us (red) so that we appear spotless and pure (white). To grow in Christ (green), we should then spread the Good News. Some funny translations came up – we had been told to use the word “dark” instead of “black” with these beads, but Swahili word was the same wither way. In other words, it made no difference. We also had trouble with “white as snow,” since there was no snow in Kenya. “White as milk” was as close as I could get.

No pictures for today, sorry. Tomorrow, though, we meet Sister Freda and see the good work she’s doing on behalf of the Lord. Stay tuned.