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The topic no one wants to talk about

Graham Beynon | January 12th 2016

Jesus said more about money than any other topic: more than sex, more than hell, and more than salvation. That simple fact should tell us how important it is—or rather, how important it is that we get money right. Yet the thought of talking about money in any meaningful way in our church probably makes us squirm. In fact, Martin Luther once said that there were three stages to a person’s conversion: their heart, their mind and their wallet. He recognised that often the last area of Christian life to be devoted to God is our money.

There are a number of reasons for that. One is cultural: we don’t think it’s polite or right to talk about money very much. We don’t ask people what they earn, let alone what they give. Another reason is biblical: Jesus warned us about making our giving something we were proud of. So he told us to do it secretly (Matthew 6 v 1-4). Another reason is personal: we think it is our money. We earned it; we own it; we can do as we please with it.

Of course, all over the pages of the Bible we are reminded that everything in fact belongs to God, and everything we have should be offered to him. Our whole life is to be lived in worship of God (Romans 12 v 1); we are to love God with all of our being (Deuteronomy 6 v 5). We cannot point to any part of life and say: “Hands off God, that’s mine”.

We cannot point to any part of life and say: “Hands off God, that’s mine”.

We may know those truths, and yet still think “Hands off God” with our money. At most, we give some money away, and then spend what’s left as we want. In other words, we are in danger of never thinking about our bank balance as Christians.

There’s more to a Christian view of money than merely “giving”. It’s about how we view money and what our attitude is to money. That flows into how we decide what to give and where to give it; but it also affects what to spend, and what to spend it on; what to save and what to save it for.

It’s worth asking: apart from possibly giving more, do we as Christians look any different to our non-Christian neighbours when it comes to how we view, and how we handle, money?

If the answer is no, then something must be wrong.

One thing that goes wrong is that we simply don’t think about it, don’t discuss it, and are rarely challenged on it. A pastor I know said that in decades of ministry, people have come to him asking for help with all kinds of problems in their lives. There were marriage issues, parenting concerns, work pressures, relationship breakdowns, sexual sins, self-image problems, anxiety and more. But no one had ever come to him and said they had a problem with handling money. No one had ever said: “Please help me with my greed”.

We may have a vague feeling that we may need to turn the volume control down on “greed”. But that’s about it. If you are like me, you need to think much more deeply. I am no different. Reading, thinking, and writing for my new book Money Counts has been challenging to me. My hope is that it will be helpful to those who read it, but also that it might open up conversations among Christians about money. Money Counts is not just some top tips on finance, because that’s not what we need—what we need is some surgery on our hearts.

But that doesn’t mean we need to be negative about money. It certainly doesn’t mean the answer is to ignore money or avoid dealing with it. As with all areas of creation, the Christian answer is not shun it but rather to learn how to use it well. Jesus told his followers: “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16 v 9).

We can please God, glorify God, honour God, and worship God with our money.

That must mean there is a way to use money in a way that God approves of. That means that we can please God, glorify God, honour God, and worship God with our money. We can care for his people and extend his purposes in this world. We can use our money in a good and meaningful way. It is truly exciting to think we can use our wallets in a way that pleases God!

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Graham Beynon

Graham Beynon is minister of Grace Church Cambridge, and Director of Free Church Training at Oakhill Theological College, London. A popular conference speaker, Graham is the author of several books including Mirror, Mirror and Emotions. He is married to Charis and they have three children.

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