The Theology of Money

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
(Matthew 6:24 ESV)

Almost everyone has heard the saying that, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Not only that, they will steadfastly insistent that this ‘phantom verse’ is in the Bible. I for one, thank God that these so called phantom verses are not contained in scripture.

As all rumors and lies, howver, their is typically some grain of salt to any fanatical, absurd and fabricated scripture verse. Some quote these verses in hypocrisy and some in arrocgance. So where exactly does, “The love of money is the root of all evil” come from?

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
(1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel or Health and Wealth Gospel)is a Christian religious doctrine, which claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians.The doctrine teaches that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always cause an increase in material wealth. I like to refer to Prosperety Therology as Slot-Machine Christianity.

Prosperity theology teaches that it is part of the path to Christian dominion over society, arguing that God’s promise to Israel of dominion applies to Christians today (Replacment Theology or Supersessionism Theology, other unsould heresies that wull be adessed in another article). The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. The atonement is interpreted to include removal of sickness and poverty, viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through visualization and positive confession, which is often taught in mechanical and contractual terms. This stems from an interpretation of the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor. The doctrine is often based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, with emphasis often on the Book of Malachi.

Prosperity churches are usually directed by a sole pastor or leader, although some have developed multi-church networks that bear similarities to denominations. They typically set aside extended periods of time to teach about giving and request donations from the congregation, encouraging positive speech and faith. Some prosperity churches also teach about financial responsibility, though some journalists and academics have criticized their advice as unsound.

Prosperity Theolgy hangs most of its doctrines on one verse, “Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him (Malachi 3:18 ESV).”

Of course, for every concept there is a negative or reverse concept, and that brings us to Poverty Theology.

The basic idea of Poverty Therology is that wealth is wrong and poverty right. In many cases, it also includes the idea that voluntary poverty is a special class of moral excellence. Poverty Theoulogy is a lifestyle philosophy characterized by the denial of the flesh, especially in the form of basic material pleasures (food, shelter, possessions, etc.). It is called Poverty YTheology because its proponents subject themselves to poverty for theological reasons, namely, the imitation of Christ (Colossians 1:24), amd the conflict between the spirit and flesh (Galatians 5:16-26). Historically, ascetics have done things like renouncing material possessions, begging for food, living in solitude, even beating their own bodies. At its worst, Poverty Theology is accompanied by an unbiblical merit theology. At its best, it is a spiritual discipline undertaken in response to the gospel of grace.

Sadly, much of the teaching about stewarding one’s treasure is prone to either poverty or prosperity theology. Poverty theology considers those who are poor to be more righteous than those who are rich; it honors those who choose to live in poverty as particularly devoted to God. Conversely, prosperity theology considers those who are rich to be more righteous than those who are poor; it honors those who are affluent as being rewarded by God because of their faith. In fact, both poverty and prosperity theology are half-truths because the Bible speaks of four ways in which treasure can be stewarded (Doctrine, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, pg.388-391).

  • Righteous rich stewards – Biblical examples of righteous rich stewards include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job (both before and after his life tragedy and season of poverty), Joseph of Arimathea (who gave Jesus his personal tomb), Lydia (who funded much of Paul’s ministry), and Dorcas (who often helped the poor).
  • Righteous poor stewards – Biblical examples of righteous poor stewards include Ruth and Naomi, Jesus Christ, the widow who gave her mite, the Macedonian church, and Paul, who often knew want and hunger.
  • Unrighteous rich stewards – Biblical examples of unrighteous rich stewards include Laban, Esau, Nabal, Haman, the rich young ruler, and Judas Iscariot.
  • Unrighteous poor stewards – Biblical examples of unrighteous poor stewards include the sluggard and the fool, who are repeatedly renounced throughout the book of Proverbs.

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)

A loving and generous Father once bought his son a shiny new bicycle. With a broad smile, the Father surprised the son and rolled it out and handed it to him. Strangely, rather than looking happy, the son looked anxious. Rather than riding the bike, he stepped away from it in fear. The Father asked the child what was wrong. The son replied, “Father, I cannot ride the bike. All around the world there are missionaries who do not have a bike. I would like to give them my bike so that they can ride it to unreached peoples and preach the gospel. The Father replied, “If you simply ask me, I am glad to also give you a second bike to give to a missionary.” Yet, rather than simply riding the bike, the son continued to argue with his Father, saying, “I would much prefer an older bicycle. This one is shiny and new. It makes me look proud if I ride it.” The Father explained, “If I want you to ride the bike I gave you, and you are more concerned about what others think of you as you ride it than my joy in seeing you enjoy my gift to you, then you may look humble to them, but I know there is pride in your heart because you are living for their approval instead of my joy.” Unrelenting, the son said, “But some people will talk about my bicycle out of judgment, envy, or jealousy because it is so nice. Some might even stumble and covet my bicycle. I do not want them to sin, and so I would rather not have a new bike so as to be considerate of them.” The Father replied, “If others respond to my grace to you in this way, the problem is not the bicycle but their hearts. I will deal with their hearts should they prove sinful—something you assume will happen but do not know. I will love and serve them by working to change their heart if they respond sinfully. But for you, my request is that you simply ride the bicycle I gave you. You are thinking about it too much and enjoying it too little.” The Father walked away for a few hours, kindly asking the son to consider his request. Upon returning, the son had yet another line of reasoning. “Father, I will not ride the bike because I am fearful. I fear that it is so nice and I would enjoy it so much that it would become an idol to me. So, to avoid idolatry I will abstain from riding the bicycle.” The Father replied, “You could also ride your bike as an act of worship to me, enjoying the gift I gave you to your joy and my glory. Once again, the problem is not the bicycle.” The son replied, “But Father, you are better than any bicycle. You are enough. I do not need a bicycle. I have you. You, Father, are enough.” Grieved in his heart, the Father said, “I know I am enough. But I am a generous Father. I like to give gifts to my children. I like to see them blessed, happy, and free. I just wanted to watch you ride the bike. And I wanted to go for a ride with you. Then, we could have had fun, spend time together, make memories, and laugh.” Tragically, the son never did ride the bicycle. Instead, he gave it away. He did not cause anyone to stumble, or treat his bike as an idol. And he did not obey his Father and worship him by simply being a kid and enjoying the gift his Father gave him because he was too busy being a theologian with a head full of fears rather than a heart full of fun.”
(Pastor Mark Driscoll, Discipleship and Parenting, September 21, 2011)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:28 ESV)

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalms 37:4-5 ESV)

Money and material possessions are a problem only when we place them before God, which is the sin of idolatry.

  • Here is a short video clip of Pastor Mark Driscoll concerning both “poverty theology” and “prosperity theology.”  http://youtu.be/3C9aa2C-Bdw
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