Christianity's been a religion of the poor since the beginning, a faith that has made slaves into Bishops, outcasts into Apostles, and blue-collar workers into global leaders of the church. But Christ's teachings on money get complicated when popular opinions on "stewardship" don't seem to match the diverse perspectives of Scripture on the ol' cashola.
Financial guru (and Christian) Dave Ramsey recently shared a controversial post on "20 Things the Rich Do Every Day." The piece, short though it was, attracted negative attention both for its seeming "bootstraps" assumptions about poverty (the list's tone seems to imply that the rich are hardworking and the poor are lazy), and as a lightning rod for ways that Christians often misconstrue finances and stewardship.
Many bloggers and online Christians commented. Three excellent responses came from Christianity Today's Her.Meneutics blog.
Says Caryn Rivadeniera,
The problem is [that] … so many Christians seem to think lists like this are helpful. After all, why should Christians be so concerned with what the rich do—how they become so or how they act? According to Jesus, they are not the blessed ones. They have the harder time finding the Kingdom.
Rachel Marie Stone comments:
This idea—that people who are poor are poor simply because they haven't cultivated the right habits—gets labeled as biblical, but tends to foster a contempt for the poor that's anything but.
Scripture reminds us many times poverty itself is by no means a cursed state (Prov. 15:16) and condemns contempt for the poor: "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him" (Prov. 14:31). Deuteronomy 15:7-8 warns Israelites not to be "hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be."
And Marlena Graves writes:
With whom are many of the poor going to network (Habit #12)? In the world's eyes, they have nothing to offer. Networking is mostly about quid pro quo. If I didn't have the mind God gave me, I couldn't have gone to college. And if I didn't go to college, I wouldn't have met so many of the people who've made me the person I am now, so many people God used to open doors for me. I stand on the shoulders of others. Many have no shoulders on which to stand.
Misunderstanding of common-sense financial wisdom or dangerous theological misconception? Either way, your congregation's thinking about the relationship of their bank accounts to their faith. Are you?
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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