Money – Poverty & Wealth

Readings for this week May 30 – June 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Money Booklet cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 – Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 30:7-9

One of the most stark, undeniable facts of the world today is the huge disparity between the rich and the poor, and, even more troubling than this, the fact that the gap between the two is growing – and at a faster rate than at any time in recorded history. In 2015 Credit Suisse reported that the most wealthy 1% of our world’s population hold 50% of the world’s assets – that is, they have more than the remaining 99%. And the poorest 50% hold only 1% of the world’s wealth.

How are we meant to live in this world? As followers of Jesus we must face this issue head on. In Christian history there have been two main responses to the issue of wealth and poverty. Prosperity teaching, quite common today, says that God wants everyone to be wealthy. Material comfort is considered a sign of God’s blessing. The opposite teaching is that wealth is bad and poverty is considered preferable by God. The Bible teaches neither of these extremes. It warns that wealth is dangerous because when we have plenty we can forget both God and the poor. The Bible also teaches that poverty traps people in dehumanising relationships, suffering and sin, none of which are God’s plan.

As Jesus’ followers we must walk a narrow road between the dangers of seeing possessions as evil on one hand and accumulating stuff on the other. God wants us to trust him, be content, and give when people are in need. He wants us to live simply and generously. When simplicity and generosity are held together then we are free to share a life of equality and celebration.

Question to Consider
What are some practical ways you can be more generous to those in need through the next week?

Prayer
Lord God, asking “neither poverty” is easy; asking “nor riches” is hard. Forgive me the sin of chasing wealth and comfort over obedience to you, and your call to stand with the poor. Make my life more of a battleground for the fight against inequality in your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Jesus at the Centre

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

The interesting thing is not that Paul has put Jesus Christ at the centre of this whole passage (8:1-15, covering today’s and tomorrow’s reading); this is par for the course for Paul – the incarnation, including the death and resurrection of Jesus, is at the centre of everything for him. The really interesting thing is that Paul has put Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection at the centre of this exposition on money and giving.

It may be set out in more detail in other places, it may be expressed more poetically in, for example, Philippians 2:6-11, but in one verse in this passage in a very tough letter to the Corinthian church, Paul places Jesus at the centre of his thought on this most practical of topics: money, more specifically, the collection. Not in the middle of a huge theological treatise on the nature of God, nor as part of a rumination on the nature of the incarnation, but in the middle of this most down-to-earth, practical topic. God took on human form to became one of us – becoming ‘poor’ – taking on the sheer messiness of ordinary life with all its practical details.

“Jesus with all the ‘riches’ of his life in the glorious mystery of God’s inner being, became ‘poor’, both in the sense that becoming human was an astonishingly humbling thing and in the sense that the human life he took on was not royal, rich and splendid in the world’s terms but instead poor, humble and eventually shameful. Paul has modelled his entire life and work on this Jesus, and he longs, throughout this letter, that the Corinthians will do so as well.” (N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians, p.90). May we, in following our Lord, do so too.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to you to become poor for the sake of others? How are you doing this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for humbling yourself and becoming one of us, becoming ‘poor’ in order to bring us back to you. May I also be humble and giving of myself in order to bring others back to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Goal is Equality

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 8:10-15

The Corinthians had initially been highly enthusiastic about the collection for the Jerusalem church, but for a multitude of reasons their enthusiasm had waned. Paul is exhorting them to finish the work they had begun. And he encourages them with what should be one of the key motivators for their giving: Paul writes that “the goal is equality.” In times of plenty those who are well provided for are to provide for others, so that when their time of need comes, provision can also be made for them.

This may seem cold and calculating but it is not. It is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereign rule and his provision for his people. As verses 14 and 15 say, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need….The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” God’s provision is for all. His will is for the health and well-being of all people. Those who have much, whoever they are, are to be thankful for what they have and are to share it with those who have little, whoever they are, so that none may suffer or go hungry. It is about equality.

As followers of Jesus we should be working – we need to be working – to make the world a more equal place for all to live. We cannot blithely accept the riches of this world that we enjoy as some sort of automatic blessing from God, when these same riches are so often made possible by the economic, cultural and social exploitation of the vulnerable and the defenceless and the poor of this world. This is not the way of Christ.

Questions to Consider
How are our lifestyles actually making things more unequal? What changes can you make, big and small, to show you are following Jesus’ call for equality for all?

Prayer
Lord God, show me the big and small things in my life and in my heart that contribute to the world’s inequality so that I might, with the help of your Spirit, change into a follower who truly lives out your call to love others and strive for equality. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Widow’s Offering

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 21:1-4

This passage is not a glorification of poverty, nor is it a condemnation of wealth. It is not condoning the religiously motivated exploitation of the poor, nor is it impugning the motives of the wealthy who may wish to contribute to God’s kingdom. Rich and poor alike give to the kingdom of God. Jesus does not condemn the rich, nor does he praise poverty. He praises the faithful obedience of a poor widow giving what she has.

The idea that the worth of either the gift given or of the one giving the gift is based on their material circumstances is an easy one for people to subscribe to – especially in a culture like ours that has everything. How many of us see our worth – more particularly the worth we think we have in the eyes of God (and others) – defined by our wealth or lack thereof? Not only that, how many of us view everyone’s worth as a function of their material prosperity? The fact that Jesus makes a comment on the widow’s offering suggests he may have spoken in part as a rebuke to people’s unspoken judgement against the widow. Because the widow had no wealth, she had no worth – maybe people were thinking that.

And yet what she gave was worth more than all those who had given out of their wealth. The widow’s heart was centred on God and on honouring and obeying him, no matter what her situation. Jesus’ comment suggests that God is not a heavenly accountant; he is not just seeing with an outward eye that totals up the amount given, then making a mark in his heavenly ledger. He is weighing up our motives, our inward stance, and our heart for him and his people. All of us have a place. All of us can give deeply, regardless of our wealth or poverty.

Questions to Consider
How is our worth and the worth of others tied up in our money and possessions? What can we do to counter this tendency?

Prayer
Almighty God, help me grow in obedience to you, no matter what my circumstances. Help me be more charitable in thought and in deed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Giving to All

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 6:27-38

It is easy for us to go through life concerned about how we can get ahead. It is perhaps the key thing our society is trying to tell us, the main way it tries to mould us and shape us as individuals. “Look out for number one.” “Make sure you get your share of the pie.” We think we have to get our money’s worth or that we have to make sure we don’t get a raw deal. We ask what’s in it for us.

God’s way is the opposite. He wants us to be generous. Jesus quite simply tells us to give. Let’s not get picky about it, trying to figure out who we should give to, under what circumstances, and inventing rules about how much we should give. It’s not about whether we have a lot or a little. Everything we have is God’s and he tells us to be generous with it. Jesus gave no specifics about what we give—food, money or resources—just that we are to give.

And giving is a good thing, a Godly thing, something that the followers of Jesus are called to do. But there comes a point when giving is not enough – when what we are called to give is more than just money and possessions. Jesus calls us to give not just things or money to the poor, but to give ourselves as well. To be a community of the poor, not just for the poor. We find Jesus in each other and that requires us to build relationships with those around us, especially those in need. We give because we have been called to give, not because there is anything special or superior about us. We too are damaged people. To join with people in need is to enter into a mutual relationship that displays the love of Jesus and changes all those involved.

Questions to Consider
What are the things that hold us back from giving to others? Can you think how our giving can keep people at arm’s length from us?

Prayer
Holy Lord, you have given me much that I may share with others. Help me share the resources and gifts that you have given me, but also the gift of myself. May I offer myself freely to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)