This Sunday we’re back in Deuteronomy 14 after a week off for Remembrance Sunday and it’s a passage on tithing. I always feel like I’m singing for my supper when it comes to teaching and preaching on giving. But it can also feel like fighting an uphill battle. We have a real problem talking about money in the church in the UK. We are reticent about it in a way the world isn’t, the news is filled with stories about money at the moment. The energy crisis is about money. Inflation is about money. Potential strikes and longed for pay rises are all about money. Discussions today about tax rises and council taxes hikes and the resultant fall in living standards are all about money.
There is a spiritual battle being fought for hearts and minds over this issue. Money is not a matter of indifference. It’s not unspiritual. Jesus, and the Bible as a whole in both testaments, draws a direct line connecting our hearts, our worship, our trust and our money. We need to do the same.
We need to begin by exposing some of the subtle ideas that lie behind societies thinking and reporting on issues related to money and lifestyle.
Our society believes in a secular prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel pedalled by some false teachers in the church is a travesty and one we ought to stand against. But we also need to expose the more subtle prosperity gospel our society believes in and teaches and which affects our thinking about life and money. The one that compares this year to last year, or this year to a previous decade and talks about a loss of income in real terms, about standards of living decreasing. All of which exposes the belief that life should get better. This year I should be paid more not have a pay freeze. This year what I have isn’t sufficient. How is it fair that this year I am worse off? How can that have happened, it shouldn’t, life should keep on getting better and better, I should have more money and be able to do more with it.
We need to stop and check our thinking because behind that idea is a foundational belief that money and stuff – mammon – will satisfy. There is also a belief that we deserve more, that what we currently have isn’t enough – and what does that do to gratitude and contentment? It kills it. That materialistic mindset has been so effectively taught that it is rampantly marauding through our minds and hearts and we don’t even know it let alone stop to check it. And it stymies joyful giving at source. We don’t even think beyond that secular prosperity gospel shaped thinking – life should be getting better, I should have more disposable income.
But we need to because we will never hear the radical things the Bible teaches and commands whilst that blocker is there.