‘I came that they might have life and have it in abundance’

We are currently conducting a Mission Appeal which means our focus through the month of August will be on money. Let’s acknowledge our feelings in relation to money, whatever spiritual burden or joy it places on us – and I confess to some very conflicted feelings about it. And then let’s note the following: Jesus says absolutely nothing about euthanasia, abortion, homosexuality or gender identity in the gospels, but money and possessions are one of his main topics of teaching. We have to talk about money if we are concerned with the same things as Jesus.

I have been reading some articles by Jonathan Cornford on the theology of money. He writes: At its most basic level, money is a system of trust, or a series of promises. I accept money from my employer, rather than bread and meat, because I trust implicitly that the grocer will accept that same money in exchange for food. Another word for trust and promise is faith. This has led Philip Goodchild, a philosopher of religion, to observe that money is, in fact, a massive collective belief system, with its own kind of theology. He says, money is the ultimate (human) power in the world today – but as a thing it has no use, no value and no power at all, except that power which we all, by consensus, give it. And that is the perfect definition of an idol. 

“No one can serve two masters,” says Jesus, “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).  So, the Christ question becomes, what power does money have in our lives? Why won’t we, why can’t we, give it all away as Jesus teaches (Luke 18:22 “Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor”)?

Jonathan Cornford says money is perhaps one of humanity’s most amazing inventions – it is a wonderfully useful tool. But we transform it into an idol of immense spiritual power and become enslaved by it. 

Christ’s teachings offer us ways of breaking that power. Jonathan Cornford summarises those teachings with three words: renunciation, generosity and gratitude. Renunciation – saying no to money’s power over us. Generosity – giving it away with reckless abandon. Gratitude – living thankfully the abundant life which Christ brings into the world (John 10:10), a life which, as an innocent tool, money might serve. 

Ian Ferguson

Follow these links for a series of articles by Jonathan Cornford giving more detail about “renunciation, generosity and gratitude.”

UNMASKING MAMMON – What is money?

MONEY AND THE MISUSE OF SCRIPTURE – Revisiting the Stewardship Parables

THE PERILS OF WEALTH – Why did Jesus say ‘Woe to the rich’?

DE-THRONING MAMMON – Money in the Kingdom of God