Investment vs. Spending
Probably one of the more lighthearted scenes from the movie Robocop (1987) is a scene with this guy who had the tagline is, ‘I’d buy that for a dollar.’ He just says it over and over to ad nauseam. He looks appears to be sweating, hyperventilating and quite possibly had too much caffeine that day.
A lot of the world’s countries have some form of capitalism. And in America, we can claim the throne for being the most consumer-driven country on the planet. China, however, is catching up.
According to the magazine Business Insider, here are some things people spend money on;
One eBay user paid $3,000 for an imaginary friend
Britney Spears’ used pregnancy test was sold on eBay for $5,001.
Nicholas Cage bought a pyramid-shaped tomb so he can be buried like an Egyptian king.
A crazy fan bought Justin Timberlake’s partially-eaten french toast.
Yep, that’s crazy money.
When Christians spend money, what should be our approach? After all, isn’t money just a means to an end? Or is it the end. What about the means? One of the times Jesus talks about money is in the parable of the talents (or large amounts of gold.)
Matthew 25:14-30 English Standard Version (ESV)
The highly programmed church that seeks to program for the desires of everyone runs the risk of programing out what the church was established for, reaching lost sheep and loving on those in need. It should never be our intent to compete with the world in programatic provisions since the church has Jesus. So there’s no need for a trampoline park at church.
The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
So what was the point? One point from this parable was, the master expected the money or resources given to each servant to be used wisely; to have a return beyond the initial value. The servant that didn’t invest wisely was cast out. That servant was found to be in the wrong.
You mean there is right and wrong? Yep. When the master chastised the evil servant, it was because the servant didn’t meet the expectation. Which was for money to be used in a way that the master got a return. In other words, their money wasn’t their own to use as they wanted. It had rules.
The Ownership Mentality vs. a Lease Agreement with God
Whose money is anyway? There are 120 verses in the Bible about money. So God felt it important to include it since He knew we would struggle with it. Some say money is power, and in some ways, it could be seen that way. The power to buy something or someone, the power to influence another, and the power to achieve a goal.
So whose money is it anyway? Maybe money is something we lease from God, and not own. A lease with conditions.
When I leased my truck, I was told I could only drive it a certain number of miles, and after three years I was to return the truck in good condition and with the allowed number miles. Rules. So while, not a perfect parallel, we could think of money as a lease. At least that’s one way to look at it.
Of David. A psalm.
1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Well, that pretty much settles it. Nothing belongs to us. So if it is God’s money, then what does He expect from our money lease? A return is something that God can use. In the parable, the servant did wrong and did not meet the master’s expectations.
The Danger of a Consumer Mentality and the Church Meeting
One danger of being so consumer-driven instead of investment-driven is the danger of greed. If as followers of the Christ, we only use our money for our pleasure, for our self-worth, then we are serving ourselves and not God. Because we are driven by self.
Monday through Friday, we are spending money on ourselves, but Sunday it’s time to give God His take. Or at least that’s the danger of being so consumer-driven and trying to follow Christ. What we walk into the church meeting the same way we walk into the store looking for shoes or jeans? If we don’t like something during the service, our attitude may affect what we give in the offering plate. Right? On the flip side, we love our church meeting because we are entertained. The lights, the cameras, the music, and those funny jokes the leadership tells, those are all good reasons to give. It’s always fun to go to church, never a problem. Our kids have a lot of fun, go on trips, have pizza every meeting. So that’s money well spent. Right? Either way it’s a self driven mentality.
But God doesn’t need our money. That is correct. But our money, just like our time, just like our words, shows God what is in our heart. Just like the servant that hid his talent, that showed he wasn’t obedient to his Master.
What about other investments?
“Matthew 6:24 Common English Bible (CEB)
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, you hear a lot of church folk complain about your Dad. Sometimes they’d fuss and gripe right in front of us, no matter how young we were. It was impossible not to catch the collateral grief people aimed at your Dad. And no other subject caused church folk to become uncomfortable more than the subject of money. When my dad would speak on money you could watch people’s demeanor change, faces frown.
All the Marbles
Some churches we pastored had a few people that were considered the pillars of the church. Which often meant, they gave most of the money to the church budget. So making them upset was risking the churches financial stability. And if you think I’m joking, I assure you I am not. Money was the power to influence, and if they couldn’t influence, several of them would just leave. Take their
marbles money and go somewhere else. Unfortunately, it was the sheep trying to influence the shepherd. After all, they felt the money was theirs right?
So the subject of money is like playing with dynamite for a church leader. Some church folk consider the pastor or church leader talking about money, ‘meddling.’ In other words, none of anyone’s business. After all, it’s our life, and yes, it’s our money. At least that’s what the consumer Christian may feel. Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m a consumer -first-. But nothing in Biblical Scripture gives us absolute authority over
The Tithing Mentality
We give ten percent to God and the rest of our money we can do what we want with. I’ve heard that actual statement. The Tithing mentality would lead us to believe that after the ten percent, we are free to do anything we want with the rest without any consideration to God. But that’s not supported by scripture.
1 Corinthians 10:31 New International Version (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
So what did the master expect? An investment he would approve of. So if whatever we do, do it for the glory of God. That is the -return- He expects for our monetary investment. So what is the glory of God. It is an investment that we will not worry about when we have to answer for it.
2 Corinthians 5:10 Common English Bible (CEB)
10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.
It really is that simple. We will answer to Christ for everything we do on earth. Should we buy that? Is that going to glorify God? Is the investment coming back as something that points back to God? That can be very tough to figure out. Money bounces all over the planet, so it’s pretty impossible to say the ten bucks at a store isn’t going to fund one of the workers purchasing drugs after they get paid. But there are closer to home ways we can determine if the money God gives us is going to a cause, person(s) or entity that either is neutral towards Christ or not-adverse. However, there are places, businesses, and entities that are hostile to Christ, and it is with that knowledge we have to ask ourselves, is this a good investment. Why are we spending that money?
I know what you’re thinking. Yep, it’s true, Jesus hung out with sinners, but he never sinned. Which means Christ’s investments on earth were not contrary to God’s will for him.
Today, in a fallen world, it can be very difficult to spend money that won’t be reused for purposes that are contrary to God.
What are optional expenses? What are those things we need to live? It’s one of the few thoughtful considerations from which we can have some sanity in trying to figure out what to invest money in. And much of our investment should be covered in our prayers. We should ask God about life, which includes money.
So do I have a list of who to spend money with and who to boycott? Can we do a Vulcan Mind Meld to implant the list of God approved businesses? Nope. Should we consider how we spend the money God gave us to invest? Are there questionable investments that won’t bring us closer to God’s purpose in our lives? Should we always remember that one day the Master is going to come and demand an account for our investment? That’s how I read the Bible.
Steven Davis is a recovering social worker, overcooked preacher’s kid, musician, and media producer.