Do you feel awkward when people talk about money?
Review originally by Jim French, Vice-principal of Youthworks College.
As soon as the topic of money is mentioned most of us have some sort of reaction.
Money is emotive, we are unsettled by the issue ever being raised. So why should you as a young adult or leader of young adults read a book titled “Beyond Greed”. Before you dismiss this book as one that is better left unread because of the topic, let me tell you why I think it is a must read for young adult Christians in Australia. The fact is that even though we are in the middle of a financial crisis in the industrialized world, as Australians we are in the top percentile of the wealthy in the world. We are rich!
Someone once said that if you have spare change in the ashtray of your car than you are probably in the top 15% of the wealthiest people in the world. Jesus said these words “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” This alone should make us stop and think about our wealth if we want to take Jesus seriously. Another reason is that our missionaries, churches, Christian organizations like Youthworks College are dependant on the generosity of Christians to keep going. In times of financial difficulty, often giving to support God’s work is the first thing that goes. The last reason to read this book is because it contains a rigorous critique of the popularity of the prosperity gospel; if you trust in Jesus he will make you wealthy, well and …
Rosner takes us through a response to the prosperity gospel in chapter two of his book. In particular he critiques Brian Houston’s book “You Need More Money”. The first problem that Rosner identifies with Houston’s book is a “flat reading of Scripture”. That is the OT especially is not being read in the bigger framework of salvation history that sees its fulfillment in Jesus. Houston jumps over the cross of Christ and applies promises given by God to Israel and directly applies them to Christians today! The outcome is another gospel!
The second problem Rosner identifies is that he claims Houston does not understand metaphor in the bible. Picking up on a verse from 2 Corinthians 8:9 which says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” This is taken literally rather than as it should be taken spiritually. There are warnings here for us. We should realize the consequence of misreading the Bible on any subject is detrimental and potentially disastrous. We see this illustrated in Houston’s book on the subject of poverty and riches.
He then takes us into the topic of idolatry. Rosner’s book is really an explanation of Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” The startling thing is that greed is placed alongside obvious sins which we all would want to avoid and then exposes greed for what it is – idolatry! As Rosner explains this he writes these words “The most disturbing thing about the fact that greed is idolatry is that hardly anybody owns up to being a worshipper. Imagine the response of disbelief in the local church if it were revealed that the vast majority of its members were secretly worshipping other gods. Yet if our analysis of the religion of money is right, the unthinkable may not be so far from the truth.” (page 52).
Rosner’s antidote to greed is to learn contentment and to share the possessions that we have. When we read how the early church lived in Acts 4:32-36 we realize how far we as western Christians have strayed from that ideal; generosity. This book is a very practical help for the young adult or any Christian who genuinely wants to worship Jesus alone. It contains a number of good, practical articles on the topic of wealth by John Dickson, Broughton Knox, Phillip Jenson and others.
Two keys to contentment for life is the balance presented in Proverbs 30:8, 9 “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” We can hear the words of the Lord’s prayer in these verses and should think seriously about that pray he taught his followers to pray. Secondly we are kept content by the real riches we have in Jesus and the prospect of eternal wealth in the new creation.
Responding rightly to the current financial crisis is the task of all Christians in industrialized countries, Reading ‘Beyond Greed’ is a good place to start.