Editor's note:

It is nev­er a bad time to revis­it some foun­da­tion­al ideas about mon­ey and its uses for good or ill in our lives and world. Richard Fos­ter joins us today to share some thoughts about mon­ey’s prop­er place in our lives, its insid­i­ous spir­i­tu­al pow­er, and its pow­er to bless.

—Renovaré Team

Mon­ey as a Spir­i­tu­al Power

In seek­ing to work our way through a Chris­t­ian Spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of mon­ey it is impor­tant for us to begin by see­ing mon­ey in the con­text of the prin­ci­pal­i­ties and pow­ers” that Paul speaks about so vig­or­ous­ly (Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:16). Mon­ey is one of these pow­ers. When Jesus uses the Ara­ma­ic term mam­mon to refer to wealth, he is giv­ing it a per­son­al and spir­i­tu­al char­ac­ter. When he declares, You can­not serve God and mam­mon,” he is per­son­i­fy­ing mam­mon as a rival god. In say­ing this, Jesus is mak­ing it unmis­tak­ably clear that mon­ey is not some imper­son­al medi­um of exchange. No, mam­mon is a pow­er that seeks to dom­i­nate us. You see, mam­mon makes a bid for our hearts. Mam­mon asks for our alle­giance in a way that will suck the milk of human kind­ness out of our very being.

That is why so much of Jesus’s teach­ing regard­ing wealth is evan­ge­lis­tic in char­ac­ter. He calls peo­ple to turn away from the mam­mon god in order to wor­ship the one true God. For Jesus mon­ey is an idol­a­try we must be con­vert­ed from in order to be con­vert­ed to him.

Most sin­is­ter of all is money’s desire for omnipo­tence, for all pow­er. It seems that mon­ey is not will­ing to rest con­tent­ed in its prop­er place along­side oth­er things we val­ue. No, it must have suprema­cy. Think of the sym­bols we attach to mon­ey that are unre­lat­ed to its true val­ue. If mon­ey were only a medi­um of exchange, it would make no sense at all to attach pres­tige to it, for exam­ple. And yet we do.

Paul made it clear that it is not mon­ey, but the love of mon­ey that is the root of all evils” (1 Tim. 6:10). Giv­en the almost uni­ver­sal love of mon­ey, how­ev­er, they are often the same in practice.

Using, not Serving

Jesus makes it abun­dant­ly clear that we must nev­er serve mon­ey; yet, at the very same time he urges us to make friends for your­selves by means of unright­eous mam­mon” (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:9). How are we to break the horns of this strange dilem­ma? We do so by first con­quer­ing the spir­i­tu­al pow­er mon­ey has over us, and once we have con­quered it we are free to use it for king­dom pur­pos­es. We are nev­er to serve mon­ey; but hav­ing con­quered it we are then able to use mon­ey for the com­mon good. Nev­er serv­ing. Ever using.

This is why we need mature and sea­soned fol­low­ers of Jesus in the busi­ness pro­fes­sion. You see, busi­ness is nev­er just busi­ness. The busi­ness pro­fes­sion has a moral role in soci­ety, bring­ing goods and ser­vices for the bet­ter­ment of all.

Louis Bran­deis, after which one of our great uni­ver­si­ties was named, spoke of busi­ness as the noble pro­fes­sion where our finest and most var­ied men­tal fac­ul­ties are empow­ered for the good of soci­ety. He writes, Then the term big busi­ness’ would lose its sin­is­ter mean­ings, and will take on a new sig­nif­i­cance. Big busi­ness will then mean busi­ness big not in bulk or pow­er, but great in ser­vice and grand in manner.”

The Min­istry of Money

Now, it goes with­out say­ing that busi­ness­es need to make a prof­it. A busi­ness must sur­vive if it is to serve. And that prof­it can right­ly be thought of as the min­istry of mon­ey. This is a high call indeed, this min­istry of mon­ey. It is not for the spir­i­tu­al neo­phyte. It is for those who are well trained in the spir­i­tu­al life.

We use mon­ey to exer­cise our domin­ion for good,” says Dal­las Willard. Hence, we begin by earn­ing all the mon­ey we can, and sav­ing all the mon­ey we can. Then, we freely use this mon­ey with­in a prop­er­ly dis­ci­plined spir­i­tu­al life, and we con­trol and invest this mon­ey for the good of humankind and the glo­ry of God. And, final­ly, we joy­ful­ly give mon­ey away where and when we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do the most good.

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From Per­spec­tive, 2007.