A Guest Post by Roy Goble
Did I grab your attention with that title?
Great. Now I can be honest and tell you that it’s utter nonsense. When it comes to wealth and following Jesus, there are no easy answers. No one-size-fits-all solutions. But that doesn’t stop certain people from trumpeting supposed answers anyway.
Your wealth is God’s way of showing that he approves of you and is blessing you. Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Figuring this out is above your pay grade—just keep tithing faithfully and don’t sweat the details.
I bet you’ve heard tempting statements like these, but in the next three minutes I want to suggest why I don’t think there are any simple answers when it comes to wealth.
(And by the way, when I use the word ‘wealth’ I could substitute the word ‘western’ in almost every case. The fact that we’re reading this—i.e., that we can read, that we’re looking at a computer, that we have the time to think about money and faith, and so on—puts us in the top fraction of a percent of global wealth, even if it doesn’t always feel that way in our local context.)
Since we don’t have the time to deconstruct the “solutions” above (shameless book plug) I’m going to skip straight to what comes next. I’m assuming you have some level of dissatisfaction with what you’ve heard about wealth. Most likely you’re asking, “If the easy answers are wrong, then what should I do?”
Hey, I’ve got an easy answer to that one! (Yes, irony noted.) What we should do is wrestle.
God relates to each of us individually. Instead of telling everyone to do the exact same thing when it comes to wealth and faith, God wants us each to wrestle with him.
That means praying, studying, asking questions, and staying open to new ideas and opportunities. It means admitting when we’re wrong. It means trying to imitate Jesus and trying to be led and empowered by God’s Spirit. And when we do all of that, we’ll discover that our lives might take very different paths from one another. Saint Teresa of Calcutta and William Wilberforce both changed the world in the name of Jesus…and they did not think the same about wealth!
Why We Should Wrestle with Wealth and God
Let me suggest two reasons why wrestling with wealth and God is such a good thing. First, it leads to a deeper relationship with God. Second, it leads to kingdom relationships with others.
Something amazing about wrestling is that it always deepens existing relationships or introduces new relationships. And Jesus tells us quite specifically that life always comes down to relationships: to loving God and loving our neighbor.
The thing about loving God, though, is that it’s unpredictable. And loving our neighbor? Uncomfortable. So we’ve got to wrestle through both!
When it comes to God, we haven’t been left high and dry, with no viable options for how to live. It sounds corny, but God wants us to make a difference in the world, and he wants to show us how. And not primarily with our money, but with our lives.
If that’s true, the lack of easy answers about wealth isn’t a bug, but a feature. If I’m right that scripture doesn’t give us unequivocal answers about wealth and how to use it, that’s a good thing! It means we’re exactly where God wants us, in order to use us.
Loving Our Neighbor as We Wrestle
When it comes to others, we’ve got to choose the winding path. We don’t know where new relationships will lead. They might lead somewhere frightening or painful, or simply time-consuming. “Loving” our neighbor is so much easier if we do it from a distance. Writing a check instead of entering a relationship with someone who might challenge our faith? Yes please! And never mind sustaining that relationship once the novelty has worn off. So we go on a missions trip once a year. Or buy a book about a “cause” for someone. Or we blog.
Look, I’ve done all of those things. I’m blogging now! I get it. But those simply aren’t the primary responses we’re invited to make as followers of Jesus.
As our world becomes increasingly globalized and increasingly tribal and insular (*cough* this election *cough*) we need to prioritize and fight for relationships. Relationships reveal need and provide opportunity, and it is through relationships—with the resources of God’s Spirit—that we build holy, redemptive, kingdom communities.
What Wrestling Really Looks Like
So what might wrestling with wealth and Jesus actually look like?
- Like equipping indigenous leaders to address the areas of greatest need in their communities.
- Like intentionally seeing the world through the experiences and wisdom of people who are different than you.
- Like having friends—both locally and globally—that surprise your cultural peers.
- Like asking questions, even if you suspect you won’t like the answer.
- Like saying or doing things that make your church uncomfortable.
- Like making your family or friends or boss uncomfortable.
If we choose this life of wrestling, there will be adventure, tragedy, and joy—and sometimes it will be hard to tell them apart.
Where Wrestling Leads
To be honest, I don’t know where wrestling will lead you. What I do know is that the life of wrestling God has invited me into is incredibly joyful and fulfilling—far more so than any life lived for wealth or comfort or prestige could ever be. It is also shockingly challenging—which is why it’s a good thing it connects us so completely to God!
Life isn’t static. What other people need changes. What’s best for building the kingdom changes. We may be called to a different job, a different city or country, a different church. We may be called to spend or invest our money in different ways. In my experience, we can’t predict these changes. Life’s changes will surprise us, but also give us the opportunity to respond in faith, even when it comes to our wealth.
Especially when it comes to our wealth.
Which is why we need to stay on our toes, ready to move in whatever direction is needed. That’s not just what wrestlers do…it’s what followers of Jesus do.
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Roy Goble is the CEO of Goble Properties, a real estate investment company based in Silicon Valley, and co-founder of PathLight International. Portions of this blog were adapted from Roy’s book Junkyard Wisdom: Resisting the Whisper of Wealth in a World of Broken Parts. You can connect with Roy at www.junkyardwisdombook.com