Profaning Money

  Kent Hughes’ chapter on materialism and money in Set Apart is a great discussion of Christian stewardship.  In our wealthy Western culture, this is for sure worth thinking about.

“Along with this understanding that our money is not our own, we must give it away joyfully.  Theologian Jacques Ellul says that the only way to defeat the godlike power that money seeks to impose on our lives is to give it away, which he calls profaning it: ‘To profane money, like all other powers, is to take away its sacred character.’  This destroys its power over us.  ‘Giving to God is the act of profanation par excellence,’ says Ellul.  Every time I give, I declare that money does not control me.  Perpetual generosity is a perpetual de-deification of money.”

“This makes great sense, and it cuts through the paralyzing controversies over affluence and individual lifestyle.  Wherever you are on the economic continuum, you need to give generously and regularly.  Generous giving as it relates to your affluence will free you from the bondage of money.  You will be profaning money – declaring that it is not a god in your life.  You can talk until the moon stands still about what is the proper lifestyle for a member of you church, and the result would be a corporate orgy of judgmentalism.  And if we came up with a written description, it would entrench a grace-nullifying legalism.  Paul minced no words with Timothy:”

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

R. Kent Hughes, Set Apart, p. 33

shane lems


On the Parables of Jesus

 I’ve mentioned this great book on the parables awhile back: Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories with Intent.  I was recently studying the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12.13-21.  I used Snodgrass as one of my main resources, and I was once again impressed by this book.  The format is outstanding.  Each parable is discussed in the following way: the main issues that require attention, primary and secondary parallel sources (OT/NT, Jewish, Greco-Roman, Early Christian, and later Jewish sources), textual features, cultural info, interpretive matters, and application.  This is exactly the help and info I need in studying the parables!  Here are a few blurbs from pages 389-401, which is a commentary on the aforementioned verses in Luke’s Gospel.

“The parable presupposes some context like that of 12:13-15, and I find the connection between the parable and at least v. 15 likely.  Both provide a warning against finding life in possessions, and the parable is a demonstration of v. 15b. …The parable…functions as a commentary on the second half of [Jesus’ statement in] 12:15.”

“The parable points to the uncertainty and fragility of life, but it is concerned most with God’s verdict on those who trust in wealth.”

“The parable has no direct implication about almsgiving, but any Jew, and certainly Jesus, would know being rich toward God included the obligation to use material resources to assist those in need.”

“It is worth making explicit that parables like this are not merely for the wealthy.  A person does not have to be wealthy to be like the rich fool.  It may be easier for the wealthy to ‘treasure up for themselves,’ but those without resources can be just as driven by greed and just as wrongly focused on things instead of God.”

I haven’t read Snodgrass’ comments on every parable (since the book is 800+ pages), but the ones I have read so far were very helpful.  Snodgrass’ commentary and discussions have been level-headed and I very much appreciate the cross references he has provided – in the OT/NT as well as extra-biblical sources.  If you’re going to teach or preach the parables, or if you’re a well-read student of the Bible who simply wants to study the parables of Jesus, I highly recommend this resource.  I honestly cannot imagine a more helpful single book on the parables – and it’s under $30!

shane lems

Do Not Love the World… (Bernard)

Around the year 1129 AD St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a letter to Alexander, a bishop who was known for his greed and injustice.  Among other things, Bernard addressed Alexander’s greed.  This is worth thinking about today.   He said,

“[I exhort you] lovingly not to take the glory of the world seriously as something that will last, and so lose that glory that will never pass away.  Do not love your possessions more than yourself or for your own sake, and so lose both your possessions and yourself.  Do not let the pleasure of your present prosperity hide your end from you, or endless adversity will follow.  Do not let the joy of this world bring about while concealing from you, and conceal from you while bringing it about, the grief that is everlasting.  Do not think death is a long way off, for it may catch you when you are not ready; and when you think life will go on and on, it may suddenly come to an end when you are in the wrong frame of mine, as it is written ‘When they are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then suddenly death will come, like the pains of a woman in labor, and they will not escape it.‘ (1 Thes. 5.3).”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Chesterton on Riches, Needles, and Camels


“Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich.  For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man’s environment, but in man.  Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment.  I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle.  I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel.  But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest – if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this – that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy.  Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags.  The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world.”

“…The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt.  There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony.  They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.”

Taken from Orthodoxy (San Fransisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 125.

shane lems

sunnyside wa