Dialogue, Wealth and Wisdom


When it comes to writing or learning about money, it is better to think in terms of dialogue than absolutes. On the one hand, diligent efforts lead to wealth (the whole book of Proverbs), and on the other hand, diligent efforts can still lead to loss (most of Job). Unscrupulous, un-deserving reprobates acquire unfathomable wealth, while hard-working, God-fearing custodians scrub toilets and scrape by. 

The reason I use the word dialogue is because that is what Scripture does, and that with itself. The middle space of dialogue is where people who are searching for absolutes find themselves uncomfortable. The health-and-wealth preachers find plenty of fodder for their fire in the Scriptures, as do the poverty preachers. But, wisdom is found in the dialogue between two extremes. In one moment, wealth is a "rich man's strong city" (Prov. 10) and in the next, that wealth is shown to be a high wall only "in his imagination" (Prov. 18).

What we know for certain is that wealth is a useful servant, but a terrifying master, for its pursuit injures the soul (1 Tim. 6:9-10) and leaves a person wanting (Ecc. 5:10). But we already have a Lord, who will lead us, so we don't need these sort of absolutes when it comes to money, for stewardship is not about amounts, but awareness.

Close the Doors and Windows

Photog. by bforbonnie

Photog. by bforbonnie

In a podcast interview this week, the host asked me for one tip to help people get their finances in order, to which I replied, "Learn to say, 'no' to anything that keeps you from your Yes." Your Yes is your intent, your goal, your desire. 

A 14th C. mystic wrote:

Close the doors and windows of your spirit against the onslaught of pests and foes and prayerfully seek his strength; for if you do so, [God] will keep you safe from them.
— Unknown, The Cloud of Unknowing

You can probably identify a list of financial pests and foes fairly quickly, but if you need help, keep all your receipts for 30 days and at the end of this period, place them on a table before you (you might have to print out online receipts, but do it). Are there expenses that keep you from your Yes, whatever that might be? And, if you can't identify your Yes, then you have no pests and foes, you just have friends who are taking you where they want you to go.

On Sand and Sea

The paper-thin marrow that adhered the clam shell's halves severed as one part landed in the surf, and the other upon the shoreline as I heaved it into the sea, contemplating my next steps - continue in full-time church ministry or move into the marketplace. 


"You'll walk with one foot in the sand and one in the sea," murmured a liminal, fleeting thought, as I beheld the clam shell's parts part ways in mid-air - one into sand, one into the sea. 

The shoreline bound them together, still.

Spiritual Schemers

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you," spoke Jesus, and St. Matthew grabbed his pen and added these words in his Moleskine right after chapter 6:32 (that's precisely how it went down).

Now there's a formula any spiritual opportunist can bank upon; this is God's economy sure as shootin' - if I just do the thing that God wants, I will have the satisfaction of doing the hard spiritual thing and also obtain the guarantee of getting all these things in the end. It's as certain as Solomon asking for wisdom and getting wealth.

It's the ultimate spiritual humble brag, no?

But Jesus is not into schemes, and God does not give us wily chaps what we want, for God is not into schemers. You know God is up on the game, right? God is up on the game when Mayweather gives God a shout out on social, because "without God, none of this would be possible." God is up on the game when I pay my tithe to keep the hedge of protection up and the locusts away - spiritual insurance at its finest that allows me free reign over the 90% because the 10% does the necessary God-work.

Seek first the kingdom, and get all the things added - guaranteed.

It's a slick way to seek first "all these things" and drape it in God talk, and this is not what Jesus was talking about.



Resist the Formula

We must not collapse the mystery of God’s providence into a simplistic formula, but rather allow God to lead us through these paradoxes into deeper intimacy, regardless the amount in our account.
Photog Avi Chomotovski, Israel

Photog Avi Chomotovski, Israel

Christians often view financial abundance as proof of blessing. Here's the logic: financial abundance = blessing. You could also state it this way: If you are blessed by God, you will have financial abundance. Just one problem: Job. You know, long "o" Job - the guy who was the most righteous man alive and lost it all. His friends looked for proof of his sin because sin = financial ruin; righteousness = financial abundance. The wisdom of Job ("it" happens) runs alongside much of the wisdom of Proverbs (do right and be blessed) and reminds us that we must not collapse the mystery of God's providence into a simplistic formula, but rather allow God to lead us through these paradoxes into deeper intimacy, regardless the amount in our account.