Effect and Cause and Effect: Disrupting Our Assumptions About Faith, Wealth and Poverty

Doing the Bull Dance. Feeling the Flow (Happy Gilmore)

Doing the Bull Dance. Feeling the Flow (Happy Gilmore)

As a high school golfer, I made a hole-in-one. My friends and I were playing a practice round and they were cleaning up their putts on the first hole while I proceeded ahead to the next hole, a 191-yard par three (if golf is lost on you, keep reading). So, they didn't notice when I teed my ball and launched it 45-degrees left into the woods. Dead pull. Ball lost. Ugh. Try again.

We weren't even really keeping score; it was practice. So, I re-teed another ball as they approached the tee box and watched me hit what they thought was my first shot. I pure'd it, a 100% Grade-A, free-range organic flush of a golf shot. I knew it was good when it left the club face. The ball landed like a butterfly with an injured foot just a few feet short and left of the hole, spun like a loon and released into the cup. A hole-in-freaking-one. I did the bull dance, feeling the flow. Drinks were on me (Sprites mixed with Lemonade).

But it wasn't a hole-in-one. It was an incredible par. Do the Math: first shot in the woods; a penalty drop to re-tee as my second stroke; third shot in the cup. Pars are fine, normal, vanilla and plain and not that exciting. But I went with the hole-in-one glory for the round, only telling them afterward that it was a par. 

Let's analyze the scenario: If you only saw my first shot, you might think, "Man, Tommy needs to put in more practice work at the driving range. He's quick from the top, casting his hands and pulling it. His timing is off." If you only saw my second shot, you might think, "His rhythm is so smooth. Dang, he's in the zone."

Effect: Hole-in-one. Cause: Tommy is practicing hard and his swing rhythm is spot on. Effect: Tommy gets more glory; he's revered and positioned as the star player.

Flip the script.

Effect: Hole-in-three after a nasty first shot. Cause: Tommy's rhythm is so erratic that he dead-pulled the first shot then nailed the second. Effect: Tommy's all over the map. Nice par. That was fun. Practice harder because lightning doesn't strike twice.

What does this have to do with faith and finances? 

Effect: That person is poor. Cause: S/he must not be applying God's principles; s/he needs to work more. Effect: S/he is viewed as an outsider, a less-than-wise-steward.

Flip the script:

Effect: That person is rich. Cause: God is blessing her/him; s/he must be applying biblical principles. Effect: S/he's set up as the model, gets more access and opportunity.

When it comes to faith and finances, be careful of creating formulas. If I do this, God will do that. If I'm experiencing this, it must be because of that. You see, that's what Job's wealth management advisors did. They looked at his situation and assumed that there must be some root cause of the pain he was experiencing. He needed to pray harder, get to the root of the problem. However, Job is in our Bible because he is the great disrupter of effect/cause theology.

You could be experiencing a time of financial success. Be grateful. You could be experiencing great loss. May God bring comfort. 

But I don't see how it helps to judge ourselves or others by this strange effect/cause/effect theology. To paraphrase the lead prophet from the band U2, Bono, "The beauty of the Gospel is that I don't always get back what I put out."

I'm not stating that applying biblical principles doesn't lead to a prosperity of soul, but rather that our prosperity of soul must not be gauged by the prosperity of our wallets.


Tommy BrownComment