Give like the first followers of Jesus
Some of the most understated passages in the Bible actually have a huge impact if you look carefully. One of these is the opening verses of Luke chapter 8. This passage tells us about ‘certain women’ who provided for the material needs of Jesus and the disciples ‘out of their own means’.
They had worked out how to make their money matter.
Having spent most of my working life in the finance industry, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of money in our lives. In seeking to live faithfully as a Christian at home, at work and in my community, the issue of having a healthy relationship with money has been vital for me.
Based on the number of Bible passages that touch on the subject, it’s vital for all of us. Whether it’s too little that’s the problem, or if we have plenty, we all have to live with the issues that money creates for our daily lives. The rubber of our spirituality really hits the road of life in our attitudes to money and wealth.
In this column, I want to explore the Bible’s teaching about money and wealth. Along the way I’ll discuss real-world situations and topical money issues, all with the aim of listening to what God has to say about the relationship between money and faith.
Which brings me back to Luke 8. For a whole lot of reasons, these women had been moved by Jesus. All of them had been “healed of evil spirits and infirmities”. In particular, Luke tells us that Jesus had released Mary Magdalene from demon-possession, for which she’d have been very grateful. Perhaps Joanna – possibly the most well-off of the group – could see the wickedness of her husband’s employer, King Herod. Perhaps she contrasted his false kingship with the true hope that, in Jesus, God’s kingdom had come.
Whatever the specifics, each of these women had become followers of Jesus. The heart of their spirituality was faith in Him – a living, breathing faith that showed it was alive through the use of their wealth to provide for Jesus and the apostles. They weren’t ordered to do it, there was no law commanding it. Rather, it was a genuine response to the One who had touched their spirits deeply.
Context is important and this short passage follows one of the best known stories from the gospels. At the end of Luke 7, Jesus is seen dining with a leading Pharisee. This was no doubt a ‘high society’ affair. However, the Pharisee watched in shock as Jesus calmly allowed a woman described as ‘a sinner’ to approach Him, open an expensive jar of perfume and pour both it and her tears on Jesus’ feet. When the Pharisee expressed amazement at Jesus’ seeming lack of discernment, the Lord told a parable about two financial debts being forgiven.
The point of the parable was that the one who had the largest debt forgiven would be the most grateful. The woman, Jesus said, was forgiven her “many sins” and her loving adoration was a poignant and powerful spiritual response.
In a different way, the women referred to in Luke 8 are excellent examples of Jesus’ words. In their case, their faith showed itself in practical, helpful, generous action. In putting these stories alongside one another, Luke was showing us that loving adoration and love in action are both part of Christian spirituality.
Does our attitude to money and what we do with it really matter? Mary, Joanna and the rest of these women would say that it most surely does.
Making Money Matter is a new, regular column by Warren Bird, Executive Director of Uniting Financial Services.