25th January 2022.
John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
I wonder sometimes what the church would look like if it took the same attitude to money as it does to sex.
Just before the pandemic the House of Bishops issued a statement that reiterated church teaching, that only heterosexual people who are married are allowed to have sex.
That’s quite a firm stance, it’s quite proscriptive, it tells us that in the eyes of the church, when it comes to sex, there is an objective morality which all must follow, hard and fast rules which cannot be ignored to suit mankind’s whims, or pleasures. There’s no grey areas, no nuance, no times these rules can be over-ridden by grace like when Jesus broke the rules about working on the sabbath to heal people. No it is ALWAYS wrong to have sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. There’s no need for confusion or question they say because “the bible is perfectly clear”
The church doesn’t just issue statements and hold a firm position about sex, it enforces it, in most denominations those who enter church leadership are asked to sign a statement of conduct, which includes what they can, and cannot do with their body, and a statement of faith that often includes something that states that you agree with specific church doctrine around sex. Recently Samaritans Purse in the US was criticised for making those who wished to serve in the Coronavirus pandemic sign a declaration that includes the line “We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other” So serious then is their need to control human sexuality, that you cannot serve in any context whatsoever, even during a global emergency as an aid worker, if you so much as think that it’s okay for gay people or unmarried people to have sex.
Imagine if we took that kind of firm stance with doctrine around money. Imagine if we said that actually you don’t have control over your own financial decisions, because there is a right way to use your money and all other ways are sinful.
Imagine if we looked at the verse above and issued a statement that said it’s a sin for a Christian to own two jackets, let alone two homes. Imagine if we made Christian leaders sign agreements about their financial conduct, imagine if we sacked youth leaders and vicars for being greedy or failing to feed the poor and needy. Imagine if we asked to look at peoples accounts before we agreed that they were living faithfully enough to serve in leadership positions within the church. Imagine if we had the same kind of bitter and hurtful debates about money as we do about sex, imagine if we shamed people for what they did with their money in the way we shame women for what they do with their bodies. Imagine if there were as many unkind words to describe a greedy person as there are words like “slag” and “slut” and “whore” and “town bike” and so on and so on. I imagine a lot of the people the church reveres would suddenly find themselves in a rather different position.
No, I don’t want to worship in a church that exercises control over peoples finances in this way, or that shames people or uses derogatory language towards people who don’t use their money “biblically” but neither do I want to worship in a church that does this about sex. If we can accept that people can prayerfully and sincerely come to different conclusions about how to apply the plethora of bible verses about money to their lives, and that those conclusions are none of our business, then why can’t we trust people to prayerfully and sincerely make decisions about how to apply the tiny number of verses in the bible about sex to their lives, and respect their different conclusions? Especially given how much more emphasis the bible places on money than it does on sex.
Perhaps it’s because our proclamations about sex aren’t really rooted in a desire for righteousness, they’re rooted in a desire to control, whereas if we made similar statements about money we’d have to hold ourselves accountable, we’d have to live up to the high standards Jesus talked about, the standards that the bible actually is much clearer on than sex, and, well that might affect our comfort mightn’t it.
25th January 2022.