[24]   Wealth (1): Leisure & Amusement

STORY: If at this moment you receive an urgent phone call which tells you that your house is totally burnt and everything in the house is lost. What is the first reaction that comes to your mind?

When John Wesley heard that his house was burnt down, he said, “The Lord’s house is burnt; I have one less responsibility!” This is truly a Christian mentality of stewardship.

Background:

·         Fact: lotteries are participated disproportionately by poorer people who do not have the spare money to gamble.

·         In Ontario, the 9 casinos are managed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, a Crown Agency of the Ontario Government. Since 1975, gambling has generated an after-expenses revenue of $17 billion for the government. This is almost $100 per capita (including children) per year.

109.     What are the proper attitudes of Christians towards wealth?

a.   Importance in having a proper perspective on money:

·         Today’s affluent society is dominated by the materialistic culture. Wealth is worshipped. Money becomes the religion and material things are valued more than people. The wealthiest people are regarded as small gods.

·         Influence from TV and the Internet: schemes on making money; advertisement emphasizing wealth, luxury and good life; the gospel of prosperity preached in big churches and on TV

·         The major reason for most divorces is disagreement on financial matters.

·         Jesus spoke about money more frequently than any other subject except the kingdom of God.

·         How Christians use their material possessions demonstrates whether or not they are living in the will of God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:21; Lk 12:34).

·         Worship of money is the predominant Chinese religion. Chinese is the major ethnic group with the highest proportion claiming no religion.

b.   Distorted views about money:

(1)  Money is a sign of God’s blessing (or God’s blessing is usually in the form of money).

o        Modern gospel of prosperity: Love Jesus and get rich.

o        This is contrary to the teaching of Jesus.

o        Lk 6:24 “Woe to you that are rich.”

o        Mt 19:24 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

(2)  Money is morally neutral.

o        Since money can either do good or do bad, most people think it is morally neutral.  However, it is not just a neutral medium of exchange but a power with a life of its own, very often demonic in character.  Money inspires devotion; that is why “mammon” is described as a “master” (Mt 6:24).

o        Money can be a threat to our relationship with God.

o        1Ti 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

o        Lk 16:13 “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

o        The demon in money is greed.

o        But money can also be used to enhance our relationship with God and bless mankind, e.g. Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-9), the overflowing blessing as a result of giving (Mal 3:10)

c.   Proper Christian attitudes towards wealth:

(1)  Stewardship

o        All wealth, including ours, ultimately belongs to God (Job 41:11, 1Ch 29:11,14).

o        Christians should regard themselves as stewards who are given the responsibility of managing the properties of our master (Ro 14:12, Heb 4:13, 1Pe 4:5; 1Co 4:1-2). Wealth (money) is given by God, owned by God, and to be used for the purposes of God.

o        Lk 16:9 “I tell you, use worldly wealth (also translated as unrighteous mammon) to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Money is unrighteous but useful.

o        We are to “use” but never “serve” money.

(2)  Contentment

o        We must be content with what God gives us (Php 4:11, Heb 13:5). “Whoever loves money never has money enough.” (Ecc 5:10)

o        The Lord gives and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). The gain or loss of wealth should not be the major concern in life (Ps 62:10).

o        God gives us the ability to gain wealth (Dt 8:18) but spending “excessive” time and energy to acquire earthly treasures is not profitable (Mt 6:19-21).

o        Materialism is equal to substituting the worship of God of creation by the worship of created matter (Ro 1:25). Wealth then becomes an idol. In the Bible, idolatry is equal to greed (Col 3:5; Eph 5:3).

(3)  Master over money—inner attitude

·         Christians must actively stop the power of money over us. We need to master over money instead of being mastered by money. We need to dethrone money (to remove its power).

o        listen to and obey Biblical teaching about money

o        understand our own psychological perspective about money

o        ask God to help: (a) bind our greed and covetousness and (b) practise generosity

o        In making any decisions, we have to put human value above economic value (side with people against money and things).

(4)  Master over money—outer action

o        generous giving (to God and to those in need) is the best way to free us from the tyranny of money

o        The Bible teaches us to not put put hope in temporal wealth; but be generous, willing to share (1Ti 6:17-18).

o        Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Ac 20:35).

o        Although Christians may accumulate goods, they do not make this an end in itself (Mt 6:19-20; Lk 12:16-21). Rather, they give generously to meet the needs of others and to support the ministries of the church (2Co 8:1-5; 9:6-13).

o        root out all favoured treatment of people based on money (particularly in church)

o        manage money with a plan

o        gather a community of support with whom we can share our experience and get advice

 

C&MA Manual: on using Congregations for Commercial Gain

Many possible situations can arise within a church, regarding business transactions involving church adherents, leadership, etc. In many cases some very appropriate kinds of ongoing business transactions can occur. In other cases, business solicitations or transactions can occur which are detrimental to the church body. We want to affirm the elders’ role in overseeing the spiritual needs of the congregation and in managing church funding issues. In this regard, the Board of Elders is responsible to monitor and serve the congregation from the effects of those who might desire to use the church inappropriately for commercial gain.

110.     Can Christians acquire luxury cars and luxury homes?

a.   General principles:

(1)  Stewardship: we are entrusted by God to look after His money.

(2)  Simple life: Christians must avoid extravagance (1Ti 2:8-10; 1Pe 3:1-5; Lk12:15).

o        Christians should apply the principles of simplicity of life when purchasing, building or furnishing a home, buying a car, selecting clothes, shopping for food, etc.

(3)  Witness: Whatever we buy, use, or wear reflects our commitment to Christ and our witness in the world (1Co 10:31-33).

b.   Acquisition of luxury items:

(1)  As a steward, we must watch out and evaluate what we buy. We must not waste the property entrusted to us for selfish motives.

(2)  Buying luxury homes or luxury model cars are permissible but they should be based on:

o        need (e.g. needing a bigger home for business purposes), not just want

o        cost-benefit (e.g. buying high-priced items results in real savings because of better quality and longer durability)

(3)  The acquisition should be stopped if it is based on vain desires, such as public recognition or prestige.

(4)  The same general principle should be applied to all material acquisitions (including non-luxury items), though they may require less care.

111.     How should Christians view gambling? How about lottery or raffle tickets or a free raffle?

a.   Gambling or betting is incompatible with Christian life:

(1)  The motivation behind betting is greed or covetousness. Gambling itself is not sin but greed is. [We can even describe some decisions in life as gambles, for example, selecting one job over another.]

o        Greed is idolatry (Col 3:5) because we cannot serve God and Money at the same time (Eph 5:5; Lk 16:13).

o        Greed is sin (Ex 20:17; Ro 1:29; 1Co 5:11) and the root of all evil (1Ti 6:10); it can lead to stealing, cheating, immorality and even murder. The chief cause of divorce is argument about money between married couples.

(2)  Gambling is addictive.

(3)  Wealth should be acquired by honest labour (2Th 3:10-12). Gambling destroys the initiative of honest work to earn wages. Gambling takes substance from the pocket of a neighbour without yielding a fair exchange.

(4)  Though gambling is not sin, it may cause others to stumble (fall into sin).

(5)  Gambling may lead to financial disaster and bankruptcy.

C&MA on money from gambling

No Alliance church or ministry shall knowingly receive government, foundation or program monies from the proceeds of gambling.

 

b.   Lottery or raffle: Even if the lottery or raffle may be for a good cause, its basic nature of encouraging greed is contrary to Biblical principles. Christians should not participate. If the intention is to support a charitable organization, the money can be donated directly.

c.   Free raffle: Free raffle may be permissible if it is genuinely free (without a prior condition of buying unintended items) and also does not arouse greed (if the prize is of low value).

d.   Establishment of casinos

(1)  Arguments for:

o        administered by the government and free of cheating

o        its profit are directed for social programs

o        allows amusement and diversion for adults (just like video games for youth)

(2)  Arguments against:

o        legitimizes and encourages gambling and greed

o        causes addiction, increase of crime and vices, broken families

o        Cost-benefit analyses of casinos have mostly concluded that the benefits from the casinos cannot cover the social cost paid.

112.     How should Christians view social dancing and rock music?

a.   Benefits of amusement

·         Recreation (including sports) or entertainment is an important part of life.

·         It can serve a good purpose because it provides a temporary diversion (rest) from the burden of work and can renew physical and psychological strength leading to higher work efficiency. But we must not be enslaved by the love of pleasure (2Ti 3:1-4; Tit 3:3).

·         Some entertainment may not be suitable for Christians:

o        if it leads to vice, corruption (of character or values), or sin (1Pe 1:16).

o        if it is highly dangerous (e.g. boxing or car racing), cruel (e.g. bull fighting), or dehumanizing.

·         Believers are called upon to be moderate in their pursuit of entertainment with considerations in: (1) use time and money wisely, (2) avoid evil of every kind, and (3) honour Christ in everything.

b.   Social Dancing:

·         In the Old Testament, dancing was part of the worship or processions (2Sa 6:14-15). But nowhere in the ancient world was there dancing with the opposite sex.

·         Modern social dancing is founded on physical and sexual attraction. (Or else, why is it always involving two people of the different sexes?) It excites the senses and reduces inhibitions.

·         Christians should avoid social dancing, except between spouses.

c.   Rock Music:

(1)  Popularity of rock music

o        80% of teenagers in North America and Britain have a steady diet of rock music.

o        An American Medical Association committee reports that the average teenager listens to over 10,000 hours of rock music between the 7th and 12th grades. [The committee urged doctors to be alert to the listening habits of young patients as a clue to their emotional health.]

(2)  Origin of rock music:

o        Rock music was originated in jungle tribes and cults which practised voodooism and demon worship.

o        The term “Rock ‘n Roll” was originated from a description of sexual acts.

(3)  Characteristics of rock music

o        Rhythm: a steady, continuous wild pounding

o        Harmony: repetition of same (often dissonant) chords and frequent high pitches

o        Melody: seldom has inherent melody

o        Intensity: uncontrolled, wild loud sound to overcome the listener and create frenzied atmosphere

o        Lyrics: frequently anti-God; promoting drugs, suicide, sensuality and illicit sex, sadistic sex, violence, rebellion, eradication of tradition and morality, the occult

Example of obscenities in rock music

One album “As nasty as they wanna be” by rap group 2 Live Crew contains:

unstopped vulgarity (226 uses of the “f”-word and 81 uses of the “s”-word); 117 explicit terms for male or female genitalia; 87 descriptions of oral sex; and many more

o        Back-tracking: The “back-tracking” technique is frequently used in many rock music albums. The effect of back-tracking has not been studied scientifically but it is possible that the subconscious mind is being affected. One piece of rock music, when played backwards, contains the clearly audible words “Satan is god.”

Flash advertising: an analogy of back-tracking

Flash advertising involves projecting an advertisement image to viewers in a short flash of light. The duration is so short that the viewers cannot read the message in their conscious mind but the message is passed directly to the subsconscious mind. Experiments show that a flash advertising message of “Coca Cola” often produces a feeling of thirst from the unconscious viewers.

The danger of this technique is that messages can be forced into one’s subconscious mind without the chance of being screened by a reasoning process and subsequently rejected by the conscious mind.

 

Subliminal messages (and media bias)

The DrudgeReport on October 5, 2004 picked up the Media Research Center CyberAlert’s look at NBC’s “ILIE” lettering, displayed next to Bush’s face for 16 seconds, and Rush Limbaugh discussed the curious word array. Plus, NBC responded: “To see a hidden message in this is just plain silly.” But it was different in 2000; NBC Nightly News reported twice a speculative story on the “RATS” lettering in a single frame in the Bush campaign’s anti-Gore ad. At that time, NBC warned: “A marketing expert on the effects of so-called subliminal advertising says in his experience this sort of word flash is not accidental and it can be effective.” This time, their action was probably deliberate but they have changed their tone and say it means nothing.

 

o        The people who produce rock music are mostly drug addicts, fornicators and adulterers, blasphemers. They promote anti-social views and denigrate traditional values and morality.

o        Rock music has been widely described as “the international anthem of the dark forces”. The people in the industry aim to destroy tradition, eradicate morality, and lure youth into depraved and enslaved culture of drugs, illicit sex, prostitution and revolution.

International anthem of the dark forces

During an international gathering of leaders of the Church of Satan in Washington, D.C. from September to November 1990, one of the main events was a day set apart to ordain rock music leaders, including “musicians, promoters, producers, distributors, and others involved in the dissemination of rock music”.  Their expressed reason was because “rock music is viewed as the primary tool of satanists.”

(4)  Effects of rock music

o        Physical impact: impairment or even loss of hearing, hysteria, heightened biological drives

o        Psychological impact: weakens inhibitions, excites desires, invites permissiveness, establishes sensual thought patterns, toys with mysticism and the occult, beautifies the use of drugs and sexual promiscuity

o        A former rock star and composer, now a Christian, Bob Larson describes rock music as the cause of the tidal wave of promiscuity, STDs, illegitimate births and political upheaval.

o        Russian psychologist and father of “conditioned reflexes” Ivan Pavlov demonstrated by scientific experiments how he can manipulate the mind with techniques that are similar to the calculated rhythms and anti-syncopations of rock music.

o        Dr. David Noebel, who has studied rock music for 20 years, reported the scientific experiments show the harmful and definite effects of rock music: plants die, animals sickened, humans developed neuroses (tensions, anger, hyperactivity).

o        Hard rock music and music videos are contributing to the undermining of family values. Evidence is growing that links heavy metal music to a variety of youth dysfunctions, including drug abuse and premarital sex.

(5)  Christians are well-advised to avoid secular rock music. As for Christian rock, they should be evaluated based on points described above and the questions below.

(6)  How to judge music?

o        Music can have tremendous influence on our lives as listening to music involves participation by the mind (1Co 14:15).

o        Johann Sebastian Bach said: “The aim and final reason of all music should be nothing else but the glory of God and the refreshment of the spirit.” The difference is obvious when this is compared to how rock music is described.

o        Questions in evaluating music:

o        Does the music glorify God?

o        Is the melody, harmony, rhythm well-written?

o        Does the music lead to holy thoughts or carnal thoughts?

o        Does the music lead to peace and joy or to frenzy and lack of control?