Parenting for God’s Economy

Or as the author of Hebrews put it:
“Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” Hebrews 1:3



Grace and peace to you …

Over the last two weeks I have written a few thoughts about faith and finance. Finances are the “canary in the coalmine” when it comes to alerting us to whether we are following Jesus faithfully. Jesus himself says that what we do with our money reveals the location of our hearts: “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” [Matt 6:21]

Below is an article written by Susan Taylor from the Faith and Money Network in which she helpfully discusses “Parenting for God’s Economy”:


“In our materialistic culture, God-grounded parenting around money issues is a daily adventure, full of missteps and the occasional triumph.

My husband and I have learned to be (mostly) honest with our children about money. When I’m saying no to a request to purchase something or go somewhere, I almost never say, “We can’t afford that,” because that is rarely true. We could afford most anything we want to have or do. But that’s not the main criterion in making and modelling financial decisions.

I don’t want them to think we’re poor. I want them to understand that, as children of God, we’re inexpressibly rich. I want them to feel the joy and security of our abundance, of God’s abundance. So instead of saying, “We can’t afford it,” I say: “We’re choosing not to spend our money that way.” How much more empowering is that?

Sometimes we feel good about our parenting around money issues. Other things haven’t gone so well.

I’ve tried that much-prescribed method of dividing allowance into savings, spending and sharing. This simply doesn’t work for us. Somehow, all the pools get blended. Not only do our daughter’s savings get co-mingled with her sharing money, but somehow her money gets blended with her brother’s money occasionally.

Another persistent failure has been that the kids’ money is frequently not with us when we go to the store. So the negotiations go something like this: “I’ll buy this with my allowance money.” “Do you have that much money?” “Sure, mom.” “Okay, you can pay me back when we get home.” But when we get home, we’ve all lost track of the deal. Here, we’ve demonstrated using credit, not keeping track of our money, not preparing ahead for going to the store, and a long list of other bad money habits. I’m aware that we have more difficult and much more expensive lessons ahead.

As our children have matured, their understanding of the interrelationships within our global economy deepens. They now insist on shopping first at locally owned stores and the farmers’ market. They are convinced that fair trade chocolate tastes better than “regular” chocolate.

They know about these things because we talk about them. We explain why we’re shopping one place versus another. We’ve demonstrated being willing to put in a bit of extra effort to make a more just choice. As U.S. consumers demand ever-lower prices, we explain the cost to the people who make those products.

My best moment yet as a parent trying to teach faith and economics in this crazy culture happened recently. In the car, I was thinking of making the next light as my daughter looked out the window. As we passed the big-box “discount” store she quietly said, “Cheaper for whom?” My heart is still singing.”


This is a wonderful illustration of what it means to be a Christian parent. It is more conscientising our children about justice than getting them to recite a creed.

Grace, Alan

Let something essential happen

 “Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been ploughed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use … time spent is not work time yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space – for wilderness and public space – must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.”

Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking

This LENT let’s spend time wandering in the meadowlands of the imagination.


Lenten Prayer of Preparation

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something more than interesting or entertaining or thoughtful.

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something awesome, something real. Speak to my condition, Lord and change me somewhere inside where it matters, a change that will burn and tremble and heal and explode me into tears or laughter or love that throbs or screams or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence and dares the dangerous deeds. Let something happen which is my real self, Oh God. Amen. [Ted Loder]


On Thursday I presented a class to a group of Master’s students at UCT. I am guessing most of the students in the class were around 25 years old. I really enjoyed being in their energetic company and stimulating environment! Education really is a precious gift.

So I asked them where they saw themselves on the socio-economic class – upper class, middle class or lower class. Everyone said they fitted into the middle class.

Then I asked them if I wanted them to come and work for me after they graduate what would they be willing to work for. “Anyone willing to work for R10 000 p.m.?” There was no one willing to work for that sum. There was one person willing to work for R15 000 and only a handful willing to work for R20 000, but most were still hoping for more.

The trap was laid. (I felt like a certain advocate …)

Then I informed them that only about 10% of South Africans earn more than R10 000 p.m. So earning anything above R10 000 p.m. immediately places one in the top 10%. And there is nothing “middle class” about the top 10%.

I also grew up believing I was middle class – yet I too am well into the top 10%. In fact with my education, housing, secure job, car etc. I am probably knocking on the door of the top 1%. Just like the UCT students I struggle to confess the truth of my financial life: “Hi my name is Alan, and I am RICH.” But only when I confess the truth of who I am can I begin to have a more honest relationship with my money and a more generous relationship with those around me.

Secondly, only when I realise that I am on the top and not in the middle can I perhaps re-channel my energy from trying to reach the top (because I am there already) to making the system more just and compassionate for all.

Thirdly, only then may I be convicted and convinced that I can live with less myself – because after all so many others live with less than I do. When I am liberated to live with less I may be healed of my anxiety that comes with thinking I always need more.

May this be our experience this LENT.

Grace, Alan

Money, money, money

Heaven Coffee

If you buy coffee in HEAVEN you get to decide the price.

It has been great to see people’s response
to this new method of payment.
Disbelief, followed by laughter,
followed by generously paying more :)!


This letter is a continuation from last week’s letter on money – see post below.

Nowhere are we told in Scripture that money is inherently evil or that the possession of money as such is a sin, but if we are going to live life with Jesus at the centre we should note that the overwhelming number of times that he spoke about money he did so with a warning tag attached.

In what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus quotes from the book of Proverbs which steers through the dangers that having either too much or too little money can cause:

“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

How many of us pray not to be rich?

Money can be a wonderful gift when it is seen as a means and not an end in itself and when it is used to glorify God by serving those in need and caring for the wellbeing of all of creation (as we see in the story of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:35 and the way some well-to-do women supported Jesus and his disciples – Luke 8:3). But according to Jesus it is potentially a very dangerous gift that needs to be handled with care. In fact according to Scripture even the desire to be rich traps one in ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9), while the love of money “is the root of all kinds of evil”, (1 Timothy 6:10). “[Paul] does not mean in a literal sense that money produces all evils. He means that there is no kind of evil the person who loves money will not do to get it and hold onto it. All restraint is moved; the lover of money will do anything for it. And that is precisely its seductive character …” (Foster 1985, 1987:30). In fact James blamed killings and wars on the love of wealth (James 4:2). All this differs greatly from the prevalent cultural assumptions that say that money makes you free.

It is also in stark contrast to the widespread belief today that wealth is the sign of divine blessing. It must be asked: If Jesus considered money and wealth to be so dangerous why would he then go and give a great deal of it to people as a blessing? It seems as strange as a parent giving their child whom they love a box of matches to play with. This prosperity teaching is one of the most prevalent and damaging heresies of our time. Would-be believers are promised material blessings if only they give their life to Jesus. Poverty is therefore considered a sign of God’s disapproval, even a curse, but that which conversion will speedily remove. Within this false understanding the wealthy are simultaneously set free from feeling guilty and responsible for the growing inequality.

In short, Jesus taught that the more money one has the more difficult it would be to follow him and remain faithful to God. Jesus put it this way: “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24). Here Jesus turns upside-down the long held belief that wealth was the sure sign of God’s blessing for the present and insurance for the future. Jesus’ audience, both then and now, is left shocked by his words. No wonder we read in the next verse, “When the disciples heard this, they were astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25).

It also turns upside-down the widely accepted definition of success in today’s world – that more is good and most is best. No wonder we struggle to hear it and try and rationalise that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said or say what he meant.

Jesus responded to his astounded disciples saying, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26). We see the impossible becoming possible in the life of Zacchaeus who we read “was rich” (Luke 19:2) and who in the presence of Jesus was set free to give his money away (Luke 19:8). With Jesus, Zacchaeus was enabled to restore his money-damaged relationships, especially with the poor.

Put plainly, money is dangerous and when it comes to managing money human beings need all the help we can get from God. We need God’s help to be faithful in how we earn money, share money, save money, spend money and even think about money. We need God’s help to be able to keep saying ‘yes’ to Jesus’ call to follow him regardless of what the bank manager in our head is saying.

Grace, Alan