Faith and Finances

Growing up, it seemed like everything I wanted required an amount of money I didn’t have. From shoes to clothes and hanging out with friends—it all cost something! My understanding of money stemmed from not having it and not having money caused me to want it more than anything else. 

 

When I was a little boy, I stole ten dollars out of my mother’s purse. I’ll never forget that day. It was Friday. My school was selling pickles and popcorn and she wouldn’t give me money for it. On that Friday, I bought my cousins and I pickles and popcorn and we ate it before we arrived home. When I got home, I got a nice whooping for my behavior. As a child, raised by a single mother, I had no idea how my stealing impacted her finances. After that day, I knew money had to be earned-not stolen. 

 

Fast forward to teenage years. I started working at the age of thirteen. I couldn’t wait to earn my own money because I knew it gave me access to what I wanted. At this job, I was making three hundred dollars every two weeks. My mother set up a bank account for me and having my own money was everything I imagined. When I got paid, I bought what I wanted. I never saved and I ran out of money the week I got paid. Anxiously, I waited for my next check to have money again. The wait was painful!  My mind was filled with thoughts of what I would do next with the money. I spent until I had no more.

 

Money was important to me. I literally loved it. I loved all that I could do with it. Therefore, I worked as much as I could to obtain money. I’ve been in the workforce for 19 years and I’m only 32!

 

For the first quarter of my life, I thought the money was the source of life. I didn’t understand money as a resource given by God. However, when I started my journey with God, the Bible gave me a new perspective on money. I learned three valuable lessons I would like to share:

 

1. God is the Source of Life 
2. What You Spend Your Money on–Shows Where Your Heart is 
3. Giving is an Act of Worship unto God 

 

God is the Source of Life

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭24:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

After reading scripture, I learned that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in it (Genesis 1). This fact alone changed my mindset. If God created me; then, my livelihood is reliant on Him not money. Without God, I can’t work—let alone breathe. Therefore, God is the source of life. Without God, money wouldn’t mean anything.

 

What You Spend Your Money on, Shows Where Your Heart is 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:21‬ ‭NIV

 

When I reflect on my past and what I spent my money on, I can see my heart desires. I desired to be accepted by others. Everything I bought was to cope with my brokenness and rejection. Majority of my life, I spent my money on new clothes and shoes, food, and entertainment. I spent it to make me feel good and to make people like me. Every time I gave, I expected something in return. I used money to create a life different than the life I truly had and I never made enough to do that.

 

 

Giving is an Act of Worship Unto God

 

I had no idea that money could be given without getting something back. Before this revelation, I viewed money as power to purchase. I never saw it the way God meant it to be. Once I allowed God into my life, I discovered I was a steward of the money I earned. As an act of worship to God, I can use my money to help people. I started to view money as a way to sustain my life and bless others. Now, I give as an act of worship to God. I give to people in need, my local church and other places I feel led to give. In conclusion, I learned that money is only a resource God gave us to do His will on earth. We have to give our finances to God and spend money in a way that honors and brings Him glory. That looks different for everyone.

Reclaiming Christ: Abandoning White Jesus

Growing up, I remember hearing someone say, “White is right.” According to them, this meant White people were able to fix anything and make everything right. Upon hearing this, it seemed as though they were telling the truth. On television, Whites were always depicted as problem solvers, leaders and heroes. Majority of what I’d seen and heard growing up reinforced that statement. Even Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, was depicted as a White man. While America was comprised of many ethnic groups, including Blacks, it frequently highlighted the goodness of Whites. Often, Blacks were and still are depicted as criminals, disruptive, problematic and evil in media. Especially Black men.

In “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority”, Tom Burell writes, “Negative media reinforcements not only influence how cops, judges, employers, and others view black males, they affect how young blacks view themselves.”

As a black male, I grew up thinking I had to mimic White behavior to be good or right. I had no idea I was being brainwashed by propaganda and there was a big system of racism controlling how I viewed myself. Not only did I adopt negative views about myself, these incorrect thoughts came into my faith and view of God.

Before reading about Jesus in the Bible and seeking to understand my faith in-depth, I’d seen an image of Him. It was an image of a White man with blue eyes and long wavy brown hair. For years, this image came into my mind as I lifted my hands and worshiped God. Since I could remember, every historical figure in the Bible was depicted as White. From the movie “ The Passion of Christ” to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” America took the image of a White Jesus and made him known to the world. Now that I am older and understand scripture, it is clear that Jesus Christ is of Jewish descent. Jesus’ real ethnicity did not reflect the image that was ingrained in my mind. Trying to imagine a Palestine Jew as Christ literally disgruntled my thoughts and made me curious at the same time. I wanted to know Jesus in the Bible versus the White Jesus I’d seen on television and hanging up on church walls.

When I read “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman, I realized the United States of America established and centered its union around an idol instead of the God in the Bible. Thurman explains how a group of powerful and influential White Americans replaced the true historical Palestinian Jew Jesus with a false Anglo-Saxon (White) Jesus. Sadly, this replacement and improper depiction of Jesus; brainwashed, controlled, and oppressed people for centuries.

From antebellum south slavery to modern day freedom, some Americans have misused the sacred biblical scripture for power and control over Blacks and other races. Insomuch, Black Americans were forced to bow down to the White Jesus instead of the Palestinian Jew Jesus. In America, the Protestant Church was built on the White Jesus image and cultivated it from generation to generation. This White Jesus impacted the black christian experience; however, it didn’t hinder Blacks from a relationship with God. Outwardly, we lived under the scrutiny of White superiority empowered by a White Jesus; but, inwardly we had hope in the real Jesus Christ. When reflecting on the plight of Blacks in America, I could relate to the real Jesus. His journey in the Roman Empire was like ours in America. He suffered; He was abused and oppressed; He was crucified like we were lynched. We are genuine partakers in the sufferings of Christ. In some ways we’re still trapped between the White Jesus and the real Jesus. Today, Blacks have the freedom to choose which Jesus we will serve.

Theologian, Howard Thurman said, “Living in a climate of deep insecurity, Jesus, faced with so narrow a margin of civil guarantees, had to find some other basis upon which to establish a sense of well-being. He knew that the goals of religion as he understood them could never be worked out within the then-established order. Deep from within that order he projected a dream, the logic of which would give to all the needful security. There would be room for all, and no man would be a threat to his brother. “The kingdom of God is within.” “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” After reading this quote, I ask myself do I follow this Jesus? I believe I do, along with other believers which include some White Americans.

In order for Blacks to reclaim Christ, in America, we must access “the Kingdom within” as Thurman described. For Whites, in America, they will have to give up white superiority in order to access “the Kingdom within” Thurman describes. Lastly, James Cone said it best, “For [Martin Luther] King nonviolence was more than a strategy; it was the way of life defined by love for others—the only way to heal broken humanity.” In order for America to reclaim Christ, we must love others and remain a follower of the Real Jesus.

The Black Church Dilemma

“Church” is the English translation of the Greek word Ekklesia, which originally meant “to call out” and was later changed to mean “assembly.” According to the Bible, in Matthew 16:18, the church was introduced by Jesus the Messiah and developed by His chosen disciples (followers/students) who later became Apostles (messengers/sent forth ones). In Romans 12:5, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a body. Based on these references, I will define the church as a group of people who have been called out by God to believe in Jesus Christ and assemble together to fulfill God’s mission in the earth. God’s mission is to bring salvation and reconcile the world back to Himself through Jesus Christ. According to scripture, this is done through,

  • Evangelism sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Discipleship equip believers to grow and serve (Ephesians 4:11-13)
  • Christian living a life that is worthy of God’s calling (Romans 6)
  • Service Helping the less fortunate (Matthew 23:11)

For Blacks in America, our experience with church dates back to slavery in the 18th and 19th century. “The Black Church: Its Impact on Black Culture” by Vanessa Taylor explains the system of slavery was built on the dehumanization and exploitation of Blacks. Taylor writes, “The dominant white culture of the time accomplished this through a system of forced acculturation, which included forced religious conversion.” While Blacks knew God, their experience was limited. Their one-on-one intimacy with God was infringed upon.  It wasn’t until slavery was abolished and Blacks were no longer criminalized for learning that they could actively participate in church. However, due to rejection and the inability to worship with Whites, they were forced to worship among Blacks only. This birthed the inception of the “Black Church.”

The “Black Church” is a term used to describe Protestant churches that have predominantly black congregations. The Black Church serves a myriad of functions for Blacks in America. Historically, the Black Church has provided social service functions and is responsible for the eventual formation of African-American seminaries, Black colleges and academies, insurance companies, banks, the NAACP, and the civil rights movement of the sixties. For many years, the Black Church has been the cornerstone of hope for the black community, especially off the heels of slavery. Although it is great how far the black church has come, I believe we stand at a crossroad. I believe we have a dilemma and it’s rooted in the ramifications of slavery, segregation and inequality. Additionally, societal issues such as LGBTQ equality and mass incarceration are creating pressure for black clergy and challenging the very core of the Black Church. Are we able to address growing issues, such as:

  • How will the Black Church respond and minister to homosexuals in an increasingly homosexual-friendly society?

  • How will the Black Church handle the decrease in church attendance and the increase in participation in social justice movements without the church?  

  • How will the Black Church respond and minister to the non-traditional family structure that doesn’t reflect a mother, father, and child?

  • How will the Black Church handle the endangerment of Black boys in America?

  • How will the Black Church handle and respond to the burden of mass incarceration as a new caste system for Blacks in America?

  • Will the Black and White Church unite despite our cultural differences?

If you’re reading this, you may have a solution, what are some ways the church can address these issues?

Part Two: Satisfying Father Hunger

The bible says God adopts us into his family through Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:4 (NLT) the Apostle Paul says:

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I was adopted into God’s family. My father became the Creator of the universe. Older and so much wiser, I see now God has always been there for me. Through Jesus Christ, I met my eternal fatherthe one who created me. He knew me before my mother and father even conceived me. My calling and purpose became clear to me when I married my wife and was blessed with a father-in-law. He was connected to God and through our divine connection, God spoke to me as He did Moses.

We need earthly fathers–a male figure physically and spiritually present in our everyday lives. Jesus had an earthly father, but He also revealed God as His father. We need God the Father and physical fathers in the earth. It takes both to fulfill God’s mission and purpose in the earth.

Another example of a father figure is a mentor–someone that will assume the responsibilities of teaching, raising, nurturing a younger person who is not his/her biological child. God will send us mentors to show His fatherhood towards us.

In the bible, there are great men not raised by their biological fathers. For example, Samuel was raised and mentored by Eli (a priest). Elisha left his family and followed Elijah. Jesus, whose biological father was God, was raised by Joseph.

I know God can, will and does use fatherless people. I also believe the destruction of fathers/son dynamics hinders the progression of God’s mission in the earth. Hypothetically speaking, if my father was connected to God and raised me, I believe I could have discovered my purpose sooner. Maybe life could have been different for me. Maybe I would not have struggled as much as I did

Let’s pause right here. Take a moment to think about your biological parents. 

If your father or mother were not in your life as you believe they should be, maybe their only purpose was to conceive you. My advice would be not to dwell on them being absent. Love is not geneticit is learned. Just because the DNA match does not mean love is there. This may sound harsh but reflect on that thought for a moment.

Consider you were born for the purposes of being raised and loved by someone else. Once you discover that your true parent is God, your expectations of your earthly parent(s) can and will be lowered. They are merely stewards on this earth. Raising you is a job that they may didn’t have the qualifications for. Believe me, God will burden someone to love you because He loves you. This is the revelation!

If you are experiencing Father Hunger, can I pray for you? If I can, read below:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your love and affection. I pray that you would send mentors and father figures into the lives of those who are suffering from father hunger. Jesus, I ask that you place a burden on the hearts of men of God to mentor and be father figures to the fatherless in the faith and those who don’t know You also. God, fill us and keep us as we wait. Heal us and open our eyes to see who really wants to help us. We trust Your will to be done. Thank You for always being so mindful and thoughtful of us. It is in Your son, Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.

Why “Black Man” Theology?

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Let’s dive into my thoughts…

By definition, theology is the critical study of God. For centuries, men and women have sought to understand God in their context of life. Some through attending church and listening to a pastor and others through the intense study of biblical scriptures, geographical research, science, history etc. There are several books written and published to document different journeys of scholars, theologians, atheists, agnostics, monks and others quest to discover who God is and His goal and mission for mankind.

Some say, “ Everything we need to know about God is in the Bible.” Some say, “God’s not real!” While others say, “God’s not dead- He’s still alive!” Wherever you are on the spectrum of understanding God, I believe this journey is long, hard, and we haven’t figured God out yet. With that being said, I believe there is more to discover, process, understand and discuss about God. And, I believe we have many tools to do it; such as, sermons, books, movies, science, prayer, nature, people, and much more. Which leads to why I chose to start this blog, “Black Man Theology.”

This blog is not a place to define who God fully is nor a place to bash others’ perspectives. It is simply a platform to process, discover, research and discuss who God is; more specifically, who God is through the lens of a Black man. I chose to call this blog “Black Man Theology,” because I’m a Black man. A Black American man who was born and raised by a single mother- in the Midwest of America. Grand Rapids and Kentwood, MI. The first half of my life was in the inner city of Grand Rapids (GR) and my teen years 13-17 was in Kentwood, MI the suburbs of GR. These details are important because, it’s my context and my context shapes my perspective and understanding of life.

Some of you are already calling me less “Black” because of where I was raised. Here is why… people judge us based upon where we come from, where we live, what school we went to, and all type of stuff. If all of these factors change a person’s perspective of me- imagine how people understand God.

How a Black man experiences life in the South of America is different than the Midwest; historically speaking. How a Black man experience life in another country is different than in America. The word Black isn’t even a real description of a person in other countries. The term Black was created to create separation between people. As a result, separate experiences were created and separate mindsets were nurtured. Therefore, we all see God differently. Which is why “Theology” is even a thing. To some Jesus is God and to others Jesus is just a man.

So with that being said, this will be a journey, a process, a quest to understand God and discover Him and His mission for mankind. Oh I forgot to say, I’m 32 years old as well. My age contributes to my context as well. I’ve only lived three decades and can probably analyze and understand one and a half of those decades. Some would say I haven’t been around long enough to know God well. So yeah, welcome to my thoughts, my processing and hopefully God shows us some things we could appreciate, value, change us, inspire us and most importantly help us understand Him more. In the comments, drop some topics you want to discuss.

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