For instance, Can’t I simply aspire to be a rich billionaire in US dollars and still be a Christian?
I think, it’s thinking about the wrong thing. I want to be careful here so I don’t sound like a Poverty Gospel Advocate because listen, “the poverty gospel is not of God, it’s not of God.” But I want to be careful because you know when Jesus says, “Watch out for Greed”, I hear many people try to talk about.. you know “it’s not money but the love of money” and yet, so many times God counsels against money. Jesus says that “It’s very hard for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God, it’s easier for a Camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God”
In the Bible, there’s so much counsel against money, for example, “You cannot serve God and Mammon” As a famous Pastor, Tim Keller says,
“When Jesus says, ‘watch out for something, it means that, more often than not, we can be deceived by that thing.”
It does not say, ‘watch out for adultery’; it doesn’t say, ‘watch out for for lying’; it says ‘watch out for greed’, so when, sometimes people just try to say, “Well I know what the Bible says, I’ll be good, I will not allow Greed to enter, so now that I’ve said that, can I not just have the ambition to be a Billionaire in US dollars?” Most likely when people are saying that, I’’ll say “Yes, Greed has already caught you”
We preached a message on Greed, looking at Gehazi, it’s called, “The Leprosy of Greed” under “The Idols and City” sermon series in 2018, check it out. But let me say this, I’ll be very, very skeptical of somebody who tells me that their ambition is to be a billionaire. I would say this, that a Christian should never have an ambition outside of what God is, why?
Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for the good of them who love God and are called according to his purpose. In other words, the only purpose we should have in life is God’s purpose, we are called according to God’s purpose. What’s God’s purpose? to be confirmed to the image of Christ, good. If that is our main calling in life, to be conformed to the image of Christ, then we now look at the complexity of our lives, that is, some of us are married, some of us are parents, we have different vocations and different things we are doing.
How can I do those things in a way that shows that I’m trying to be conformed to the image of Christ. So, then I take my business, for instance, how do I run a business that shows that I’m trying to be conformed to the image of Christ? I would say, apart from integrity and being a good boss, you should want to make your business productive, why? because God is a productive God. What does “be fruitful and multiply” mean? if it doesn’t mean, at least (I’m not saying it’s the only thing) but at least be productive, that he started with two human beings and in the new creation, he is going to have multitudes, upon multitudes, upon multitudes- it’s productivity!
What does it mean that ‘except a corn of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone’ and God said that’s not a good picture and it says, but when it dies, it then produces more, it produces a harvest. What about when Jesus says to the guy, “Take five talents and it produces five; take two and he produced two; take one and that one went to bury it and Jesus said, “You are a wicked and unprofitable servant”
God is productive, so rather than saying, “I want to be first and foremost, a billionaire”, say, “I want to be productive with this opportunity that God has given me”
Now, you then have to grow yourself in how it means to be productive. So for instance, some people feel, for me to be more productive, then the sole purpose of my business has to be to maximize profit, No! It’s to be productive, and maximizing profit doesn’t always mean productivity. If you are trying to maximize profit, you may not be productive in building the people that are under you, if you are trying to maximize profit, you may just want to have a monopoly and you’re not giving the customers the best of service but they don’t have a choice than to come to you. You see, you want to be productive in the way God wants you to be productive. Now, I’ve often said, you cannot be productive in those ways without money. Money and profit is like blood to a body but you don’t live for the blood in your life, you live for something else, but you need blood to do that.
I would say, define ambition has been productive in a way that shows that you are trying to be conformed to the image of Christ. For some of you, that would make you a millionaire in dollars, it could make you a billionaire, it could, I don’t know, but I’ll say, “Seeking to please Christ, first and foremost is the most important thing” and many times you’ll find that the thing that gives you more profit would be against pleasing Christ. Sometimes, a lot of times, those two things can align but sometimes they wouldn’t, but since you are not serving God and money, then you would always worship God even if it means loss in that regard.
So, I think this is a better way of looking at it: I’m called to God’s purpose which is to be conformed to the image of Christ. How do I bring that down in every single aspect of my life, that is what it means to live as Jesus being Lord of your life and not you.
Femi Osunnuyi is lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.