RALEIGH — How we spend our money is a reflection of our hearts, and truly living the Bible requires drastic changes to what many Christians consider the American Dream, a New York Times best-selling author told an audience in Raleigh this week.
David Platt, a pastor at a church in Birmingham, Ala., and author of “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream,” spoke to about 100 people about the importance of Christian giving. The book’s message is that Jesus calls on Christians to give up everything they have to follow him and that he may tell anyone to sell all of their possessions and give them to the poor.
The book grew out of Platt’s efforts to reform his church’s budget. Platt and his wife had relocated to Birmingham after losing their home in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina, and as he settled in, he realized that he and his family didn’t need such a big parsonage. He began pressing the congregation to spend more wisely and to give away more.
The Bible warns of the dangers of money, Platt told the audience at a luncheon sponsored by the National Christian Foundation of Raleigh, the local affiliate of a national foundation that gives money to ministries, non-profits and churches. Originally, the book was intended for future church members who might not understand why the church made the shift it did.
Platt said some members of his church embraced his message; they changed careers or sold their homes and moved to the highest-crime, lowest-income parts of Birmingham, because that’s where the gospel was needed most.
But the reform led to challenges as he watched some people, put off by the message, leave his church.
“I’m okay with people leaving, if it’s just the word they’re reacting to. Jesus preached, and people turned away,” Platt said. “There’s a tension there that always exists, and our materialistic culture is so consuming on a daily basis that if we’re not helping each other in this battle on a daily basis, then we’re going to lose this battle.”
One audience member noted that many people are disturbed by the notion of giving more than 10 percent of their income, or tithing.
Platt replied that disciples of Christ should treat 10 percent as a floor, not a ceiling. He recommended people set cutoffs, choosing at what point they will be content. A family might decide they keep enough money for a certain standard of living and give away the rest.
Platt was in Raleigh for Advance the Church, an annual conference about revitalizing and planting churches in the urban South, and made time for the foundation’s event. Alanna Linden, president of the foundation’s Raleigh affiliate, said Platt’s popularity made Wednesday’s luncheon the most popular event it has ever held.
“People really want to meet in person people who are inspirational,” Linden said.
Wake Forest resident John Franklin, 28, said the topic was something he was especially passionate about as a financial planner. Franklin said he invited a few of his clients to join him at the luncheon.
“So much of the profession is focusing on money with clients, and one of the unique opportunities I have in this job is that I can talk to people about money,” Franklin said. “For me, (Platt’s talk) was an important reminder, because we are so surrounded by cars and houses and things in the world that are not bad for any reason, but can hinder us from spreading the gospel most efficiently.”