At church recently we’ve started going through the classic Richard Foster book ‘Money Sex Power’. Foster is best known for his work ‘Celebration of Discipline’, covering how to grow in the practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible study, meditation, fasting, etc. Whilst ‘Celebration of Discipline’ focusses on acts that can draw us closer to God, ‘Money Sex Power’ covers the dangerous pitfalls that can destroy our lives, and pull us away from God. And yet Foster is keen to point out that these issues are also spiritual:
“To the popular mind, topics like prayer and worship carry an aura of spirituality, whereas the themes of money, sex & power sound terrible ‘secular’ at best. My longing throughout the writing has been to help people sense that as we come to these ‘secular’ issues we are treading on holy ground. To live rightly with reference to money, sex & power is to live sacramentally.”
At the beginning of Holy Week, it’s fascinating to reflect how these themes played a huge role in the reasons for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Money: Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus because he wanted more money. John 12:1-8 shows us that he was a thief, and Luke 22:1-6 reveals he agreed to the betrayal because he was greedy for more cash. Money had taken such a hold over his life that he sent Jesus to the cross.
Sex: Perhaps this is not normally considered a big part of the Passion week narrative, but it’s there in the background. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist executed because a woman he was in an adulterous relationship with (Herodias) wanted the prophet killed. She had her daughter dance in front of Herod what was probably a sexually provocative striptease. Herod offered her anything, up to half his Kingdom, but for what? Probably for the opportunity to sleep with her… the daughter of a woman he was already in a relationship with. No wonder Jesus refused to speak when brought before Herod at his trial (Luke 23:8-12) – this was the man who ordered the execution of his cousin to satisfy his lust. Sex had taken such a hold over his life that it helped send Jesus to the cross.
Power: Caiaphas wanted Jesus executed because he threatened the power structures the Jews had put in place (John 11:47-50). Pilate agreed to the execution because he was a weak leader who feared a rebellion getting out of control (John 19:12-16). Both men wanted to preserve the power they had in the positions they currently occupied. Power had become so important to both of them that they sent Jesus to the cross.
Money Sex Power, all working together to conspire towards the death of Jesus. All are serious temptations that can ultimately destroy our lives. And all are powerful temptations that remain dangerous for Londoners of the twenty first century. Perhaps it’s not too far a stretch to plot them on the map of London.
Money: The City of London and the Canary Wharf development contain fabulously wealthy banks and bankers, insurance giants and stockbrokers. All of them trying to make money, for themselves and others.
Power: The City of Westminster is filled with politicians, civil servants, lobbyists and Lords, exercising a huge degree of power over the rest of the country. All of them are involved in a continuous scramble to accumulate and then preserve power.
Sex: The West End has always been the playground for the merchants and the politicians at the end of a long day at the office. In former times it has acted as one huge red-light district, and echoes of that still remain in parts of Soho. Sex is still a big magnet that pulls people towards the clubs, pubs and theatre houses of the West End.
Pray for Londoners to not allow money, sex & power to develop a hold over their lives. Pray especially for those who work in the financial sphere and the political sphere, that they would not make money, sex & power the most important goals of their lives, but would instead exercise generosity, faithfulness and humility in their work.
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.