Seven ways Christians fail to be Christian

Seven ways Christians fail to be Christian October 24, 2013


Since I’m a Christian, I’m not exactly thrilled about writing this. But it wouldn’t be honest not to admit that we Christians too often blow it in these seven ways:

1. Too much money. Here is what Jesus Christ said about money:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Luke 12:33)
“You cannot serve God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)

I just don’t see how Jesus could have been any more clear about his desire for “wealthy Christian” to be an oxymoron.

2. Too arrogant.  Despite what we’re often led to believe, we Christians are no more or less moral than anyone else in the world. Morality is determined by character, not religion.

3. Too action-oriented. We should spend less time out in the world acting “in the name of God,” and more time in meditation and prayer feeling how God is trying to act on us.

4. Too invasive. Unless they’re harming others or themselves, we should let people be. The very best way to show how God is working in our lives is to stop telling people how God should be working in their lives.

5. Too quick to abandon logic. When talking to others about our faith, we Christians too often resort to language and lines of reasoning that abandon the norms of rational logic. We should always be careful to speak of our religious experience as if it is the entirely subjective phenomenon that it is and must remain.

6. Too insular. We Christians spend too much time hanging out with other Christians. It’s good for anyone to be with their own tribe, of course. But we must remember that our real tribe, and the real tribe of every person, is all of mankind.

7. Too uneducated about the Bible and Christianity. We too often embarrass ourselves by showing how unfamiliar we are with the history of Christianity and/or what the Bible actually says. No one expects every Christian to be a Bible scholar. But people do have a right to expect us to be truthful about the limits of our knowledge.


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  • Barbara Heller

    I have to (respectfully) disagree with #1. I don’t think Christ would have said that “wealthy Christian” is an oxymoron. I think you can be wealthy and not be *greedy*, not be *uncaring* about the welfare of others, not *worship wealth*. I think that in the gospel passages used to illustrate Christ’s attitude toward the rich, he was speaking to/about a specific group of rich people back then who oppressed the poor and created obscene social injustice. I also have to maybe disagree somewhat with #3, but that might just be a difference of opinion going back almost 500 years. 😉 I’d actually like to see people acting more like Christ much more often. The others I heartily agree with!!!

    • hellohopey

      I think that’s an overused excuse to put stipulations on Christian wealth. You can have two BMWs and still give even 20% tithes to the church, and maybe even sponsor a kid in Africa! That doesn’t change the fact that 22% of children in the US live in poverty and could use something. It doesn’t change the fact that millions of people in the eastern world live on less than $2 a day. Ideas don’t change because you’re a nice person who has a lot of money–furthermore, if one has to defend their wealth, maybe there’s a reason it’s an issue? They should be concerned with WHY they feel defensive about it if it’s not an issue, shouldn’t they?

    • Bill Sebring

      I think a lot of people are going to disrespectfully disagree with you; quite frankly you’re missing the forest for the trees. Yes, there are some wealthy people who really do some wonderful things with their wealth, I think of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, for starters. But when you look at the self serving televangelists out there, and the mega churchs sprouting all over the country, that should actually have signs reading, “First United Bank of Christ”, that is where the problem is…..Prosperity gospel, cult of personality idiocy.
      You’re also missing the point of #3. There are too many people who’ve become so political with their christianity in terms of “red meat right wing issues” that that becomes the focus of their faith. There are too many people who “act in the name of god”, in terms of evangelism, which I really despise and am uncomfortable. I’ve read about fundamentalist evangelicals who go out to foreign countries, and bribe and manipulate people to become “Christians” in exchange for something. Pretty disgusting to me.

      • Barbara Heller

        I don’t disagree at all that self-serving televangelists are a huge problem. I just disagree with painting everyone with one brush… Prosperity gospel is of course an oxymoron, and anything but Christian. I’m not sure I missed the forest. I was just trying to draw a finer distinction about the trees. I don’t think the problem is wealth, per se. It’s what you do with wealth, how you feel about your wealth, and how you treat everyone else on the planet. Greed is a huge problem. Lack of charity is a huge problem. Extremely uneven wealth distribution is a problem… About #3: I agree with you 100%. My point that I was trying to make (and made badly) is that I object when people say that they don’t have to *act* differently because they’re Christians — that it’s enough to just recite some magic formula, say a few prayers, and *poof* — eternal salvation, with no need of actually treating people differently, or living their lives differently. I feel strongly that being a Christian means *acting* in ways that Christ was trying to teach us. We agree, I think, (and I agree with John) about the main point of #3. I object strongly to people putting themselves into the role of God. The examples you mention make me sick to my stomach, too.

  • Todd Reeder

    John Wesley said gain all you can. “Save all you can. Give all you can.” A Christian should gain wealth so they can help people in need. Not to spend on worldly goods. Lots of Christians spend hundreds and thousands on things they don’t need when there are people who don’t have food and a home.

    • Todd Reeder

      Would Jesus wear a Rolex if he were on earth today? Would he be driving a Hummer or an expensive car?

      • Way to channel Ray Stevens!!! Love that song. Its funny yet very thought provoking

  • Kelly Tamburello

    I disagree with #3. It’s very easy to sit at home and pray. It’s harder to go out to the soup kitchen and serve people who are hungry. We need to be the body of Christ and go out and MINISTER to people. Be His hands and feet. Go out there and feed, clothe, and care for them, not preach at them.

    • Summer Lynn Smith

      I see your point, but I also know the BUSY BUSY Christians who never take time to fuel. Its a balance.

  • hellohopey

    And in regards to number three, how easy is it to REALLY sit at home and pray? True prayer and discernment isn’t just thanking God for your pizza for lunch. The idea that maybe one should talk to God before just trying to persuade others to convert will have my vote every time. It’s easy to talk the talk, harder to walk the walk.

    • Guest

      I agree! Prayer is anything but easy…

  • tyedup2u

    The BIBLe has words to help all people know that they are in the sight of GOD all the time. So if you are a christian you live a life of goodness even if poor, sick, or rich. It is an internal flame GOD sends you by the WINGS OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT.

  • Jay Adams

    Hi John,

    Very interesting article. Here are my thoughts, opinions and convictions on this topic. I’ve commented underneath each number.

    We are all fundamentalists, just about different opinions.

    1. Too much money.

    on, you’re taking the verses out of context. In Luke, Jesus is talking
    to a man who desires to EARN his way to righteousness. If Christ meant
    us to have to sell all of our possessions, then NONE of us should have
    ANYTHING, otherwise we are just arbitrarily deciding that “well, this is
    okay to have because it’s just practical.”

    There is a big
    difference between worshiping money and having wealth. Who gets to
    decide what is a luxury item and what isn’t? Who is to say that just
    because a person is “wealthy” that they aren’t using that money to help

    The LOVE of money and placing it above God is what makes
    it difficult for some rich people to enter God’s presence. Why? Because
    they don’t WANT to and God won’t force them to.

    2. Too arrogant. “Morality is determined by character, not religion.”

    –Is it not arrogant to claim to define morality? What about
    non-believers who would say that that isn’t how morality should be
    defined? Are they wrong?

    Would you instruct others to “not
    judge?” If those people decide to anyway, then are they “wrong?” Have
    you just judged them? If not, then how did you arrive that that
    determination? Also, most people who say, “The Bible says that we
    shouldn’t judge” have no idea what that verse means. There is a
    difference between judging and condemning. Condemning (you are going to
    hell) is wrong. Judging (you are exhibiting a non-Biblical behavior) is
    not In addition, the Bible actually instructs us how to judge. Many
    times, people don’t mean “Don’t judge,” they mean, “don’t judge ME!” We
    don’t like being told that we are doing wrong, even when we know it

    3. Too action-oriented. We should spend less time
    out in the world acting “in the name of God,” and more time in
    meditation and prayer feeling how God is trying to act on us.

    I’m assuming you only mean that stereotypically “liberal” causes can be
    action-oriented and that anyone who disagrees with you needs to just
    get right with God. How can you know that they haven’t already spent
    that time with God and are out living out their conviction?

    4. Too invasive. Unless they’re harming others or
    themselves, we should let people be. The very best way to show how God
    is working in our lives is to stop telling people how God should be
    working in their lives.

    statement seems invasive to me. So are you saying, “People have the
    right to believe what they want as long as they believe, as I do, that
    people have the right to believe what they want?” Otherwise, aren’t you
    telling them that they are wrong and that they need to shut up.You have
    determined what is the “best way to show how God is working” and as long
    as they agree with you, you will allow them to speak, yes?

    5. Too quick to abandon logic. When talking to
    others about our faith, we Christians too often resort to language and
    lines of reasoning that abandon the norms of rational logic. We should
    always be careful to speak of our religious experience as if it is the
    entirely subjective phenomenon that it is and must remain.

    would agree. There is a trap of circular logic. However, from my own
    point of view, I have witnessed as Christ over the years has made me a
    more loving, others-centric person. Is that subjective? Yes, but it is
    empirical. I can no more deny that this has happened to me than I can
    convince myself I won a race fairly when I know I cheated. I do
    recognize though that I could be wrong.

    6. Too insular. We Christians spend too much time
    hanging out with other Christians. It’s good for anyone to be with their
    own tribe, of course. But we must remember that our real tribe, and the
    real tribe of every person, is all of mankind.

    I agree. Christ instructs people how to find balance in these
    interactions. In a singular obsession to be “open-minded,” some
    Christians have caused great harm to themselves and others.

    7. Too uneducated about the Bible and Christianity. We
    too often embarrass ourselves by showing how unfamiliar we are with the
    history of Christianity and/or what the Bible actually says. No one
    expects every Christian to be a Bible scholar. But people do have a
    right to expect us to be truthful about the limits of our knowledge.

    Typically, people who don’t want to be obligated to change their behavior due to what the Bible says, for instance, they want to fornicate, usually focus only on the history of the church. People who don’t want to acknowledge the human
    failure that has occurred within the history of the organization labeled the Christian church choose not to study it. They equate any recognition of the possibility that they could be wrong as a failure of faith.

    I think these kind of discussions are good, John. There are my two cents. Peace.

    • Rebecca Bular Legamaro

      Jay, I was going to reply, but I don’t need you, you said it all. I agree with your responses. The Bible doesn’t tell us to be poor, it encourages us to be humble and content and help the poor. How can we help the poor if we are poor ourselves? The Bible doesn’t say money is evil, the LOVE of money is evil.

      As far as #2 goes I agree in that Christians need be careful of coming off as being morally superior simply because of our belief. Which leads me to the next important point which is as Christians we should consider the other person’s knowledge of Jesus. If you are dealing with a non-believer then to verbally judge them would be wrong. If you are dealing with a Christian and you see them exhibiting unbecoming behavior we are obligated to pull that brother or sister aside and offer LOVING counsel.

      #3. BOTH are important. It is often in ACTING that we discover God’s direction for our lives. God gave each of us spiritual gifts, some are prayer warriors and glorify God most through prayer for themselves and others. Others are ambassadors, going out into the world carrying the light of Jesus in their actions.

      #4. The key word here is TACT and this goes back to #2.

      #5. I agree it is important to be careful about how we communicate with non-believers, or those of a different faith.

      #6. This is entirely subjective. Some who are newer Christians who perhaps are trying to leave an unhealthy lifestyle may need to spend some time surrounded by those of the same faith until they feel strong enough spiritually to resist the temptations to fall back into old habits.

      #7. Agreed. It is the responsibly of every Christian to read and understand the Bible. To rely upon others for your understanding makes you vulnerable to misinformation, misinterpretation and legalism. It is far easier to ‘defend’ your faith when speaking to others if you have read the verses yourself. However, it is important that we not just memorize scripture as even the Devil can quote the Bible but that we prayerfully consider it’s contents and rely upon the Holy Spirit for understanding.

      I agree that these sorts of discussions are important, especially with in our faith as we are all human, and our experiences influence our relationship and interpretation of Jesus and his word.

      Blessings! Becky

  • Summer Lynn Smith

    Good list. Agreed.

  • Peter

    About point # 1. At the time of the human fall, God lost his children, [the first family] and their descendants [us].
    Satan became the prince of this world as Jesus said. Consequently, everything has to be returned to God.
    It does not mean that we should be poor physically but we should be poor in spirit.
    Since God lives for the sake of others. We should do the same.
    He wants to give us stewardship of His Kingdom. That is the meaning of the 3rd Blessing promised in Genesis 1:28. “Have dominion over the creation”.
    But first, we need to fulfill the 1st and 2nd blessing.
    -Be fruitful by becoming someone who is mature and can bear good fruits.
    -Multiply by creating an ideal family where God can dwell.
    What we own belongs to God’s first. Our spouse is a gift from God. Our children are a gift from God.

    • God lost his children?

      Satan usurped God, wresting control of humanity from the divine?

      God needs an ideal family to live in?

      Sounds like a rather insignificant deity to me.

      Becoming mature sorta flies in the face of Jesus’s suggestion of being child-like.

      If we have dominion over creation, we are doing a grand job of wrecking it.

      The thought of my first spouse as gift from God is so distasteful, and horrifying, that I have to reject that completely.

  • AtalantaBethulia


    1) Greed

    2) Pride

    3) Selfishness, focussed on the wrong things (Trying to fix/change others instead of ourselves)

    4) Busybody, mischief-maker

    5) Unreasonable-ness

    6) Tribalism

    7) Ignorance

  • namewithheldforfearofgov

    I renounced Christianity in the name of Jesus 3 years ago. Never in my life have I known the freedom or walked so closely with my Creator, Love. Today we are closer than ever. When I read a Bible, I use one which marks what was added and what was removed, and keep an Greek/Hebrew concordance with me at all times when reading. What a shock to listen to “Christian” music, praise and worship and hear such negative self depreciation! Wow! Now when I read, I see how people in the pulpits have used the stories to mislead and tell people about subjects that have nothing to do with the passage! Balim and the donkey…”God can even use a jack ass”. NO! It is about animal cruelty and blind humans! Sodom and Gammorah…”They were homosexual.” NO! They were inhospitable, (which is one of the greatest sins in the area of the middle east)! Thank you for all the good work you are doing. Remember: Only the unbelievers called the original followers of Jesus “Christians”. It is the job of other people to determine if we act like “little Christs”.

  • LonesomeDove

    I think you may speak for more mainstream Christians than you know – there are many more extreme out there right now who should listen to and could benefit from a short and sensible discourse like yours…

  • Here are my eval of your self-loathing 😉

    (1) Some teachings reported to be from Jesus are worth ignoring.

    (2) Yes – moral arrogance is certainly delusional. Well stated.

    (3) Bravo — more inner life — unless it drive your to #2 moral arrogance

    (4) Keep out of people’s face goes for everyone, eh

    (5) Bravo: too quick to abandon logic goes for everyone too

    (6) Double bravo – but, I must predict that if Christians stop being insular, the religion will disappear quicker.

    (7) But more importantly, too uneducated on other religions at a deep level — so as to see how what you are doing can be found in many other religions.

  • Eve Fisher

    I sat in a Bible class, 30 years ago, in which every single person except me and the teacher said there was no such thing as “too much wealth”. I have known people who were booted out of a church because they were addicted to cigarettes. I have been told by a 20 year old soon-to-be divorced mother of 2 that my (at that time 12 years, currently 34+) marriage wasn’t valid because my husband and I had no children. One of my best friends is being literally hounded to return to church not because they want to heal her wounds, but they need her to play the organ, and she’s “letting them down”. It’s all pretty disgusting.

    I am happy to say that I still go to church – but a church where we’re all a bunch of losers, sinners, recovering addicts and struggling workers, and our idea of a great church service is to sit around with a cup of coffee exchanging ideas and interpretations, then have communion, and then pony up to help out someone who’s in a world of hurt. It’s great.

    Personally, I think the problem with Christianity began when it became the official church of the Roman Empire, and it became respectable – suddenly it was no longer a hospital for sinners, but a waiting room for the perfect. I like going to my hospital.

  • Todd Reeder

    Some Christians say we are to live like Jesus lived. Jesus did not own a house. Did not own a car. Rode on a donkey or walked. Likely only had one set of clothes. Owned no material pocession’s. If Christians are to live like Jesus does it mean it is wrong to have these thing? I am listening to a preacher I use to respect. He is saying Jesus became poor for our sake. Meaning Jesus became poor that we could become rich. And not just spiritually. Rich in financial things. To have things. He is implying it is better to own an expensive watch that last longer than a cheap watch. Better to own an expensive car that last longer than an in expense one. And he is saying who are we to say how much someone spends on things. The question is it right to spend money on something you don’t need when the money could have helped the homeless and hungry? Christian’s don’t need a 60,000 dollar car. Don’t need a huge house and expensive furniture. Most of which is just decorations.

    • Brian Spencer

      Jesus spoke many times about the issue of materialism. The character wasn’t simply made poor in life to spare us of our greed, else the character’s martyrdom for “sin” was just a formality. It is likely that author’s wished to convey a person who was unbound to greed to appear far more ethical and moral than the average… and it serves its purpose.

      As an example, the character promotes humanitarianism and compassion and outright denounces the accumulation of wealth, to the extent that “’tis easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man through the gates to heaven” (paraphrased).

      It is clear that, if one should strive to live by the nature of this character, there will be some major social and economic issues to confront. If choosing not to live by this nature, one cannot readily admit to being a true follower.

      Therefore, the very reason why most “cherry pick” scripture. They want to validate their faith in the story but they also want to indemnify their totally reasonable striving for a comfortable existence. On one hand, you’re got the denial of faith but, on the other, the practice of being human… which is pretty much all there is to be at the end of the day.

  • Sa Say

    Good stuff, simple, direct. If I could deconstruct one thing it would be #3–I feel like there is too much blah blah blah and not enough action…but I mean a different kind of action than you do. I mean: rebuilding after disasters, helping people to heal (physically, emotionally or spiritually–not just focusing on their “souls”), working with the homeless, taking in people who need me, supporting ministers (instead of making them support me all the time), caring for widows and orphans…

  • Erik Griffiths

    3 and 5 are new ways to fail. Prayer has a success rate equal to chance. How about you spend less time on your knees and more time on your feet. In other words you’ll do more by actually doing something than hoping to hear a god tell you what to do. As for 5, your religion shouldn’t be subjective, it should be testable, it should fall within the lines of logic and rationality. The supernatural is only used to fill in the blanks of information. You will never win an atheist over by telling him how god moved your curtains when you opened the window, right? Why would an atheist believe any other god done it story?

    • TopRahamic

      You claim to adhere to testability as a means of determining truth, but your second sentence, “Prayer has a success rate equal to chance,” is not only unsupported by any evidence but is totally untestable.

      As to the latter part of your post, why do people believe many things that they cannot personally verify with their own senses? The same way courts of law determine truth: with witnesses. And all information, not just theories of the supernatural, is “used to fill in the blanks of [other] information.” That’s part of the definition of the word “information.”

      • Brian Spencer

        “Prayer has a success rate equal to chance,”

        It has been tested. Many double-blind studies, all coming to the same conclusion that the outcomes expected from prayer are synonymous with the outcomes expected from random chance. Either way, it’s playing the lottery and studies show this. Research much?

        Definition of information: “facts provided or learned about something or someone.”

        “Facts”. Note that. “Facts”.

        You imply that, unless you are able to personally witness “whatever”, it equates to faith. Again, this goes back to Erik’s point that beliefs should be testable. Like most, you fail to see the difference between faith and legitimate knowledge. Faith requires either the non-existence of supporting evidence or a lack of motivation to seek supporting evidence. Knowledge is the product of testable proofs that can either be witnessed first-hand or learned (still leaving the option for testability).

        • TopRahamic

          The idea that the efficacy of prayer could somehow be “tested” in a scientific setting is so patently absurd that I am just going to admit “defeat” and walk away from this one shaking my head.

          The utter hubris and logical contortions of true believers among both theists and atheists never ceases to amaze me.

          • Erik Griffiths

            If prayer can be answered you bet it can be tested. Instead of just handwaving the results and claim that others are egotistical and distorting logic, maybe you could override your own cognitive bias and consider the idea that maybe your god doesn’t answer prayers or maybe doesn’t even exist. But that would mean having to admit that you might be wrong.

      • Erik Griffiths

        Eye witnesses accounts make for awful evidence. People observe thing differently. One eye witness will say the criminal was six foot, the next will say he was five foot eight. That’s why science has peer review, to make sure that the initial researcher didn’t let his bias modify their findings.

        Supernatural is used when the information isn’t know, it fills the blank of the information.

    • Your comments about prayer do not seem to relate to what John said at all. He said we should spend “more time in meditation and prayer feeling how God is trying to act on us.”
      You seem to be saying that prayer does NOT cause God to manipulate situations, but I do not hear John saying that it does. He is saying that prayer and meditation helps us understand things better–especially ourselves.
      Constant activity without reflection tends to do the opposite.
      Effective prayer most definitely changes things: it changes the one who prays. It causes them to grow and become a better person. This praying has nothing to do with controlling events and circumstances. Prayer is not a wish-granting technique.

      • Erik Griffiths

        If you talk to god, great, if you hear god, you have schizophrenia

        • Again, you seem to protest against something that wasn’t said. I have never heard God. But spending time in reflection is productive, and it creates a better balance than constant activity.

          • Erik Griffiths

            The author clearly says prayer is a way to figure out how your god will tell you how to act.

          • Peter said: “We should spend less time out in the world acting “in the name of God,” and more time in meditation and prayer feeling how God is trying to act on us.”

            I can’t say for sure what he had in mind, but I do not understand him to say we are to ‘figure out how your god will tell you how to act.’ I don’t want to be picky, but ‘feeling’ does not seem to equal ‘God telling’.

          • Erik Griffiths

            you’re right, feeling is even more useless.

  • Sheila Warner