Greetings in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
We are at that time of year where the Finance Committee and Vestry are working on next year's budget. It is often a difficult time because hard decisions often have to be made, or, at least considered.
A Quick Question: Besides the Kingdom of God, what did Jesus talk about most often?
Love? Peace? The poor?
Jesus talked about money all the time. I remember in my first year of parish ministry I was attacked for talking about money from the pulpit. My response: "Jesus talked more about money than anything else except The Kingdom of God." Fact: Jesus talked about money and possessions in 16 out of the 39 parables and in The Gospel of Luke he talks about money in 1 out of every 7 verses. The Bible, in total, talks about money in over 2000 verses yet only 500 verses on prayer and faith. Why you might ask? I will use Jesus' words to respond: In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (You can find further Scripture references at the end of this column)
This week is All Saints first week of our Pledge Drive. All Saints only exists by and for the people we serve. From now through December 4th we ask that everyone prayerfully consider what All Saints means to you and then consider and ask yourselves "What is my Church family worth to me?" Jesus, time after time in the Gospel, calls his disciples' attention to the use of money.
Let me share with you some questions that may apply here (sent to me by a friend):
- Why do we give 10%, 15%, 20% to wait staff for a good meal but only give 1-2% to the Church?
- Why do we religiously send Time Warner Cable or DirectTV $100 per month but forget about the church for months on end?
- Why do we resist the sacrificial giving of our "First Fruits" and decide later, when our financial picture is more complete, what we give to the church?
The late Richard Halverson, a chaplain of the U.S. Senate, in his book, Perspective, wrote, "Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because money is of first importance when it comes to a human beings real nature. Money is an exact index to a person's true character."
Jesus saw that money and wealth often cause a poverty of character, a lack of what really mattered. That is why - when the rich young man "went away sad, for he had many possessions"- Jesus said "it will be hard for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of heaven." It's also why he told us to "give to the one who asks of you" (Mt 5:42) and that we would be judged by the measure, the generosity, by which we give (Mt 7:1).
What we do with wealth - whether that be a plenitude of money, power, talent, influence or anything else that comes to us through the grace of God - shows where our heart is.
This is the very danger Jesus recognized when he told us to store up "treasures in heaven" rather than "treasures on earth" (Mt 6:19-20). If we focus only on our wealth, on getting more and not losing what we have - that wealth can take on a power of its own, just like the false god Mammon.
Instead, as good stewards, Jesus calls us to focus on God - and to put our wealth freely at his disposal. If we do, we will be living what Jesus taught, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
See ya Sunday,
Here are some Scripture references that you may find beneficial:
Many parables touch on material wealth: the Prodigal Son squandering his inheritance (Lk 15:11-32), Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19-31), or the day laborers in the vineyard (Mt 20:1-16).
The use of money also occasioned many of Jesus' teachings: the widow's two coins (Mk 12:41-44); Caesar's taxes (Mt 22:15-22); the rich young man (Mt 19:16-24); and Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk 19.1-10).
Then there are the famous quotes: "Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be" (Mt 6:21); "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, not food, nor money" (Lk 9:3); and, most famous of all: "You cannot serve both God and Mammon." (Lk 16 and Mt 6:24).
Mammon is a word from the ancient world. In Greek, it was mamOna, meaning wealth or riches, in the personalized sense, even as the riches were taking on a personality their own. Mammon meant wealth idolized and sought after. It was also recognized as something that could debase and dehumanize. Mammon could truly be a god, a false one.