Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Money - The Giver of All Good Things?

Today at church, the sermon was about money.  And I’ve no idea why I was hearing it, but here it goes.

I grew up with money being an issue.  And I’ve had times in the past where I served this god that I thought was the provider of all good things.  I worried and worried over whether there was enough of this god for me.

Then I heard the still, small voice through the chaotic darkness in which I’d found myself:  Choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).

Hindsight is a bit of a cruel mistress allowing us to both suffer in our past stupidity asking “Why” and learn from that stupidity – to see things more clearly outside of the situation we were in.

As I served the god named Money that I thought was the giver of all good things, Lord God, Yahweh, was saying, “I taught you how to pray: ‘Give us this day our daily bread’” (Luke 11:3).

God will not provide all of us with “one hundred billlliondollars!,” but he will provide all of us what we need for this day.  What will he do about tomorrow?  Tomorrow, he will provide all of us what we need for that day.  God doesn’t always change our situation, but if we try and commune with him (“Hey, God, it’s me again…”), he will help us change our perspective.  “I don’t know where it’s going to come from, Father, but I trust you to provide it.”

This god called Money will not solve all our problems.  Point of fact, God in Heaven isn’t going to solve all our problems, but he is there with us always.  Money is not so gracious.

Money itself isn’t really the problem either.  It is our reaction to it.  First, there's serving it, as I did, treating it as the giver of all good things.  And it was and is a shaming god.  Shame says “There is something wrong with you.”  Shame is wrong.  God the Creator is not a shaming god.  He is a God of conviction who does prod with guilt; guilt says, “You’re doing something wrong.”  Guilt attacks our actions; shame attacks our identity, our being.

Serving money is one reaction to it.  Loving it is another – this reaction I flirt with, but recognize it more quickly and am able to fight it off.  1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  As Ecclesiastes 5:10 states, loving money means you never have enough.  Just a little bit more.  The “one hundred billion dollars!” you received in ransom for the entire planet wouldn’t be enough.  Just a little bit more.  The paycheck you receive, you’re not satisfied with it – why can’t I make just a little bit more?  (This is the tease that gets whispered in my ear, and I have to put up my dukes.)  Just a little bit more.

What is between me and my God, as I’ve written before, is a relationship.  Religion is more a way to express one’s love.

When you fall in love with a person, you can’t get enough of that person – you want to spend every last second with that person, can’t wait to hear what that person is going to say next.  You can’t get enough.  Just a little bit more.

Just as one can be in love with a person, one can be in love with a god.  Sometimes it’s called being filled with “spiritual fervor.”

“Lord Jesus, I can’t get enough of you; I want to read more, I want to see more, I want more of you.  Just a little bit more.”  (It’s not always like this in a relationship.  Being “in love” is a feeling, and feelings cannot be controlled, only acted upon.  Love itself is an act and intentional.  But I digress.)

Money, money money “by the pound!”  -- Heck yeah.  Just worked Pete’s Dragon into this.  Excellent.  


“Money, Money, Money.  I love the way you speak getting me all the things (I think) I want.  All the things my heart desires.  I can’t get enough of you.  I love you.  Just a little bit more.”

In my previous digression (right before the Pete’s Dragon interruption), I said being in love is a feeling which can’t be controlled, only acted upon.  If you’re mad or hurt by someone, you can’t help feeling that way; you control how you act upon that feeling – punching the perpetrator in the face or walking away for example.

God may not change our situation, but he will help us change our perspective.  He rarely gives me more money, but he always gives me what I need for this day.

Money doesn’t make a very good god.  Why?  Because it is a thing, a possession, and, as I’ve recently come to terms with in my life (again), possessions are something that are owned.  We need to own our possessions, not allow our possessions to own us.  We are the owners of our money.  Pastor Phil’s really good line in today’s sermon: “Money serves us as we serve God.”

I am in possession of the money God has given me.  God calls me to be an indian giver, not for his sake, but for my own.  Giving back some of that money to God is an act of faith – an exercise of faith on my part, meant to strengthen my faith and my character.  When I give back to God – the church term is “tithe” – I’m saying, “God, I’m grateful for what you’ve given me.  I trust that you are generous and will continue to provide me with what I need for today.”  (This – tithing – is an example of religion being an expression of love.)  So, since I’ve been earning a paycheck, I’ve been giving a little back to God – I follow the 10% guideline (not rule) in the Old Testament – and I’ve never been destitute.  In fact, I’ve often been blessed to be able to give to others or to buy extras for myself, like whatever electronic my flesh desires at the moment.

And God, true to his word (Matthew 28:20b), has always been with me, even into the chaotic darkness I’d led myself into by choosing to allow money to control me.  Just the thought of that darkness is frightening, so I have to believe he is with me.  Always.  And another song from Pete’s Dragon because it’s not easy to find Someone like that.

Here is a link to Pastor Phil's sermon on March 30, 2014 "A Godly Perspective on Money": http://vimeo.com/90583536

(Other sermons may be found at http://pathways.cc/video-sermons-online)