Thursday, 30 June 2016

What's up with talking about wealth?

Matt. 19:16-28 "The Rich Young Ruler", Acts 5:1-11 "Ananais and Sapphira", Luke 21 1-4 "Widows Mite", Matt. 27:57-61 Joseph of Arimathea

Who do you talk about money with? Family? Colleagues? People at church? Your financial adviser?

What do you talk about? How to make more? Spend less? What others should do? What and where you can give?

Money is a hard thing to talk about, probably because the ways we need-desire-use-it say a lot about who we are and what we value. We want to avoid looking selfish, but we all have ways we like to indulge ourselves. We want to be generous and helpful, but are afraid of those who might take advantage of us. We want to give, but we want to control how our donation is used. We are constantly faced with the reality that money is power and security for some, and the lack of it for others. Wealth is an intimate topic, something close to our hearts. How we use our wealth (not just money, health and time too) shows what we care about.

A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation with a leader of a non-profit charity. He was struggling with how to think about and lead a divided constituency where most of the money was coming from one part, and the leadership and thinking from another. The groups were of very different opinions on the current lgbtq issues. What would happen to the people the organization helps if the two sides could not find a way to work with each other?

This leader was frustrated. He lamented the lack of conversation about sexuality issues in the church, saying this is the one topic we can't talk about.  While I shared his frustrations, I disagreed, saying that we talk a lot about sexuality issues, we just haven't found a way to do that and still keep agreeing on the many things we have in common. The thing we really can not talk about forthrightly yet is money. What we earn, what we spend, how we use our time, all these things are considered so deeply private that they are hard to confront.(or, are these things hard to confront because it means speaking into the face of power?) What is the right balance between want and need?

The Bible constantly talks about wealth and our use of it. The Old Testament is full of stories of the land and how it is to be cared for and shared. We often think of the OT as violent (and some stories are) however, there is an incredible amount of material that requires God's people to share the land, to care for the poor, to seek justice.In the New Testament, Jesus addresses issues of wealth by telling stories. The four listed above are only a small sample, there are more.

I love this Jesus way of answering questions. He doesn't point fingers, he doesn't lay out black and white rules for everysay that wealth is bad, but he does warn that it is easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Matt. 19:24.  That little story acknowledges the tremendous power that money can have. Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Tim. 6:10 There is however, also the example of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who uses his wealth well. And the examples of rich women, like Lydia, Acts 16:1316, who use their wealth for others are great examples for us.

This Sunday we will talk about wealth by retelling some of the stories Jesus told, and then thinking about how these stories speak into our situations today. So, to answer some of the questions I started with; we will talk about money with other church people. Together we will try to let Jesus challenge and encourage us to make God first in our lives so that our wealth is used faithfully to bring healing and hope to the world.

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