Season: 20th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 6: 19-24
Prayer: Most merciful One, you know us better than we know ourselves. Help us as we explore our relationship with one another and with money. May we use our money to make our lives truly full of wonder. May my words be pleasing to you, and our hearts and minds aligned to your will. AMEN
During this season of plenty, a season of harvest and giving thanks, we have been looking at a sticky subject: money. What is our relationship with money? How does it influence our lives and control our decisions?
Jesus knew that money held powerful clout over the choices we make. You have heard that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in the gospels, with the exception of the Kingdom of God. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money.
When I first heard that Jesus talked more about money than love, about heaven and hell, about healing, I found myself wondering what this could possibly mean about Jesus. How does this change what I thought I knew about faith and about God?
I discovered that money and spirituality, faith and God are deeply interrelated. So often we attempt to compartmentalize money and spirituality, as if they have nothing to do with one another. I go to work Monday through Friday, run errands on Saturday, that’s money. Church and maybe some rest, that is spirituality. However, as I stated last Sunday, God’s realm is over all of creation, even the institution of money. These are not things we can somehow compartmentalize. Spirituality and money coexist, under God’s careful watch.
And, people desperately need wisdom and guidance when it comes to their relationship with finances. Money has far too much power in our lives. In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey thinks about ending his life because of a financial crisis. In fact there is a strong link between money and life.
You’ve heard people say
“Time is money.”
“Your money or your life.”
“Worth more dead than alive.”
“The two things you can depend on are death and taxes.”
The prospect of time, and that our days are numbered, is what drives us to make and save more.
Joe Dominguez defines money as “something we choose to trade our life energy for.” Do we save our lives by saving money? While it is possible to make more money, there is no way you can make more time.
This is a fascinating dilemma and, while there are no correct answers, it helps no one to make believe this tension doesn’t exist.
Last week, I asked you to look backward to think about the messages you have received about money throughout your life, and how they have influenced your thinking, your spending, your saving. Today, I am asking you to look inward, with courage, while we explore what is truly important to you.
Last week I suggested some spiritual practices to look back about money. Today, I want to suggest a way to look inside of ourselves as we think about it.
We can do this together. It helps to talk some notes, so I invite you to grab a pen or pencil. I’ve asked the ushers to distribute some.
Let’s begin our experiment:
Today you learned that you have 5 to 10 years to live. You won’t suffer, you won’t be debilitated, you’ll simply die within that time frame. Think about it for awhile. What would you change about your life? What would stay the same? What choices would you make? What are the financial implications of your choices?
I’ll give you a minute to write your thoughts…
Today you learned you have one year to live. Does that change any of the answers to your questions? What would you do today, and the next?
Today you learned that you will die before sundown today. NOW, what will you do today? What does your day look like? What do you regret not doing, not becoming?
How do you ultimately want to spend the time you have left? How do you want to impact the world? What really matters? What doesn’t really matter?
This is simply a thought experiment. People change over time, and their goals change too. But see if it helps you assess whether the outer structures of your life, including your finances, are aligned with your inner life.
Here’s the good news! We are all still here, living and breathing! If that exercise sparked a vision, trust it. Spend some time with it. Meditate on it.
Allow yourself to boldly imagine the vision you have. Many people struggle with this for fear they will be laughed at or disappointed. I encourage you to be bold.
For some of you, this vision might mean you want to start taking a morning walk or learn how to meditate.
Others might want to change their eating habits.
Some may wish to learn a musical instrument or a different language.
Still others might wish to change their job, or even change their budget.
Whatever it is, trust it. Lean into it.
What is your one courageous vision? What do you want more than anything? How are you moving toward it?
How does your spending support your vision? Do you make conscious decisions when you spend or don’t spend?
What about giving? When you give is it out of obligation, or because it serves your courageous vision? Giving grows naturally out of gratitude. So keep a gratitude journal. Make gratitude part of your daily practice. Start to give just a bit toward what makes you grateful. If your giving practice makes you feel light, joyous, grateful, it is a sign that it is serving your courageous vision.
“Looking in” requires a deepening self-awareness. Becoming more in tune with what feels truly life-giving and what produces dread gives us good clues about what our hearts desire for the long-haul and therefore, how we “spend” our time and money, and what “treasures” we pursue.