“God is a generous giver, and for us to live otherwise is to deny the one whose name we bear.”
“The steward in our parable this morning isn’t shrewd; he is wise. He understands that his master is a good man, and banks his whole life on that goodness.”
(From today’s sermon, “The Gamble” – posted in Recent Sermons)
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I don’t know whether it does any good to talk about money. No one thanks you for a sermon that sets before us the witness of scripture about wealth and possessions and our need to give. People say the church should have a stewardship program, but what they usually mean is they want the pastor to tell other people to support the church; we don’t want the pastor dipping into our pockets with the word of God.
Raising money for the club is a lot easier than raising disciples. A dinner, perhaps. A slide show about our great ministry. A pep talk about our hopes and aspirations. A form to fill out and put in the offering plate. I understand the purpose of such things. But God is looking for more. God is looking for disciples. God is looking for a community imbued with God’s own compassion and courage and generosity and determination to touch the world with grace. God is looking for believers governed by God’s Spirit.
God has his eyes set on the horizon. God has his eyes set on a world bubbling with random acts of kindness. God has his eyes set on a world where hands and arms and hearts are open to one another. God calls us to walk with him toward that world where swords are beaten into plowshares, and all humanity gathers at the table of peace.
God has his heart set on a world made whole. God has his heart set on a world shaped by God’s own spirit. And he looks for people to follow him now, to plant the seeds now, to work the works of kindness now, to feed the hungry and visit the sick and the imprisoned, and share a cup of cold water. God yearns for witnesses to his transforming and rescuing work.
I wish everyone saw the church as a valuable place to invest their tithes and offerings. I wish they regarded public worship and the proclamation of the words and deeds of Jesus as a ministry worth supporting. But what I really want is lives made generous by the grace of God. Lives generous with money will also be generous with time and compassion and prayer. Such lives do not start with the thought, “What’s this going to cost me?” They start with the thought, “What will this do for another?” They don’t ask, “What do they deserve?” They ask, “What can I do?”
All that Jesus has to say about wealth and possessions comes back to this: are we centered in ourselves or centered in others? That’s why money is a spiritual issue. It’s why Jesus talks about it so much. It’s why it courses through the prophets. It’s why it grounds the covenant law. It marks the difference between heaven and hell. It marks the difference between salvation and despair. It marks the distinction between the wilderness and the Promised Land.
There is a reason a table stands in the center of the worshiping community.