by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
- “Blessed are the tithers for they shall be called the children of God.”
- “It’s Okay Not to Love Certain People”
- “The kingdom of God has come! Well, not exactly. I mean, not completely. Let’s face it, the really-real kingdom comes after we die. Hang in there. It won’t be long.”
- “Money is bad, and the rich are evil.”
For some, these sentences may be cause for laughter. For others, a cause for self-examination. Some preachers may not have used these exact phrases but still communicate their intent through a misguided interpretation of scripture. There are many more such misquotes and bad applications of scripture. This Sunday is presenting one of those at the top of the list!
We are in the season of the church year when budgets are prepared for next year, when fundraising is on the calendar and financial support is on our minds. What better way to encourage giving – even excessive giving – by telling the congregation that money, wealth, and possessions are evil things!
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” […] You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Wait! Is Jesus saying we must sell all that we possess to follow him? Further, if I give all my money to the poor, won’t they become rich themselves?
Perhaps such an interpretation says more about the reader than it says about Jesus’ intent.
Elizabeth, our beloved Treasurer, confronted my thoughts on this some time ago. She reframed the argument for me when she said, “If all things come from God, cannot financial security be one of them? Or,” she said, “who do you think God is talking to when God encourages us to give in abundance and gratitude for what we have received… those who have little-to-nothing?”
Indeed, when I consider my blessings – including my financial ones – all shame or guilt for having them is erased when I connect those blessings to my need for sharing them with others, especially for the work of the Gospel. The burden for people with wealth (in whatever measure), is putting into practice the spiritual act of sharing our blessings, especially with those who do not have enough. After all, in this sharing we become more aware, more perceptive of our own blessings, and how God’s abundance extends – through us – to those who need it.
So, what is Jesus talking about in this scripture if he is not shaming wealth or demanding that we become poor in order to enter into the Reign of God?
Sunday morning worship, 8 and 10 a.m.
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