by Elaine Maust
II Corinthians 9: 6-15
January 20, 2008
Yes, you read the sermon title right, “The Good News about Money.”
Seems that we hear mostly bad news about money. Do you feel that way these days? There is talk about the US being in a recession. The economy has now passed the war in the leading concern of voters sorting through the stack of presidential candidates. Even some churches have a bad reputation for either begging for or mishandling money. And then there’s each of us. Each of us with our worries about the bills, the rent, or paying for college.
So what’s the Good News about money?
Of course the Good News is the Gospel truth, God loves us and offers us forgiveness, a new beginning, peace, hope, meaning in life… But you know what? When God’s Good News captures our hearts, there’s good news on the financial front as well. Today is Stewardship Sunday in Mennonite churches in the US and Canada. I feel led to take this occasion to explore the possibility of financial Good News.
But first, when it comes to God and money and us, here’s the bottom line. Everything belongs to God. So reach into your pocket or your purse. Do you have your wallet on you? Open it up. See the $20.00 in there? God’s. And your savings account and education and business and the car out in the parking lot and the house you slept in last night… Okay, you’ve got the idea.
In the time when the Bible was written, household wealth was not measured in stocks but in livestock. That realization puts a fresh slant on Ps. 50:10-12 (NRSV). As if to say, “All the money on Wall Street is mine.”
All the assets in the world belong first to God. And God shares some of them with us. Maybe it’s as if God gives us an allowance and then expects us to give account for it.
When he was living my Grandpa Pete sent a check for $50 to all his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren for their birthdays. When I was a child $50.00 was a scandalous amount of money. Now Grandpa Pete loved to hear, actually insisted that we write back and let him know what we did with his, well our, birthday money.
It makes me smile to compare God to my Grandpa Pete. But in the same way that Grandpa wanted me to be responsible even with a gift, God expects us to be responsible with all the gifts we are given. That is called stewardship. What we do with God’s stuff.
It makes perfect sense that on Stewardship Sunday, we would dedicate two of Jubilee’s children to God. Often at child dedications I pray like this, “Here you are, God, this baby; this child is the best we have. Now we offer her or give him back to you.”
Because when we give money or anything else, we are actually just giving back to God. In Chronicles 29 we have the prayers of David as he dedicates the temple to God. In verse 14 (NIV) he says to God, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”
Because everything belongs to God, every financial decision we make is a spiritual decision. And when I give my life to God, it will affect my finances.
Remember the story of Zacchaeus? (Luke 19:1-10) He was the guy who climbed the tree to see Jesus. Now the Bible tells us a few things about Zacchaeus. He was short and he was rich and he was a cheat. Jesus came along down the road and invited himself Zach’s house. That day Zacchaeus was saved and on that day he gave away half his fortune. You might say his relationship with Jesus affected his bank account.
My friend, Lynn Miller, used to say, “Don’t tell me how things are between you and God. Just let me look at your checkbook.” There’s a link between our spirits and our money.
Here’s what I mean. One day a couple of years ago my friend Joan called me. She said she wanted to go out for lunch because she had a question for me. Usually I’m the one calling her for advice so I wondered what was up. During lunch I asked, “so what’s the question?”
She said, “I want to buy an Envoy. Oh, it is such a pretty truck! I really, really want one. But I know that in Africa, there are women who walk into town every night with their children because they are not safe in their village. How can it possibly be right for me to buy an Envoy when there are women who don’t have a safe place to sleep or a car to drive their children to safety? What do you think God would want me to do?”
I was thrilled with the question. I told her the world would be a better place if all the folks who called themselves Christians understood that financial decisions have spiritual implications.
But wait, wait, wait, I promised a sermon about the Good News about money and I‘m still in the introduction. Now I’m running out of sermon! So brothers and sisters, here you have it, just four of the ways that life with God means Good News about money!
1) Less Worry
“…do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air… Your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt 6:25-33)
If everything belongs to God, then taking care of us is God’s problem. If God owns all the assets in the world, we can probably trust God to be able to handle our small affairs. The difference between our needs and God’s supply is like comparing our cabinet business to all of Oprah’s enterprises. With all of God’s assets, my little affairs are no big deal. That’s not to say we stop working and sit down on a rocker on the porch and wait for God to drive up the road with a bag of money with our name on it. But it does mean for me that I don’t have to worry about money.
“Give us this day, our daily bread,” says the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. And over and over, all the days of my life I am still learning to trust God.
It is a little embarrassing to preach this sermon this week, given that I worried about how to make payroll. God has provided funds for us to pay our employees for 30 years. I am not proud that I would still be so silly as to waste time and energy worrying. If God can meet our needs for 30 years, he’ll probably be able to do it again on one week in January. Lord forgive me.
This is very Good News. God will take care of us. God is not short on cash. It will be okay. There will be enough for us and enough to share. (II Corinthians. 9:8)
2) More Value
God’s economic system is refreshingly different. It is very Good News to learn that our value doesn’t come from how expensive our clothes are or how much money we make or whether or not we have the latest electronic games. We are valued because we are God’s children.
And here’s something even more astounding. God doesn’t value some people more because they give more away. Really! Remember the story (Luke 21:1-4) about the day Jesus and his friends were watching people come forward to drop their gifts into the temple treasury. Do you think it would be a little intimidating to have Jesus standing at the table watching what we put into the plate? He is, but anyway… Jesus and his friends were standing there that day and rich people came by and put in their gifts. Then a woman walked forward and dropped in what the Bible calls, “two very small copper coins.” Maybe as if she put in two pennies. Jesus made an example of her and said she had put in more than all the others.
Our text from II Corinthians 9 invites us to give what we have decided in our hearts to give. To make a decision and then give cheerfully, (verse 7) because that’s the kind of giver God loves. No magic formulas. No big chunk of money required. Just planned and joyful giving God values.
3) More Joy
When we become believers there is more joy and less anxiety in our relationship to money. I Timothy 6:17-19. Do you know why God has given us so much? To enjoy and to share.
And the sharing just makes us happier still! “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” the Bible teaches. And a whole lot more fun! I could stand here and talk until dark telling you stories of folks in this very congregation who have experienced the great joy of generosity.
When we join up with God, we become part of God’s generosity. And we experience the deep happiness that comes from being one of the ways that God’s work gets done. Whether you give thousands of dollars to the ministry of Pine Lake Camp or a .99 junior cheeseburger to a hungry person in the line behind you at Wendy’s, when you team up with God’s generosity, you will be filled with joy!
Can you remember a time in your life when you gave something sacrificially and joyfully? Remember how good that made you feel. Oh, this is very Good News.
When Nathan and Christine were younger they sometimes said, “I need” a certain kind of shoes. Or “I need” a certain brand of jacket. And I would say, “Need is a very strong word. Do you really need that jacket or those shoes, or do you want them?”
Well, I was right, of course. Need is a very strong word and I try to use it carefully. But I have more recently discovered that “want” is a strong word too.
So here you have some more very Good News. We believers know the meaning of enough. We have been liberated, or should I say, we are being liberated, from the prison of greed and want and need. As Paul wrote in I Tim. 6:6-8. Knowing the freedom of enough is no small deliverance from our culture that is ravenous for more, newer, better, and faster.
Okay, I know better, but the past few weeks my prayers have been a little bit whiny. Okay, a lot whiny. Lists of demands of what I wanted from God.
Tuesday morning I asked God, “So what would you like to say to me?” Revolutionary prayer concept, but that’s another sermon.
And this is what God said. God said, “I love you. Can that be enough?”
Can that be enough indeed?
To know that we are loved and to trust the one to whom we and everything belongs, to care for us. Indeed. It is enough.
So, that’s the Good News about money. Since everything belongs to God, we can worry less. We have more value and more joy. All the things we think we want and need become less important in God’s new economy. God loves us. That is really Good News. Can that be enough?