1 Timothy 6: 17-19
November 3, 2013
There goes an old story about a person who fell in a hole. The first person passing by looked in the hole, reached in his pocket, and threw a pile of cash and a credit card into the hole. The second passer by looked in the hole, designed a 5-point plan to escape and threw it into the hole. Of course, point one was get out of the hole.
The last person to walk by looked down in the hole, said a prayer and jumped into the hole too.
The person who fell in the hole said, “Great now we are both stuck down here.”
The person who jumped in said, “Yep, but if we get enough people to jump in here, we can all get out.”
Talking about money and faith sometimes feels like falling into a hole. And every time we arrive at stewardship season, I wonder what clergy person is qualified to talk about money. I mean we honestly didn’t go after a career of serving churches to make a lot of money.
As if God has a sense of humor, not only am I leading off this sermon series for stewardship season and our conversation about money, but the class I teach on Wednesdays was talking about money last week. However, I figure if I am going to be in this hole I better jump in with a full heart and get as many of us to jump in with me, so we can all work together to get out.
I want to begin by stating we need to continue to have conversations about money in church. There are very few safe places in this world to discuss finances. In no generation is money a comfortable topic because money plays such a huge role in influencing how people think. We have to be willing to talk about money if we want to remove the power money has to divert people from living a full life. In order to do this work, we have to be willing to discuss it, even in our most sacred of places. Through discussion and the demystifying of money we begin to unravel the power it has on our lives.
Think about the things for which money as the only goal has wrought our world. Money as a goal in and of itself has brought about too many horrendous things now and in our history. Human trafficking, child labor, and the abuse of our world have all been justified by the gaining of financial wealth.
We have to be willing as Christian community to talk about how wealth can be a tool for the kingdom of God and not something to put our faith in. If we put our faith in money we risk causing harm or worse yet losing ourselves to something we cannot hold on to forever.
Paul instructs a small Christian community about this very thing:
1 Timothy 6:17-19 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
Earlier in this text Paul warns against the popular wisdom on money. I am sure it was people saying things like, “I have earned what I have, so let me spend it how I please.” People say this today. They are right, but Paul is inviting something different. He is saying there is nothing wrong with earning things, but do not hold onto just those things for eventually they will fail you. Full life comes from a generous heart born of the celebration that God loves each of us.
I have some questions or you:
Most of us have it pretty good. To the most of the world we are the “rich” Paul is talking about. The question Paul is posing to us is, “Is your hope tied to your financial well being, or do you trust in God’s love?”
Charles Dickens Christmas Carol portrays the money hungry Scrooge as having a hardened unattached passion for the world. This notion is not far from our understanding of what money can do to people.
Then another author Dr. Seuss describes the hardened Grinch’s heart to growing larger when the community of people surround him and he understands Christ’s day to be one in which people share what they have.
The Christians described in 1st Timothy are being asked to share their wealth to make a Christian community, in hopes that their efforts will bring the shining kingdom of God now as it is in heaven. A city of justice and love to invite people into, and where all will be welcomed, cared for and loved. This is a vision laid out in Isaiah to the people of God, because they are longing for a reign of peace and justice. They are hoping to look upon the skyline of a place where they can live their lives fully realized and seek to feel God’s love all around them.
I’ve recently heard the heart rhythm monitor we know as an EKG described as displaying “skyline of the heart.” What a striking image? Our heart, our feeling organ, the place in which we passionately describe all of our emotions flowing from. This funky ill depicted shape, is building skylines with each passing beat.
Think about the primary emotion associated with our heart: Love
Think about the focus when money and love come together in our consumer culture. These two usually are combined to objectify people and continue to sell products. They usually lead to some of the stark realities we see over and over again, of women and men’s bodies being altered to look incredibly different than real life.
Sex sells, and they and advertisers are using this one aspect of human love to try and give us the love we all think we need to have. These advertising campaigns describe only the high of love, the things that take us to the top of the rhythm. However, just like a goal to gain as much riches as possible is dangerous to only seek love, which takes us higher.
Goals of reaching this kind of love lead to objectification and one-sided relationships. Love has to be a little more complex than the love used to sell us Valentine candy and the sexual innuendo of a perfect relationship. Because life is about a steady rhythm, faith and life in Christ is about finding the rhythm of God.
Pay attention to the “skyline of the heart.” With each passing moment we need, to the height and the depth, to feel the pulse of life. The love we find in God, the love we attempt to emulate from the life of Christ are acts of deep agape love. The kind of love Paul describes today is the love that gives a steady, stable rhythm to life and increases and decreases in rate depending on the needs of the community. As Christians we are called to be this steady beat for the community and people around us.
Think about our current and past mission statements of St. Paul’s:
- Welcoming all people to live and grow in God’s Love
- A Christian Community in the Heart of Helena
Love flows from the heart of St. Paul’s. It is the center of what we do as a community. St. Paul’s teaches us from the heart that true life and connection to God comes from a willingness to trust in God and be generous.
As I was preparing for this sermon I came across this video and seemed to fit this very notion.
Did you catch the end? Are you this generous everyday? The boy was in awe as his heart picked up a beat at the idea.
The Christian notion of generosity and giving from the heart is enough to inspire all people to live the full life intended by God. We don’t have to wait until the whole city of God is ready, the kingdom of God lives in our hearts and right where we are.
As a people of God we are called to be generous with our resources and most especially with sharing God’s love. We need to always be willing to do more than throw money at a problem or think our 5 point plan is perfect. Sometimes we need to trust our heart and jump into the hole with our neighbor.
If we can invite our whole community into every hole, over time we can develop the rhythm of the city of God. A ministry of living a full life with the rhythm of each passing beat. May this stewardship season call us together in the rhythm of love, so more people might experience what Paul describes as “truly life.”