We had to start talking about money. We were not meeting the goal we set. Drat.
For a church, organizing people to give money to support their life together and mission can be painful these days. In general, the Church is so into the ways of capitalism (where EVERYTHING is “monetized”) it is hard to tell a megachurch from a big box store, sometimes. Meanwhile, many people are totally turned off to any mention of money or financial obligations clogging up their personal space — if Jesus is saving them from anything, it MUST be the constant barrage of oppressive advertising that demands a purchase every five seconds. They are totally wrong about this, but if the church is asking for money, it looks suspiciously like everything else trying to rob them.
Joel Osteen and Rick Warren are reportedly worth $40 million and $25 million respectively. So I think people can be forgiven if they think Christians are in it for the money — there is a lot of evidence to support that. I don’t know about Joel and Rick, but that is a lot of wealth, guys!
So our pastors and other leaders are very tempted to just keep their mouths shut. If you just TALK about money, people can get nervous. Not everyone, of course, but certainly those who are not sharing are likely to get agitated. But here I am about to talk. I need to say SOMETHING, since I think people are not respecting themselves and others if they do not share what they have like Jesus shared the life of God with them.
So here are three facts about sharing money I think everyone, especially radicals, should consider.
Sharing centers the focus
We need to know and tell ourselves and others (like our loved ones!), “My money has a purpose for Jesus.” Like Jesus says, “If one’s eye is whole, the whole body is filled with light.” Sharing generously, with an eye on the security of grace and the promise of eternity, makes a mighty contribution to a life that is focused on what makes for fearless exercise of freedom. Not sharing money (and all the other gifts entrusted to us) shifts the focus to fear.
Sharing is about fighting back
Sharing resources to support a common, alternative community is fundamental to undermining the status quo. If we do not share, we are individual sitting ducks for the huge powers that seek to dominate us with every ad on every possible surface, embedded in every possible communication.
Projecting your frustration with the corrosive marketing of the world onto the church is just not right! The church makes a request and you think it is an ad? Are we really going to let the world force us into such constant defensiveness that we will never open up and share? The church of Jesus is not the world, it is the antidote to self-destruction!
Sharing makes us real
“But,” I think people feel, “if I share like that, I am that person” — a committed sharer. “I am adult,” maybe stuck, obligated — everything that makes me unfree. Millennials are kind of cheap, afraid, it is said. They are 9/11 and financial crisis people. They are afraid of debt, hold their assets in cash, don’t even like to invest. They spend less on dinner and spend less on Jesus. What a reputation!
I think sharing makes a person real. (We’ve all read the Velveteen Rabbit, right?). Sharing in the church’s common fund is sharing in a common life of love. It is a regular reinvestment in not leaving, and instead, being tangibly present right now. I am amazed at how many of us have not shared a penny this whole year, as if the church belonged to someone else and not us! What do we express of Jesus, who shares resurrection life with humanity, when we have no similar love to His, no sacrificial instinct, no trust that we are eternally provided for and so can lose our lives and still expect to save them?
Self-giving love, sacrifice, trust — everyone has something like those hopes and graces at work in them, but it seems radical to express them in a world like ours as a person like me. Sharing money: as friends, as married couples, as a team, and certainly as the church, changes the world and changes me, in a very practical way.