I’ve been going through Luke, and writing prayers each week for a few months now, and it has been a fruitful spiritual practice. To take the words of Jesus and inhale them so deeply that a congregational prayer may breathe out - well, I recommend it. Read Jesus, then pray about what he says: a formula for transformation.
The discussion has primarily been about money and possessions, about how difficult it is to have them and also participate authentically in the Kingdom of God as it was begun by Jesus. We are forced, in some ways, to acknowledge our disadvantages. We are at a disadvantage because we live in the U.S., and are by and large not debilitatingly poor; and it is the poor to whom the Kingdom is given (1). So by being born in an affluent nation with access to clean water and cheap food and clothing and the internet and iphones, we have to admit that our starting line is farther back; closer to that, say, of the Pharisees, if we’re counting.
When I admit that, I start to see the baggage that comes with it all. I wonder how to simplify. I wonder how to live well and prophetically in this culture and economy. I’ve talked before about all the ways we vote, and it’s an idea I tend to come back to. We have money (or at least we have credit) and we have to use it to survive so how can we use it to help the world survive as well? How can we spend money well, in a way that goes with the grain of the Kingdom of God and not against it?
I have a few ideas. First we can routinely give it away, as much as we can stand to. We can give it to our home churches, and to organizations that do good work, that feed hungry folks and fight injustice and care for orphans. I’ve even started keeping singles in my mom-mobile and giving them away to every panhandler I see at any intersection I pass (2).
Second, we can spend less and buy less unnecessary crap we don’t need so that we have more to give away and more to invest so we can give it away in the future. This is stewardship (3).
Third, we can think about what we are buying when we buy it. Are we supporting sweat-shop slavery when we buy fast-fashion? Are we supporting a sustainable food economy that cares for the earth and the health of the humans it feeds? Are we feeding our bodies in a way that creates health and peace in them? Are we supporting brands that pay workers a fair and living wage? Are we supporting companies that exploit people, animals, and the environment? Are we making peace with our dollar-votes?
These are questions I’m asking myself, and questions I think we have a responsibility to ask if we are trying to honor Jesus with our money. I don’t expect to ever do this perfectly. I don’t expect to ever have a leg to stand on to criticize how another person spends his or her money. I expect to spend the rest of my life on this earth trying to be faithful with money, failing and trying, failing and growing.
God of Love and Light,
Our whole lives on this earth, we must interact with money.
We acknowledge that whatever money we have, it’s because you have given it.
We acknowledge that with it comes responsibility.
We acknowledge that with it comes opportunity for doing good.
Help us in our weakness.
Help us when we are tempted to idolize money.
We want to honor you above all.
Help us when we are tempted to be self-serving and ungenerous.
We want your generous heart to beat within us.
Help us when we are tempted to gratify ourselves with false consolation.
We want to be comforted by your presence.
Help us when we are tempted to become miserly and joyless.
We want to enjoy the fruits of our work, and of the earth.
Help us when we are tempted to be apathetic toward the people who produce the things we buy.
We want to care for those who are unseen.
Help us when we are tempted to be apathetic toward our own body- and soul-health.
We want to glorify you in our bodies and care for them as temples.
May we be forces for good in this world,
Courageously examining the consequences of all we do, all we consume.
May we invest in treasures that last, both in this world and beyond it.
May we become peace-makers and peace-purchasers.
As you yourself are our peace (4),
So may we be the peace of the world.
Matthew 5:42 “Give to anyone who asks of you.” I’m not mentioning this as a pat-myself-on-the-back. I’m sharing a practical idea of a way that scripture might come alive in our daily lives.
Matthew 25:14-30, the Parable of the Steward