It's the end of October. Which means, in a lot of ways, everyone's beginning to think about money. The holiday expenses, the Black Friday profit, the year-end finances, and next year's budget. Money is great, isn't it? It helps you do so much. With it, you can provide for yourself and your family, you can take care of your property and make some investments, and you can use it to pay for those desperately needed vacation.
But the Bible seems to come down hard on money. Remember this line? "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). Jesus said this after the righteous rich young man, perfect keeper of the Law, asked what more he needed to do to get into heaven, and Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, but that was simply too much wealth to give up (can you imagine selling everything you have and giving the proceeds to the poor?).
Which begs the question: Can you be rich and a Christian? The question isn't whether or not you have money, it's about how you value and use money (and possessions in general). Compare these two stories. There's a woman in the Lehigh Valley who was evicted from her home because she couldn't make her mortgage payments. But she had so much stuff she refused to let go of that at the time of her eviction she was paying for 3 storage units (estimated $400/month rent) to hold all her possessions that didn't fit in the house. Even though poor, she loved wealth so much she would rather be kicked out onto the street than let go of what she had. On the other hand, Scripture tells the story of this rich little man who gives away half of his earnings to those in need and pays back four times as much to anyone he accidentally charges too much (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus says salvation can be found in the home of that man.
It's not about whether you're poor or rich; it's about what you do with your wealth that matters. The charge in the Old Testament was never that anyone was rich, but that the rich overlooked the needs of others. The challenge given to those in charge wasn't that they employed others, but that they exploited others in order to get themselves rich. The Pharisees and temple money exchangers were wealthy, and Jesus had a problem with them because they exploited the poor and ignored the needs of those around them. Matthew the tax collector and Lydia the woman who sold purple clothe were also wealthy, but they are celebrated as devote followers of Christ because they shared what they had with others and cared for those in need.
Today, the question is simple: How do you use your wealth? By which I don't mean just that 10% that the Old Testament commands us to give to God; no, I mean that 100% Jesus commands us to give to God. How do you use every dime and possession you have? I will guarantee, like me, there are times sharing is not easy, there are days it is easier to ignore the needs of others, and your house is full of things you don't need (or even want) anymore.
In worship, we've been talking about the connection between faith and our actions. Actions will never save us; that's God's work. But actions do reveal the faith that is alive in us. "Faith active in love" is the simple way to put it. Jesus summarizes love as "Love God and love others as you love yourself". You buy groceries for yourself, right? When's the last time you gave an entire FULL bag of groceries to the food pantry? That's a "love others as you love yourself" act.
At Trinity, we're looking at a capital campaign. There's a lot of upkeep and maintenance needed in our facilities. For example, the insurance company has told us we have to repave our parking lot. But the big question we're asking is simple: Many of us are able to walk with ease. How are we going to help those who can't come and worship God?
We believe God will take care of our needs daily (give us this day our daily bread), right? As Scripture says: "Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew 6:32). If God has our needs covered, then what is our faith calling us to do? Jesus continues by saying, "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
A Christian doesn't have to be poor. In fact, the wealthiest people in the world can be Christians. When it comes to wealth, no matter how much or how little, a Christian is simply someone who knows that God has them covered in all needs and reflects that love to the world.