I was taught that the “golden rule” was “do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus says this. The Buddha does too. In fact, this rule is part of nearly every spiritual tradition known to humanity. There is a cynical rework of this rule I learned later in life: “The one with the gold makes the rules.” While it is cynical, it is also true. Money and wealth are not just possessions, but power. Those who have vast wealth have lots of power.
There is a kind of inverse reality to the power of money and wealth too. They can exert power over us not just through us. In fact, I would say that eventually, the wealth and money we hold end up being the tail that wags the dog for all of us. If you have lots, your possessions force you to hang on to them for dear life. If you have little, the desire to have more becomes your master. This is what Paul had in mind when he counseled the young pastor, Timothy: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (I Timothy 6:10)
In the coming weeks, we will be inviting the congregation to prayerfully consider how we each support the mission to Share God’s Love through our offering. You may be thinking – “Oh great, the annual ask, the pledge drive, the fund-raising push is here. Time to skip church!” (Please don’t). While it is true that we fund mission through offerings, there is a much more elemental aspect to giving. It is a spiritual discipline that helps us to keep God at the center of our life.
To make our giving to God the first thing we do with our money is to set the tone for what follows. It is to break the hold of money and a thing we possess, transforming it into a gift from God. When all we do is strive for more, we can never be content or at peace – which is what God wants to grant. Generous giving is a corrective to the greed and power of money and wealth. It reframes how we look at the world. Paul teaches Timothy a bit more:
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. (I Timothy 6:17-19)
When you dedicate your life to accumulation and pleasure, death closes the books on all of it. When you live with compassion and generosity at the center of living, you invest yourself in what is eternal – the love of God.
As a congregation, together, we have the means to do all sorts of things that make the world a better place, that advance the coming of God’s kingdom of mercy, justice, and love. All it takes is generosity and compassion. Our theme – Rich, Generous, Ready to Share – acknowledges that God has made us rich in many ways and that being generous and ready to share is not a fund-raising tactic but a call from God. May we have ears to hear.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor