Sermon 18 Pentecost Yr C
September 27, 2007 Leave a comment
18 Pentecost Yr C, 30/09/2007
1 Tim 6:6-19
Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson,
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Faith in Money or Money in Faith?”
A pastor was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for repairs to the church building. Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play. “Here’s a copy of the service,” the pastor said impatiently. “But you’ll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances.” During the service, the pastor paused and said, “Brothers and Sisters, we are in great difficulty, the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected, and we need $4,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up.” At that moment, the substitute organist played, (“O Canada”).1
Money. For many it is a taboo subject in the Church. Yet, if we read our Bibles carefully, we’ll discover that there are a lot of references to money. Today’s second lesson is certainly full of sound advice and wisdom concerning money. One important question this passage asks of us all is this: Do we place our faith in money, or do with place our money in our faith? Norwegian writer, Henrik Ibsen once said: “Money may be the husk of many things, but not the kernel. It brings you food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; acquaintances, but not friends; servants, but not loyalty; days of joy, but not peace or happiness.” This is true, as we know that some of the richest people in the world are also the poorest people in the world when it comes to happiness in their personal life.
Martin Luther once had this to say about money: “A person needs three conversions: first the heart, then the head, then the purse.” Luther’s wisdom certainly complements the overall message of today’s gospel and second lesson concerning the stewardship of our money.
Money. We cannot live without it in this world, that’s for certain. Yet, as Christians how do we best live with it?
Money is basic to our existence. We all need it. We all handle it—some handle more than others—and, indeed, some are handled by it. We use money every day. We spend it for necessities and luxuries. We exchange it, invest it and give it away. We use money to spread the Word of God, to minister in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Why, then, is there such a reluctance in the church to talk about money? So basic to life, to all our needs, to all we do, yet so infrequently mentioned or discussed in the church. We talk about deficits and surpluses, but not about money. We talk about programs being cut back or not begun, but we hesitate to talk about the underlying fact of money.
While we may hesitate to speak about money, money never hesitates to talk about us. Indeed, money talks. It tells the value of things in life. It is society’s measuring rod. The higher the cost—so we claim—the higher the value. Money tells of our worth in the marketplace. Our employer places a financial value on our time and abilities. We are compensated on the basis of who we are and what we do. We exchange, if you will, our very lives for a paycheck.
As we use our money, it reveals our priorities. The way we spend, invest and give our money shows what is important to us. Our use of money describes us—cautious or reckless, generous or selfish, frugal or foolish, moral or immoral, loving or unloving, caring or insensitive.
As we give our money, our money gives an eloquent witness to our faith. It demonstrates our love for God and neighbour. As we use our money to faithfully support God’s work through the church, it tells how important we believe it is to share the Gospel throughout the world and to meet human need. Our money clearly demonstrates these priorities in our lives.
One thing needs to be said, however about money. Our money is really not ours—it belongs to God. It is ours to manage, given to us as stewards. The way that we carry out our stewardship—manage what God has first given to us—gives a clear message to all around us. Yes, your money talks—about you, about God. Use it wisely to witness to the good news, to serve a world in need, to be a good steward doing God’s will in all things.2
The apostle Paul, in our second lesson today affirms these truths about money. In his exhortation to Timothy, Paul teaches him not to be too attached to money or the material possessions that money can buy. Live a life of faith—don’t have faith in money, rather, let faith be front and centre in your money as you manage it wisely. Paul is correct when he warns that the more money one has, the more dangers one has in terms of being tempted by one’s money to use it unwisely—that is to say, to use it selfishly, without serving God and the needs of our fellow human beings.
In verse 10, Paul warns that: “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.” This is often a misquoted verse—note Paul says that it is the love of money, not money in and of itself that is a root of all kinds of evil. Money in and of itself is not evil. What counts is our stewardship of money or the lack of stewardship. Paul goes on to say in verses 17-19, let your faith be in your money, be good stewards of your wealth, be generous, sharing your riches with others, and in so doing serving God. The following story provides us an encouraging and heart-warming example of what Paul is teaching us in today’s second lesson:
The program 20/20 told the story of Milton Pietrie, who left over $800 million in his estate at the time of his death in 1994. He gave generous gifts of money anonymously to persons he read about in the newspaper whose lives had experienced some major tragedy.
One family received an income from him and promise of funds to educate their only daughter when the husband, while on duty as a police officer was disabled by violence.
Another woman who was a fashion model had been viciously attacked on the street and her face was lashed. Milton gave her over $20,000 to help her out.
At the time of his death, his will included 400 beneficiaries who were to continue receiving support.
In this part of the world we are rich people materially compared with those people living in the two-thirds’ world. With our riches comes a tremendous responsibility and privilege to be wise and loving and generous stewards of our money. Do we have faith in our money, or do we place money in our faith as stewards of the Lord? May our Lord grant us the grace necessary to be his wise, loving, and generous stewards with our money. Amen.
1 Cited from: Debbie Coutant, “President’s Message: Erev Hashanah, 5760, 1999,” on Shir Hadash web site: <www.shirhadash.org>.
2 Cited from: “Money, Time, Abilities,” a pamphlet prepared by the Office for Resource Development, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, 1512 St. James St., Winnipeg, Manitoba. Produced in cooperation with the Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship-Canada.