Guest preaching for an online chapel service for Perkins School of Theology students, faculty, & staff hosted by the Perkins Financial Literary program on November 10th, 2021.
I’m so honored (and also scared out of my mind) to be preaching for Perkins Chapel in front of my friends, colleagues, and faculty. I can remember when Christina approached me about preaching for Perkins and I asked what it might be on and of course the words, it’s sponsored by Financial Literacy so we were hoping it would be a “fiscal message” in there. The dreaded F word. Financial. Monneeyyy. You sure you have the right person? The thing that I’m sure most pastors and preachers looooooovvvee talking about right. So we are going to through this hail Mary to God and I promise we will get through this together. So may the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable to you, God my creator, my sustainer, and my redeemer. Amen.
If you were to do a quick google search you would find that the definition of financial literacy is
the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. Financial literacy is the foundation of your relationship with money, and it is a lifelong journey of learning.
In the United States, it can certainly be hard to stay financially literate when we are surrounded by the culture of “more.” and “more” is so easy to attach value to. I remember a story that my friend Kristina Roth told me about teaching a baby sign language when it came to eating food. The baby knew both words for “more” and “enough”, however, the baby never really used the word “enough” even when it was obvious that the baby was full. Eventually, they recognized that the baby got more attention, using the word “more”…
I think its very similar for us adults. “More” or “material treasures” can give us attention, a sense of belonging, a sense of value ourselves… however, there is funny thing that comes with more… you start worrying about losing it, or perhaps its not a satisfying… as filling… the God-sized hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger. In talking about this with my husband, Shane, he told me how more and more as he gets older he notices the dichotomy between our two families when it comes to more. Growing up, I can’t say that we talked about money much. I remember my grandmother saying, we aren’t rich in money but we are rich in love. Looking back I see how she would try to make a way out of no way by borrowing to pay for all of her children’s education. By the world’s standards, she didn’t practice financial literacy as well as she should have… but her treasure was in the hope that her children would be given a greater chance in a society that wanted them to fail. My husband Shane on the other hand remembers talking about money during every family gathering and his grandma’s house, there was a generalized anxiety that came with having more money and it still plagues him to this day. Living in the same home is certainly a learning experience as we learn from one another. Our difference in upbringing made us have to evaluate where our treasure as family would be… what was life-giving and what was life-draining… in what source would we place our financial literacy? Something we still struggle with to be honest, but I think we all do. I think Jesus understood the downward spiral that the love of wealth could take very well in these two passages read today… We are reminded… where your treasure is, whatever you hold of utmost value… there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21).
Versus 24 provides the most important unifier to our passages today to help us understand the why where our heart is matters: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)
It’s interesting that Jesus implies that has human beings we are going to bound to something: one a bondage to abundant life and freedom in the very good creation that God created us to be… and the other bondage that can erode that very goodness, changing who we are… turning neighbors, friends, and family into enemies if you love it too much…
I think this is one of the reasons why giving was of so much importance throughout our scriptures. Regardless of how much or how little you can give, that giving allows you to not be controlled by the potential bondage that wealth can give if you aren’t grounded in your value as a child of God. And I’m so glad that Jesus reminds us of this God-given value in our scriptures today:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Is there anyone who can testify to the goodness of God in their life? that God got you up this morning for another chance, another day!
This scripture right here reminds us if you are struggling with your worth, you are worthy.
You are worthy child of God.
You are worthy beyond money,
beyond the grade,
beyond the heartbreak,
God knows your necessity
and God will clothe you.
33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
We are blessed to be a blessing. We need to ensure that our financial literacy, the foundation of our relationship with money, is grounded in God’s goodness and grace, and not in greed and the line can be very thin in our American society if we aren’t too careful. The why of giving matters…
I was reading the incomparable womanist theological ethicist, the late Katie Cannon, this past week and ran across a quote that shook me to my core about the shadow side of giving and I want to share it with you. It was one of her articles on Slave Ideology and Biblical Interpretation, outlining how white supremacist Christians at the time were able to substantiate and sustain slavery for 200 years, deeming that it was ordained by God while systematically stifling any viewpoint that was contrary… eventually merging slavocracy with the idea of “peace and order within denominations”… propagating their own prosperity gospel… its the last words of this essay that haunt me.
Wealthy slaveholders transmuted a portion of their disproportionate economic profit into modes of social control by public gestures that passed as generous voluntary acts of charity. They used revenue from slave labor to pay pastors, maintain church properties, support seminaries, and sustain overseas missionaries. Seduced by privilege and profit, White Christians of all economic Strata were made, in effect, coconspirators in the victimization of Black people. In other words, slave apologists were successful in convincing at least five generations of White citizens that slavery, an essential and constitutionally protected institution, was consistent with the impulse of Christian charity.
In what ways, are we repeating this today?
People are refusing to pay apportionments regarding both sides of our church’s homosexuality debate, both claiming protest; however, one seeks to continue the silencing of queer people from cherished pulpits in the house of a non-binary, trinitarian God… “hate the sin” right?
Congregants are still pulling their membership where they vowed to give their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness, withholding donations and tithes from churches that dare to continue preaching of how Black lives matters… how brown bodies don’t deserve to live in cages and gasp may deserve to find a home in safety…. or even the hint of anti-racist language or classes.
Are we to take the bait and have our pews feed into the gluttony of individualism?
It’s true… livelihoods are tied to the dollar in our yearly reports… and it’s funding that makes our missions possible, but is money all that makes the mission possible? Is it the building or the tile? Or does it burn deep inside the people called Christians who live in faith, hope, and love who partner with redemptive, loving God. Which is greater?
What is our financial literacy?? Where is our treasure? Do we believe the treasure is in the message? or is it only in the donations?
Can we trust in God’s provision? Can you trust in God’s provision as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the 33-year-old, brown Jewish man, and son of God, who dared to stand up to injustice and was lynched for it, resurrecting in spite of hate because he knew that our lives were worth saving… this same Jesus, who reminds us of our worth in our scriptures today.
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Doing so requires us to be cognizant of where our heart is in all that we do, as we live out this faith called Christianity in everyday life. God our creator offers us a treasure that surpasses anything that moths can eat up or thieves can steal. A treasure that gives us a value and purpose that transcends our own bubbles and yes that comes with a cost. But the good news is that Jesus is right there beside us and paid that cost, it’s an abundance treasure given for free. It never runs out. All that God requires of us is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. We will make mistakes but God’s grace is enough. God’s abundance is enough.
May we claim that treasure and share it for a world that needs it so much.