Financial Generososity; Why?

November 2009 Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article I had a funny exchange with one of our catechism students last month. We were studying the first commandment: the commandment to have no other gods. I had been attempting to expand their sense of what a competing god might be. They were thinking in terms of Greek legends – I was thinking in terms of anything that could become the most important reality in someone’s life. I suggested that sports can become a god, power can become a god, drugs can become a god, sex can become a god, and finally, money can become a god. The student replied: “Money can’t become a god. Money can’t talk.” We assured the student that the day will come when he realizes that money does indeed talk.

Martin Luther famously wrote: “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart.” (Large Catechism, 1529)

First Timothy includes these even better known (if often misquoted) words: “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.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

As believers whose faith and practice is rooted in the words of the Scriptures, we believe that all created things are good (Genesis 1:31), and intended to sustain us and all creation. We do not hold to the dualisms that consider all that is physical to be evil, and all that is spiritual to be good. We know that anything in creation can be a blessing, if it is used as God intends it to be used. At the same time, we know that anything in creation can become a curse if it is used other than how God desires it to be used.

This is as true for money as it is for anything else. For some, money becomes the resource that provides all that is good, and the means by which we keep the dangers of this world at bay – in other words, money becomes a god. For some, the love of wealth seduces them into commitments and behaviors that are contrary to what the life of faith promotes, and all kinds of evil gain a toehold in this person’s life. No, money is not evil. But an inordinate love of money becomes the root of all kinds of evil, even to the point of allowing money to become more important to us than anything else; even to the point of allowing money to become our god.

We live in a time when the average person has more access to money – more access to wealth – than has ever been the case in history. That is why financial generosity as a discipleship habit is more important than ever. We give generously because we are grateful to God. We give generously because the church needs our support. But we also give generously, so that the one central motivating reality in our life is not our wealth, but our God. That’s what it means to obey the first commandment. That’s what it means to be a wise steward of the wealth God has entrusted to us. As you consider the support you will give to the church in 2010, I encourage you to give generously, and show to the world (and yourself!) who your  God is.

God’s peace to you all,

David J. Risendal, Pastor