I’ve recently been doing some work for sermons on the economy and how, as Christians, we need to have a different posture towards money and the economy, particularly when it comes to the anxiety it seems to generate and the ways in which money seems to dictate our every decision.
This is not easy subject matter for preaching to a congregation, just FYI. Because what the people in most churches expect is a stewardship or building campaign, they expect you to turn around and take up a special offering and the bottom line is that there is nothing special about it. This is not an “occasional” message, it’s integral to the way we walk our faith out. But I’m finding that is a really hard line to take, even for me, as an American citizen, son of Asian immigrants, and evangelical follower of Jesus Christ.
I’ve covered these specific texts over the course of the last few weeks:
- Matthew 20:1-6 / The parable where the master of the vineyard pays equal wages for unequal work
- Matthew 6:19-34 / The portion of the Sermon on the Mount where it tells us not worry or serve two masters
- Mark 10:17-31/ The rich young ruler whom Jesus commands him explicitly to sell all his possessions and THEN to follow him
And then finally, for this Sunday I was going to tackle these few verses:
- Matthew 22: 15-22 / Where Jesus says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; and to God what is God’s.”
This is actually a pretty small sampling of the texts that give insight into what God’s sense of what economy really is, but they’ve been challenging enough for me that I get a strong sense of irony as I stand before this congregation with my nice clothes on, in a well-heated room, speaking into a wireless microphone, with a projector behind me and using my iPad for sermon notes. I am also overweight, well-fed, and eat out often (to my defense often with ministry and fellowship as the excuse). I drive a 2011 model year car. Now granted, I can turn around and make a case for myself and family: we support missionaries, kids through World Vision, Childfund, we tithe our gross not our net, blah blah blah. But I’m sure the rich young ruler could have said the same. I’m sure that I get annoyed at those people who I believe came in at the 11th hour and barely earned their wages. I claim to trust in God but can’t say that I don’t worry at all or that I clearly have differentiated between the two masters that Jesus articulated there. I mean, he doesn’t even offer other alternatives besides “Money” as an ultimate alternative to God? That’s not exactly passable in a consumeristic culture — even Apple offers some options. It really boils down to God and Money, huh? Really? Because I would at least like to get a twofer. or a BOGO. A half off. something.
And so now I am painfully aware that these texts are critical texts to preach from in American churches and the less we preach from them, the less profit-ic we will be. Bottom line — less prophets.