Devotional for March 11 – Pruning to Focus Our Financial Resources
Written by Pastor Mark
In a conversation with my mother last week, out of the blue and apropos of nothing, she said: “Do you know how many times Jesus talks about money in the Gospels? He’s constantly talking about money and possessions. I sat in a pew in a Lutheran church for 70 years and almost never heard a sermon about money. Why is that?”
The answer is pretty simple. Pastors (contrary to what many people think) do not like to talk about money. One pastor I talked to recently said he does not get in trouble for preaching about politics. He gets in trouble for talking about economics. His response is, “Well blame it on my boss, Jesus was always talking about this stuff!”
Jesus talks about money and possessions more than he does about heaven and hell combined. If you were to add all of his comments about the distribution of wealth and our calling to care for the oppressed the ratio would be close to three or four to one. Yet we avoid these topics in church, or relegate them to our stewardship drive in the fall. Preaching about money is not going to make people happy.
Our church fiancés are very tight right now. Even with the loss of one of our full-time employees we will finish the year $34,000 in the red. Part of the reason is the economy. People have lost jobs, or are facing other life changes that make it impossible to give. Also, our faithful, long-term, traditional members keep going on to glory and that really hurts. Newer members are starting to give, but the amounts are small. On top of all that we have decided to give health care benefits to two of our staff. Things are tight.
The Old Testament lesson today may surprise some people given our theme. It shouldn’t. The real issue is not financial it is spiritual—who, or what is our god? Martin Luther said that your god is “Whatever your heart clings to—especially in times of trouble.” I have shared before my TV free diet of the past four years. I do this not because I find TV commercials silly, or irritating, on the contrary I find them to be amazingly powerful. They somehow powerfully influence how I spend my money and where I center my heart. I don’t want society or advertisers to do that. So I’ve pruned commercial TV out of my life.
Robin and I are blessed financially. But that doesn’t stop us (me) from making stupid decisions that place us in financial chaos. I recently had to make the painful decision to terminate my ownership in Wednesday Wines. That was difficult and painful for me, but Robin convinced me that it was necessary to prune it away. Now I am on a no credit card diet. I get a certain amount of cash out of each pay check, and that’s it. I’m also saving every receipt so we can see where that money is going. It is a great exercise, similar to keeping track of everything you eat when you are on a diet.
Our society is amazingly creative and powerful at influencing what we desire. Lent is a time to refocus our priorities on what truly matters, on relationships with God and people. It’s also a great time to go on a diet (No TV? No credit cards? No large purchases?) Diets help to discipline us and center our lives on health instead of our usual unconscious over-consumption.
Quotes for the Week
“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume. Noam Chomsky
This is the new national pastime. . . consumption, the only true, lasting American value that’s left . . . buying things . . . People spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need . . . So they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18 percent interest on something that cost $12.50. And they didn’t like it when they got it home anyway. Not too bright, folks. . .” George Carlin
“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” Woody Allen
“What’s a soup kitchen?” ParisHilton
“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” Oscar Wilde
“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” – Yogi Berra
1st Lesson Exodus 20:11-4 (NRSV)
Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Gospel Lesson: John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Questions for the Week
Where does clutter acuminate in your home? What might that clutter be telling you?
What might the benefits of a “cash only diet” be for you?
What do you consider most important in your life? Does your spending reflect that priority?