Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
As I watch facebook right after another presidential debate, it is interesting to see how many people mention the “American Dream.” It doesn’t seem to matter which side of the debate one comes down on or how they are voting to realize that we all live in this interesting time of reaching for something better. The theme today revolves around that dream and what happens when the dream becomes something out of control. How do we surround those who are in the nightmare of controlling debt, bankruptcy and just trying to survive in our world of money? How do we see the reality of how we deal with money?
We talk quite a bit about simplifying and reducing stuff at the CoOp. We talk about the role of wealth in our lives and how we interact with our stuff. By looking at our dreams turning on us, we look at how we perceive our journey. This is when we purchase too much to pay off on our credit cards. This is when we have the perfect home and it is just outside of our means. This is when that dream of getting just the car we need seems to be outside of what we can handle. We all have these dreams and somewhere in the back of our minds we might be thinking, ‘if I just work harder then I can attain it.”
The material for our theme in November outlines two “diseases” that the author, Adam Hamilton, sees in our world. The first being “Affluenza” or the need to acquire more stuff. For example, the average American home grew from 1,600 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004. And it is estimated that there is 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space in America. The second being “Credit-it is.” This is the ability to buy now and pay later. Credit card debt has risen significantly in the past years. Both of these areas get us stuck.
Now, we have looked at this quite a bit due to acknowledging the economy situation and life around us and just our general bent toward this topic in this place but it is a theme throughout scripture. Today the writer of 1 Timothy, out of the blue, talks to the church about just this temptation to wealth. The author warns that by focusing in on how we manage wealth we lose sight of what it means to follow God. Jesus again highlights the one who gives generously and who is proud to do so. She gives her all and is found to be the one who leads us in how we deal with our wealth. This is also a call to surround those who are fearful of just this position in life.
The catch here is that both scriptures talk about how to use what you have well rather than abandoning all together. The message is not about giving up totally but how you give, how you balance and what it means to live out a call to follow God rather than following the money. We are invited to look at our dreams and re balance them to fit into what we can handle. This means figuring out ways to reduce debt, give to what calls on our hearts, and provide well for our families, so that there is bread on the table but not an overabundance that causes us loss of focus and pain. By looking at these issues, we maximize our dreaming and our happiness.
Quotes for the Week “No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.” ― Gabriel García Márquez
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – Henry David Thoreau
“It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.” –Margaret Thatcher
“We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.”— Gloria Steinem
1 Timothy 6:6-12 (Message)
A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.
But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.
Mark 12:38-44 (NRSV)
As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Questions for the Week Have there been times that you feel as though you are in a nightmare with money? Do you think we can attain the “American Dream?” What is your general attitude towards money?