Bible Readings: Hebrews 13:1-8 & Luke 16:10-15

Show me the money?

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
That’s too bad
In my dreams I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all, I’d fool around and have a ball…

Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world
Money, money, money
Always sunny
In the rich man’s world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It’s a rich man’s world

***

Am I the only the one getting tired
Why is everybody so obsessed
Money can’t buy us happiness
Can we all slow down and enjoy right now
Guarantee we’ll be feeling alright

***

So, I wonder who you’re more in tune with this morning? ABBA or Jessie J?

Our two readings this morning seem to come down quite heavily on the side of Jessie J.

In Hebrews we read this:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

And in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life we read this:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

So, that’s sorted then. Which, if that were that, would make for a very short sermon.

But, I wonder if it really is that easy. How are we meant to do this? What do lives that are free of the love of money look like practically? Much of what I am going to share now is based on the section on money in a book called “Money, Sex, and Power” by Richard Foster. It is really worth a read.

So, here are some practical things we can do to free ourselves from love of money, and to grow our contentment with what we have and our trust in God to provide.

The first thing to do is to get in touch with our feelings about money. When you saw on the notice sheet that we were talking about money this morning, how did you feel? Some of us might have grown up in situations or homes where money was very tight, life was hand to mouth, and there was conflict whenever money was talked about. The very thought of discussing money makes you anxious, or brings back some of those horrible feelings from the past. Others of us might feel guilty about money. We are a bit ashamed that we’re fairly well off, maybe a bit embarrassed. We might be proud of our money, it’s a sign of how well we’re doing at work, it helps us to know that we’re winning at life, it makes us feel secure to have savings for a rainy day. We might have no particular feelings about money either way. It is what it is, we sit easy to it, it doesn’t really bother us. It seems to me that some of these feelings about money are healthier than others, but that’s not really the point, the point is that we need to real about this stuff, if we are to be free of it. It is worth taking the time to sit down and think about it, pray about it, ask the Holy Spirit to show us our real feelings about money, and the source of them. Then we will be in a far stronger position to make any changes that need making.

The next step is to get a different perspective by looking at the global picture. This is not to deny the stress and anxiety that financial concerns can cause us in this culture. In fact looking at the global picture might even free us from some of the expectations we have of what life should look like that can end us up in a financial bind. If we have a TV and a car we are In the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people. To have more than one or two rooms for a whole family to live / cook / sleep in is unusual. Clean water to drink close by the place they live is something that 10% of the world’s population don’t have. Once we have shifted our perspective, it might change our expectations about what we think a reasonable standard of living is. It might encourage us to think about the root causes of this global disparity, and to take responsibility for doing what we can to resolve it by letting this perspective change our purchasing decisions, our voting decisions, our giving decisions.

So far I’ve been talking about stuff that might just go on inside our heads. The thing I find with things that just go on inside my head is that most of the time they stay there. I might have 100 good ideas or fine intentions, but the chances of them getting acted on is quite low. But, there is something that changes that. That thing is telling someone else about it. There’s something about getting things out in the open that releases their power over us. There’s something about telling someone your plans that makes them more likely to happen. There’s something about naming things that makes them real. For those of us who are married, very often the person to have these conversations with is your husband or wife. For those of us who are single, having a friend you can trust to have these conversations with is important. It may be that you need some outside help with money management or budgetting. One of the things that Christians Against Poverty do is run CAP Money courses. This is all about equipping and supporting each other to take control of money, rather than being controlled by it.

I do not own the house that we live in. I have no claim on it, it comes with the job. It is effectively on loan to me to live in and look after for the next vicar. It can be quite useful when double glazing sales people knock on the door to be able to say that I don’t own the house, they tend to move on fairly quickly. It is our home, but we have no right to it, and so we enjoy living there, sit easy to it, and when it comes time to move on we will go with gratitude for the years we’ll have spent in it, but no resentment at having to leave it, it was never ours. In a sense this is true for all our stuff, all of our money, all of our things. None of it is ours. It is all God’s. Getting this idea into our heads and hearts is the next step, and it can take some doing.

I read something the other day that said, “imagine for a moment that you only had today what you’d said thank you for yesterday.” Now, in some senses this is completely impractical, but on one level it might reveal something about how grateful we are as people. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude might be a cliché but it really is key to destroying the illusion of ownership in our lives.

Also critical is giving with glad and generous hearts. It’s only on loan to us anyway. We’re stewards of what we’ve been given. Some of that is for our use, but some of what we’ve been given to look after is for other people. When I go out for the day with the family I tend to end up carrying the packed lunch for all of us in my rucksack. I’m the steward of it, it’s been given to me to look after. But it’s not mine. When it comes to lunchtime I share it out. I might have worked to get it to where we are by carrying it, but that doesn’t make it mine, I’m happy to share it and give the others in the family their portion.

And root all this stuff in prayer. Money is a spiritual issue. Talk to God about it and listen to what God is saying to you about it. Bring those feelings about money to God – maybe write God a letter about it. Ask God to work in you to develop healthy feelings towards money. Ask God to open your eyes to see money and wealth across the world and across this community as God sees it. Ask for God’s perspective. Pray about the decisions you make about money – how you earn it, how you spend it, how you give it. Pray with thankfulness, listen to God’s promptings to be grateful. Pray on your own and pray with others – as a couple, as a family, with your friends.

If we do these things, then I believe we will experience greater freedom from the love of money, and will grow in contentment with what we have and in our trust in God to provide.

Finally, a word about children. You might be wondering why we are doing four straight weeks looking at money and our attitude to material things in our morning services this month. The answer is that this term we are doing the same topics in our sermons that the youngsters are doing in kids group, and this is what is on their syllabus for these weeks. Given this, I’d like to encourage you to talk about this stuff in your families. I am grateful to my parents for many things, and one of them is that they modelled good financial management and giving to me from a young age. From when I first got pocket money they taught me to save some of it and give away at least a tenth of it. Having got into that habit as a youngster, it meant that when my income went up as a I got older, it was relatively easy for me to give at least a tenth of it away. I believe that it is much easier this way than to tell yourself that you just need to earn a bit more before you can afford to give. I don’t envy those of you who are sensing a call from God to give a significant proportion of your income away, but don’t know how you’re going to trim your current spending in order to do it. But, it is possible, and the thing is, once you get there, you may very well discover that you’ve achieved better control over your finances than you’ve ever had before. But, back to my main point. If you want to set your children off on an easier path, teach them from when they are young to give and to save, to budget and to have control over their money rather than allowing it to have control over them.

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