Following our Town Hall Meeting last week, Tasha offered me a ride part way home. As we made our way into downtown and onto Georgia we were suddenly stopped by sirens and several police motorbikes. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on. At first we thought one of the political leaders must be in town, but no; as it turns out, it was a convoy of really expensive sports cars. Towards the end of the convoy there were the classic black Cadillac SUVs with people leaning out the windows with their iPhones, filming us plebs who had to stop and make way for them and their toys. Tasha and I burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all and at the realization that yes, if we ever wondered how the other side lived, we now know. Believe it or not, the class system is still alive and well in Canada.
It is amazing at what money can buy, and the flip side, what it can’t. Apparently money can buy you the opportunity to stop traffic on a major road for no discernible reason. But it can’t buy you preferential seating in Heaven - or at least as far as I know . . .
This experience highlights for me again just how our world and our everyday thinking is dominated by money. We are faced with choices on how to spend our money every day from monitoring gas prices through to the grocery store as we face so many choices about our money that it is a sub-conscious process. We have already automatically programmed into our minds a threshold of how much we anticipate to spend at City Market verses how much is reasonable for our next burger and so on, before we ever step in the door. Of course an additional .50 or $1 for adding sautéed mushrooms is reasonable - I guess.
Even in church we cannot escape conversations about money. It never ceases to amaze me at just how much of our decision making is dominated by money. If the project is free, or if we are able to get a good deal or if there is minimal expense, the chances are the project will move forward. This very quickly becomes the driving force in decision making, rather than the discussion on the merits of how the project will meet the ministry needs of the church, community or our neighbours. The sub-conscious reality becomes that there could be a really excellent program or project, but if it costs too much, maybe it’s not that good a program after all. I wonder about how many valuable opportunities we may have missed with this way of thinking.
Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” But oh how we sure like to try. Can it really be that easy? A simple choice between two priorities. And if so, how do we push back the urge that surely to goodness we can have it all?
What seems at face value to be a throw away comment by Jesus at the end of our Gospel reading actually holds Jesus’s whole point. This is not so much a question of absolutes and choosing. Rather this is a question about our relationship to God and money.
As a general norm we are really good at paying attention to our relationship with money. We cannot help it because every time we step outside we are faced choices on how best to use our money that we have to pay attention to how we manage our dollars.
On the flip side we don’t, except for precious few moments, pay attention to our relationship with God. This is not about counting how many prayers we say or how virtuous we are or how often we read and meditate on Scripture. But rather how aware are we of where and when we experience God’s presence in our lives? Is this an experience that is limited to an hour each Sunday morning? Or is our relationship with God one that permeates our everyday lives and thinking that even the most mundane of tasks becomes an act of prayer?
We are called to examine our relationship to God, money, our lives and how these interconnect and inform the other. Our faith and what we believe and value should inform how we manage our money. The choices we make with the resources entrusted to us, should be influenced and informed by our faith. How we live and move and have our being in the world are decisions based on our faith and values.
Being the Church in the world is not a question about individualism, but rather how am I called today to use the resources entrusted to me in a way that is pleasing in God’s sight. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have, it all belongs to God anyway. God calls us to be the faithful stewards of what belongs to God in a way that benefits God and God’s Mission in the world.
So, as we return once more to the places where God has entrusted us with God’s own, how do the decisions we make everyday inform and nurture our relationship with God, self and the other?