Dear Members and Friends,
There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.
-G. K. Chesterton, 20th century
The best things in life aren’t things.
-Art Buchwald, 20th century
Each of us have choices to make when it comes to how we use our resources, but there are plenty of other demands on us that make us feel we don’t have much choice at all about how we spend our time or money. The decisions we make with the resources we have reflect our ultimate values. The struggle is that sometimes the dominant values of the culture surrounding us overwhelm our decisions and end up becoming the values reflected by our choices, rather than the values we think we actually hold.
Jesus calls us to resist cultural pressure. Giving ourselves more fully to the Realm of God reminds us where our ultimate hope and faith lie.
As people of faith, we often find ourselves choosing between two undesirable alternatives with some frequency. Our budgeting conversations are no exception. Perhaps we are forced to choose between funding two ministries that are both worthy ways to respond to God’s call on us. How do we choose? Sometimes we are forced to choose between providing more security for our families, more joyful experiences, more expressions of love or more for the work of God through our church. How do we choose without feeling unfit or unfaithful?.
Jesus encourages us to be more imaginative. Is there a third way we’re missing? Are there resources we haven’t accounted for when we’re strategizing about how to accomplish our goals for mission and ministry? Sometimes we think we can only throw money at the problem; other times, some financial resources could make all the difference.
Though we don’t like to talk about it, money has both material and symbolic dimensions. Money is a necessary, material reality. Money provides actual material support for congregations and other expressions of the church. Without money, groups with important missions are frequently limited in what they can do. With adequate funding, they can be involved in change for the good of personal and social worlds. For example, with the grant from the Florida Conference we received last year we were able to expand our on-line presence through our website, our Facebook page, etc. Through the generous donation of time from one of our members we have also greatly expanded the presentation of our Sunday morning messages through live-streaming on Facebook. As a result we are reaching hundreds of people with our message of God’s extravagant welcome and unparalleled grace and love available to ALL PEOPLE that we were not reaching before.
Money is also a powerful symbol. How we use our money symbolizes what is important, indeed, what is really important to us. We indicate love for God and love for neighbor when we use our money in behalf of the good of the whole community. Furthermore, when we give generously to the church and to community groups whose values are consistent with those of the community of Jesus, we enter into solidarity with those groups. We do not simply give to them, but their mission becomes, at least in part, our mission. The more we share, the more we represent our trust that god can work through the community as a whole to provide for all – material goods and the others things necessary for a good, secure life.
By contrast, when we use our money strictly for ourselves, we represent self-centeredness. We try to maintain control over our resources so that we can establish our own security. The classic attitude is expressed in this sentiment: “Can[‘t rely on nobody else. Got to take care of yourself. If you don’t nobody else will.” We demonstrate our fear that we cannot trust God to provide for all through the larger community. Ironically, by turning away from generosity and by turning toward self-preserving behaviors, we take steps towards creating the very reality we fear.
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida