By the Rev. Eric Long
“Money is the root of all evil” is a famous adage erroneously attributed to the Bible. People ceaselessly believe it to be scriptural, although it is not. And it’s not for good reason: the comment is untrue. Money, while capable of being dreadfully misused, has, in the right hands, accomplished tremendous good. Habitat for Humanity houses, emergency relief for families on the verge of homelessness, mission trips to Ghana, and churches all cost money. These examples could easily be partnered with millions more, both small and large, to demonstrate how money has been utilized to achieve profoundly good ends.
The actual biblical statement that is misquoted comes from I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” No doubt you immediately notice the obvious difference between the accurate quotation and the false. The issue at hand is where your heart is with regard to money. When money becomes the desire of our hearts, the center of our affections, or an end to itself, evil easily creeps into the scene.
Which begs the question: what is the place of money in our lives? Is it something we voraciously chase no matter the cost? Is it something we look at in a utilitarian way simply to get what we need to make it from one week to the next? Or is our money viewed as a gift that God has entrusted to our care, and thus a gift on which God has a claim? If you have never asked yourself these questions, I challenge you to do so. How do you tend to view money in your life?
Of course, many roll their eyes when the pastor starts talking about money. Ulterior motives are never far from such discussions, even in the Church. Yet far from having base motivations for bringing this up, I am mindful of my call as a priest, especially in a world where the love of money has caused great pain (just consider recent years) and in which money matters have wreaked tremendous havoc within marriages and families. Simply put, I would fail in my vocation if I never raised such questions.
Churches must talk about money, not simply so that the parish light bill is paid, but because the state of our very souls depends on such conversations. Jesus spoke about the place of money in our lives more than any other moral issue. Think about that, and then realize how little, by comparison, we actually think or talk about money as a spiritual and moral issue at all. As followers of Jesus, we must guard our hearts ferociously in financial matters. The stakes are too great to leave to chance. Being deliberate about money as a spiritual concern is a calling that is inseparable from all of our calls as disciples of Jesus.
I hope you have noticed postcards coming to your house which demonstrate different ways that “St. John’s Gives.” Take a moment and look at the cheerful pictures of us doing our work. Read the encouraging testimonies given by our people, and then, consider how St. John’s gives to and through your life. Yes, we are talking about this because it is stewardship season, but that’s not the only reason. Stewardship season is a gift, because it offers us an all too often rare chance to measure our hearts with regard to the things of our lives, and to bear tangible witness through our gifts of what it is we value. Of course, this parish is not the only worthwhile place to give – although it is worthy beyond measure! The point is giving, cheerfully and generously. Show me a life that is lived without giving, and I will show you a life diminished; a life not worthy of being called “life.”
The end result of God’s people being intentional and faithful in this area is a renewed focus on money as a powerful occasion to accomplish God’s good ends through the gifts that fill our lives. Indeed, Jesus will use our gifts in powerful ways as long as the treasure of our lives is not what we treasure most.
Giving with you,
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector