[Simon the magician said,] “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:19-20, ESV)
It’s stewardship drive season.
The fall season often marks a time when congregations head into stewardship drives. Perhaps yours is engaged in one right now. Such drives always require a careful balance. When money seems short, it’s easy to get lost in thinking that the primary business of a congregation is to balance budgets, raise funds, and pay the bills. True, those things are all part of congregational life, but without question they should always take second place to the priority of teaching and preaching the Good News of the shed blood of Jesus Christ to both the lost and the found.
At the same time, in order for ministry to take place (at the congregational, district, or Synod level), good stewardship is necessary. We need to make salutary use of our time, talents, and treasures as part of our discipleship.
Even so, oftentimes it’s our finances that seem to be stressed the most. Perhaps that is because there are some 2,000 verses about money in the Bible (depending on who’s counting). In fact, as the musical Cabaret says, “Money makes the world go round.” But that reflects the misbelief that money gives us our meaning, identity, and purpose rather than our Lord Jesus Christ. Be assured, the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature will tempt us not only to think this way but act this way.
However, when Scripture speaks of money, it’s not as something that can give us ultimate meaning, purchase God’s favor, or buy our salvation. The verses above remind us of that. Nonetheless, it’s good to consider how you view your money. Or even more, to take a serious look at how you use your money.
How do you use your money?
Consider the following:
In 1815, Napoleon was defeated in the battle of Waterloo. The hero of that battle was the Duke of Wellington. Interestingly, one of the Duke’s recent biographers claims to have an advantage over all the other previous biographers: he found an old account ledger that showed how the Duke had spent his money. This, says the biographer, was a far better clue to what the Duke thought was really important than just reading his letters or his speeches.
Imagine if someone wrote your biography on the basis of your checkbook or your income tax return. What might it say about you, your priorities, your focus, and about whom you serve?
It’s often easy to forget that the money we have in our wallets, checkbooks, credit cards, and bank accounts is really not our money. It is the Lord’s, and we are simply stewards of God’s gifts and the caretakers of the money and possessions He has placed into our hands.
Thus, what would your checkbook and receipts say about how you spend your money or what you have as priorities? Even more, what might our congregation’s checkbook or even our District’s checkbook say about how we spend our money and what we view as priorities?
If we’re honest, on the personal level it’s easy to get lost in how society determines our worth and value. We read it in the headlines all the time—a professional sports player signs a multimillion-dollar contract, a movie star is worth so many millions, and Forbes tells us that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are worth billions.
How much are you worth?
You could certainly look at your wallet, credit cards, checkbook, or bank accounts. But you will only find a finite number that leads to emptiness. Instead, look to the cross of Christ. Look to the water and Word of baptism that unites you to Jesus who gives you infinite value and worth.
Luther’s Small Catechism summarizes things this way, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God…has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death” (Explanation of the Second Article to the Apostles’ Creed).
You see, you are worth more than any amount of money or gold or silver. Forbes may have their list of the wealthiest people in the world. But God has His list, and all on it are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. His list comes with the powerful promise that you “might be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (Second Article explanation). This is what we desire for all people—certainly the found, and especially those still lost in unbelief.
Regardless of what your bank account says, Jesus has paid for your sins in full. Regardless of how much or how little you give in to the stewardship drive, your giving or lack of giving cannot make God love you more or less. He loves you because He chooses to love you. He sent Jesus to prove it. And when you believe you are a redeemed, beloved and precious child of God, your priorities (including your life of stewardship), along with the meaning of life and your purpose for life will all fall into place.