Encounter: Read the account of a man named Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-2 and the parable Jesus shared about the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-31. Listen while you are walking to the audio Bible or as you read seated, underline words or phrases which shimmer to you or seem to speak to you. Begin to reflect on what similarities you see in these two stories and what differences you notice.
Stuart Strachan Jr. wrote about what he witnessed at an event sponsored by Compassion International, the International Child Sponsorship Organization. The event was called “Stepping into My Shoes”. The purpose being to show children in America what it is like living in a third-world country. At one point, children are encouraged to “work”, breaking rocks and shining shoes. For their efforts, each received their compensation: ten cents.
They then went to a “shop,” where they could exchange their newly acquired wealth for items. Unfortunately, their 10 cents didn’t get them very far: a soccer ball was 30 dollars and a toy plane was 20 dollars. One rather distraught young girl wanted to purchase a Barbie doll, but she was $79.90 short of the total price of $80. The daughter, exasperated, finally said, “Why don’t you just charge it on your card mommy?”*
For most of us, we learned our philosophy of money and the practical ins and outs of money management through the example of our parents or family and thousands of media images we process through commercials on TV and media. We also have an “old self” that is mainly influenced by that part of us that has not yet been renewed by Holy Spirit, the part that still says, “Mine!”
But the Good News is we are being brought to life, becoming our “new self” in relation to all things, especially in how we understand our possessions and money. As Paul describes it as every person's battle, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” (Romans 7:15)
Philip Yancey in his book, Money, puts it like this:
Sometimes I want to sell all that I own, join a Christian commune, and live out my days in intentional poverty. At other times, I want to rid myself of guilt and enjoy the fruits of our nation’s prosperity. Mostly, I wish I did not have to think about money at all. But I must somehow come to terms with the Bible’s very strong statements about money.
As sons and daughters of God we are given spiritual gifts, resources and a calling to bring the “shalom” of God to where we live. As much as is in our power we are to influence our community with as much love, ministries and resources, we can muster to create places and spaces of transformation and to make the world look as much like the Kingdom of God that is possible this side of eternity.
In practical terms, we are learning how to do this by putting God first, giving generously and learning to manage responsibly what we possess. This past week, you would have received a letter, giving chart and pledge card. Let us together take time to pray the prayer on the back of the pledge card asking God to help guide us in how we will partner together to make this year’s Ministry Investment Plan flourish. See you Sunday!
Praying with you,
Reflect: What did you learn from the Scripture passages above? How did money influence the 3 people involved and what was God’s response to their attitudes and actions with money?
Now take time to read Psalm 139:23-24 and Ephesians 4:17-24. As you think about your history with money, where do you see the influence of God or the influence of your family of origin, culture or your experiences of life in having or not having what you wanted or needed. How did those experiences affect how you you feel about God?
Encourage: Find a quiet place to ask and listen to God for what you need in order to re-order your attitude towards money and possessions to be more in line with kingdom of God's priorities instead of history that did not consider this eternal value. Take what you hear and consider one practical step that would enable you to become a more faithful steward of God’s resources.
Gather: Discuss in your small group time what you learned from the Scripture passages, about yourself, and how God sees you and your attachment to money. Share your practical step from above and pray for the intentionality to follow through.