My son, Gavin, is obsessed with money right now. We have run into a few bumps in the road due to his desire for money. A few days ago he lost a dollar that he said he had put away. He came in throwing a fit because he had lost it. These are the times he likes to do my favorite thing – throw a temper tantrum that ends with a promise that he thinks will hurt me, but really doesn’t impact me at all (except for the fact I have to deal with his behavior). Gavin said, “Fine, Dad, I will never have any dollar ever.” I, of course, know this is not true. Besides, he’s the one who lost it, not me. I know that one day he will have more money, unless they do away with the paper money altogether in the future. (You can make your own 2050 predictions.) Anyway, I led him back to the place he left it on Sunday after he had showed me that Mindy had given it to him. We talked about putting money in a place where we will know where we left it. There is no way around it, my kids are going to be exposed to money, and how I handle my money is an example for them.
Money has always been a key part of survival for people. We need things to survive, and money is the means by which we get those things. As kids, culture has a way of feeding us all the things they think we “need,” and if that isn’t bad enough, someone else’s kid who sees a commercial is more than happy to share about the gadget’s coolness to everyone in class. This is how Gavin came to like Pokemon cards, even though he really has no clue what they’re about.
I got trapped in this cycle too when I was a kid. As a young boy, I began mowing lawns and collected a good amount of money. I had a list of all the things I was going to purchase. I had CDs and MLB hats that I “needed.” Come to think of it, not much has changed. I still love music and baseball. At that time I needed hats from all the different teams. I had a great plan that I would spend my money on the things I wanted, and then at the end of summer, I would save just enough to total 10% of my summer earnings to give to church. Unlike Gavin, I never thought that once my dollar was lost (or spent) that I would never have another dollar again, which just meant that when I got it, I spent it. At that point, my dad laid down a very important lesson about giving to God first. My dad was giving me perhaps the most important lesson he ever taught me. Never let the list of things I wanted take control of me.
Yet it happens, doesn’t it. It may not be baseball hats, but the list of things we “need” keeps growing, and our struggle to give to God is a challenge. Do we forget that we give to God knowing He always gives to us? Every time we expand or increase our giving, it happens again – the questions and struggles. Once I set my giving for the year and it is drawn directly out of my account, I am cool with it, but ask me what I am going to give next year and I can give you all the reasons why I’ll never have another dollar again.
The emotion in Psalm 49 about money is powerful. Really? A Psalm about money? Well of course, a Psalm about money. Every person who has ever called or stepped into my office to ask for money knows there is real emotion involved and heart strings pulled when talking about money. Guilt, passion, joy, and many more emotions are connected to giving, and yet, it is all God’s. If I gave all my money away I couldn’t take care of my family. The dependency we have on money leaves us with that constant emotional pull. As a church we are meeting a budget, but we also come back to the foundation – talking about God’s gifts to us and how we give back, trusting in God’s work through His people. The church budget is our faithful way of taking the gifts God has given and using them for His glory. Every gift that comes to Mt. Calvary allows us to open our doors and ask how can we live as transformed people who transform a community. How can we help move from ordinary people to extraordinary servants transformed by the saving love of Christ? As a church, we make tough choices every year on how we spend the dollars, knowing that our fears of never having another dollar again sometimes surface. Then we turn back to Christ, who continues to fill us with wealth, and pray that we can have God’s understanding how to share that wealth with the world.