During the 1980 presidential campaign between the incumbent Jimmy Carter and the challenger Ronald Reagan, Carter had been hammering Reagan on the issue of Medicare and the charge that Reagan wasn’t strongly committed to the program.
There was only one debate that fall, and it was important because the polls were tight and there was only a week to the election. Early in the debate Carter returned to the issue of Medicare. Reagan responded “There you go again!” and some commentators believe that was the moment the polls tipped to the eventual winner.
Some observers maintain that Jesus talked about money and wealth more than any other topic save that of the realm of God. In the gospel text for Sunday (August 4 – Luke 12:13-21) he’s at it again. A faceless listener in the crowd imagines Jesus to be the perfect agent for solving an intra-familial conflict. “Teacher,” he calls out, “make my brother divide the family inheritance with me.”
Jesus is too clever to be drawn into this bottomless pit….but instead of merely demurring, he uses the occasion to teach. “Be on guard against all forms of greed, for life doesn’t consist of having a lot of stuff.”
And at that very moment, I can imagine some world-weary observer – or maybe some member of your church – or maybe even you or me – muttering, “There you go again.”
Does he always have to harp on money?
The answer, I suppose, is “yes.” He does have to harp on money. We can discount him if we please, but the point remains – what we think about money….what we do with our money, reveals the truest inclination of our heart. After all, puchase proscar “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And in a society as wealthy as ours, and as money-saturated as ours, money is a very big deal.
So…with Jesus as model, allow me one simple assertion: When we allow church to become a “money-talk-free zone” we do Jesus, the church and the faith a disservice.
When laypeople demand that their pastor not talk about money, and when clergy acquiesce to that demand, we continue the process of castrating the gospel. If the gospel isn’t allowed to penetrate our finances, then it hasn’t really pushed very deeply into the core of my being.
It’s scary to talk openly about money – most of us are as ill-practiced at it as we would be at walking across the Grand Canyon on a two-inch thick steel cable. But just like could be done, so we can learn to talk about the very issues that preoccupy our culture but hardly ever show up in church.
Don’t misunderstand me….I’m not talking first and foremost about the church’s need for money (though God knows, we ought to learn to talk about that, too), I’m talking about down and dirty, brass tacks conversation about what money means, and how people of faith can use it in ways that enhance life rather than suck it away – how people who follow Jesus might think differently about money than do those who order life all on their own.
Can it be done? Probably not easily, but I’m sure it CAN be done. Have you the courage to begin the conversation? Think about it….pray about it….find a partner with whom you might build a sensible strategy to test the waters. It just might prove to be another way to be “rich toward God!”
With Great Hope!
Iowa Conference Minister