Money. I like money. I like what money allows me to do. But can I like money without loving money, the love of which, according the Apostle Paul, is a root of all kinds of evil?
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
I think I’m okay. I don’t love money, I don’t crave money, I just like money. And I delude myself.
Jesus says that money has designs on us, seeks to be our master (Matthew 6:24). I am foolish to think that I am able to “just be friends” with this tyrant.
Every other Tuesday morning I spend about an hour in a video chat with my friend Michael, the young Brazilian pastor of Igreja Presbiteriana no Jardim America, who many of you met last spring. We share prayer concerns, his for the people and ministry of IPJA and mine for the people and ministry of LPC. We are building our friendship; I am able to scrape some of the rust from my Portuguese, and, I suppose, a bit of mentoring occurs with this faithful servant of Christ half my age.
Money is a huge issue in Brazil right now. Consider the headline from this past Sunday’s Miami Herald: Brazil: How Could So Much Go So Wrong? The Brazilian economy is in shambles. 3 million jobs have been lost. The once growing middle class is contracting, with those who have only recently climbed into the bottom ranks of the middle class now falling back in to poverty.
Igreja Presbiteriana and Jardim America with its Favela da Ventosa are the kinds of places where unemployment, lost wages, and lost hope are felt first. As Michael mentions the names of those in his congregation who are struggling with money, faces and homes and families come to mind. Many of them are people I have known for the past fifteen years.
“Ouse Sonhar,” dare to dream, was a theme we used for one of our mission visits to IPJA a dozen years ago. Many of the dreams our Brazilian friends were just beginning to dare to dream were about money and the better life it might buy. They were good dreams. For some, however, the dream they dared to dream is turning into a nightmare.
But Michael says something that should not surprise me, though it should frighten me. Betrayed by the false master money, some in Jardim America and Favela da Ventosa are turning again to a good and kind Lord, the God many of them first met at Igreja Presbiteriana long before anyone could have imagined this short-lived boom in the Brazilian economy. The Jesus preached first by my long-time friend Pastor Robson and now by my young friend Michael is not one to betray us – even when we betray him, chasing after the false gods and the false promises money makes.
Money. It should frighten us even as we spend so much of our lives rightly working to earn the food and shelter and simple good it can buy. As soon as they began to earn more of it, though, some of my Brazilian friends began to wander from the Lord they love, seeking more of the fleeting pleasures money offered them.
Money. The Bible offers a strong and effective antidote to its corrosive influence in our lives. We are to give away as much of it as we can, cheerfully and generously, Paul says.
Sunday is pledge Sunday at LPC. Please be praying about your promise of participation in the life and ministry of our church in 2016. Your offering plate dollar is a sound investment. Our world gets a little bit better every time you drop gift in that plate. Give generously because it makes a difference.
But as you pray about your promise to be there next year, pray for courage to give more than you thought possible or prudent. Tell money, “You do not own me.”
See you Sunday