This week, as I was culling the internet in search of thought-provoking quotes for the Foundation's Facebook page, I found two that really spoke to me. The first is from John Wesley, who we all know as one of the founders of the Methodist Church. Thanks to his writing and preaching, Wesley made an extraordinary amount of money for his time; according to the article I read, a single man in the 1700's could live comfortably on 30 pounds a year, and Wesley's annual income reached 1,400 pounds at one point. Wesley asked:
“Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?”
He believed that as one's income rose, so should one's standard of giving, rather than one's standard of living. Wesley practiced what he preached; as he made more money, he continued to live off of 30 pounds a year and give the rest away. I don't know about you, but when I get a raise, I keep most of it for myself.
The second quote I found was from an Episcopal resource with no attribution. It says:
"For a brief period we are given time, energy, and resources. What we do with these gifts ultimately defines the character of our life and the depth of our spiritual understanding."
As I reread it, I thought about those words "character of our life", and if how I'm living reflects what I claim to believe, which is that all I have and am comes from God. Again, if I get a raise, I pat myself on the back for a job well done, continue to worry about whether I should've chosen a more lucrative career path, and hope that after taxes, the additional income will be enough to allow me to travel more, afford new clothes for work, or save more for the future. Yes, I may give a bit of it away, but certainly not as much as the raise. It's as thought the money is telling me that my joy comes from finally getting more of it and that if I let it go, I'll never discover the even greater joy of what life could be like with more money in it.
These two quotes capture the struggle many of us face over the course of our spiritual formation. We recognize that we are called to do far more than decide how to use "our" time, talent, and treasure; we must acknowledge that these things aren't ours to keep and that they are entrusted to us to be shared and used to do God's work in the world. Only then will we experience true joy...a life of real character.
In Luke Chapter 12, verses 13 through 21, Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. The man in the story tells himself, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." Then God says to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" The chapter ends with:
"So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21)
Rich toward God. A powerful phrase. What if we woke up asking how we could be rich toward God that day? Is it ok if we get a raise? Sure. But God cautions us not to store up for ourselves; we are fools when we do. Instead, we are to be rich toward God....drawn toward God as our riches, THE thing of value in our lives. What would THAT be like? Rather than worrying about if a step will earn (or save) us more money, what if we asked, "Will it bring me closer to God?"
Let us be rich toward God so that we may experience the joy that comes from finding our life not in possessions, but in His abundant grace, mercy, and love.