November 12, 2017 / Chunk of Change Money 2: Liberation / Sara Wolbrecht / Luke 12:16-22
Welcome Question: Growing up, what is a memory you have with your parents regarding money? Something specific said, or a more general attitude they had. Whether you had an allowance and if strings were attached? Did they NEVER talk about money? What is a memory you have with your parents (or family of origin) and money?
Friends, as we continue our Chunk of Change Series, naming how we are always living through transition, and then paying attention to how God gets our attention, hooks us, and invites us into a process of being changed, we have set aside November as a month – since we are beginning the holiday season – for us to be changed in a particular way. As we kicked off last week, we are spending three Sundays letting God teach us – because it is something we have to learn – learning how to be generous. It’s not about a do. This is about a BE. We want God to teach us how to BE generous. A lifestyle of generosity. For us to have a larger conversation this fall about being changed – heart mind, soul change – you better believe that God is in the business of helping us be changed, liberated into a life of incredible generosity.
And as we made clear last week – though generosity is something that affects us in a holistic way, for our purposes, this month we have laser focus on a particular way of being generous. For this, month, we’re talking about money (pic). And as I look around this room, having announced last week that we were going to be talking about money – I am so glad that y’all still decided to come back. And for those who missed last week – surprise! To be clear – though we often make money out to be a weird thing to talk about – Jesus didn’t find it weird at all, when we read of all the things Jesus talked about – he talked the most about money. More than justice, more than love – Jesus talked about money – because Jesus knew it was a spiritual issue, affecting us more than anything else. So to follow Jesus’ example? We should talk about it too.
What do we mean by generosity? Last week we defined it for our series as: “Generosity is the on purpose, preplanned, liberation of personal financial assets.” Last week we explored why generosity is on purpose – goes where we want it to go. It’s also preplanned – it is planned ahead of time. And it is liberation – setting us free from things that usually entrap us. And it is this component – liberation – that we dig into this week.
To get to where we’re headed today, let’s come back to that question that we began worship with – as our welcome question, we found a partner to talk about a memory we have with our parents about money – something specific that happened, maybe a general attitude your parents seemed to have, maybe your first experience with money.
I had us start there today, because, this simple question, gets us to the tip of a huge iceberg. You see, we all have a money story. We all have grown up with family members handling money, who had certain access to it (or not), perspectives and opinions about money, relationships with money that we observed and even learned for ourselves. Money is seen as representing certain things – power, prestige, greed, dysfunction, evil, happiness, blessing, unattainable, never enough. Most of it is subconscious, it’s so engrained in us that we don’t necessarily know it’s there or how it is influencing us.
We all have a money story. A script. So let yourself hold that awareness as we head into today – that you have a relationship with money, influenced by your family of origin. And there is great diversity in what that looks like in each of us. Though we may be sitting next to someone with a different money story, a different way in which they relate to money – what seems to be universally true is that there is one word we all associate with money is: worry. Worry about not having enough, about spending it in the right way, about debt, and investments. You know what worry sounds like. Worry is that little voice that says: the future is uncertain, it’s all going to go away, you won’t have enough, what could I lose? What could I lose? That’s the question that worry always sounds like in my mind. What could I lose - what if there won’t be enough? Can anyone relate?
What I want to challenge us with today is that this worry we have is not a math problem. Our money worry is not something that will be solved by having more. The source of our financial stress, and the worry we have associated with money is not an income problem. This is not an expense problem. This is a mindset problem.
I’ll prove it to you: research in the last decade reveals how the percentage of people has stayed steady, that from 2009-2016 60% of Americans spent all of or more than what they earned. That means, just as soon as our money comes in, it’s going out, sometimes taking more with it. And statistically speaking, (I mean I know we’re above average here in this room and watching online – it can’t be us), but statistically, that means this is more than half of us – no need to raise your hand.
And even if we’re not in that 60%, statistically, the rest of us are living very close to what we earn, with not a lot of margin. So for nearly all of us, then, if we are spending close to, as much or more than we make, here’s my question: how much more would you have to earn for your lifestyle to change? For that margin to actually grow, with earning growing to a higher rate than spending than it is now? How much would change our lifestyle? 10% more this year? 15% more this year? 25% more this year for us to get out in front of that margin?
As you think about that, here’s the thing, also statistically speaking, when we do get a little bump in the money (like at times when we have in the past) – like if I was to give you a check for 25% more than you make this year – I can’t do that by the way – but if I was to do that – if I was like Oprah – check under your seats! No. But if I was to do that – how many of us honestly, would let that change our lifestyle – would we say: you know what this is my ticket out, I’m finally going to pay off all my debt, not going to spend more than I make, I don’t feel entitled to taking a little off the top of this bonus check, I’m going to finally recover, put this in savings and donate to charity I believe in. Are we really going to do that? Have you done that before? Most of us, when we have had those bumps in the past – it hasn’t been the case. Not universally true – what has been your story?
This is why I don’t think this is a math problem. Having more money won’t solve this worry equation. I believe it’s a mindset problem.
And it is not surprising that from Jesus’ perspective, more money is not the solution to addressing our worry. Jesus is clear - more money will not give us more control, will not give us contentment. More money will not solve our worry. As a colleague of mine says: More money just adds some zeros to our dysfunction. More money adds more worry! Jesus said: it isn’t an issue of needing more, because: this is a spiritual problem. In fact, the day Jesus said what we talked about last week: that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, the context of that conversation, was Jesus trying to solve peoples worry problem. Cool, yes?
In a similar place in Luke 12 Jesus is talking about how to combat worry and he makes up a story about a guy who shouldn’t have anything to worry about. It’s another money story. Jesus is talking with his disciples and some other people who didn’t quite buy yet what Jesus represented but they wanted to hear what he had say about this. And he tells them this parable (remember what we talked about this summer – how Jesus used stories, with many layers to it, that he threw out to a crowd to see who might grab hold of the hook). Luke 12:16-22. I am going to read it for us because we’re going to go phrase by phrase with some commentary, and having anyone else read it – they would just get annoyed with me interrupting them the whole time. As we read, take it all in, but pay attention to this guy in the story – what is his money story?
Luke 12:16-22 (NIV) 16 And Jesus told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
You hear that? I find this depressing because it shows me that even back then the rich still just got richer. That’s what Jesus is saying. And everybody listening especially in an agricultural, “you can’t break out of your economic status” culture, were probably nodding their heads saying, yes, that’ just the way it goes. Just seems like the folks who already have it will just get more and I’m stuck here… So then Jesus says in 17, the man thought to himself: Self, what shall I do?
17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Oh, that’s such a bad problem, I have nowhere to store my stuff. You know maybe I need a storage unit or a third walk in closet, I have to buy stuff to store my stuff.
Now that he has plenty of stuff, plenty of resources. What does he do? The answer: he does what he has always done. Reading on…
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
In other words, I’ll save it now so I can consume it later. I’ll save it now so I can consume it later – I won’t have to worry, I’m golden, it’s fine. I will have enough disposable income, consumable income. Which by the way is an American, 1st-world phrase only. Disposable income – imagine how that sounds to the people in the developing world – we have disposable income – yeah, I could by that third t-shirt or that latte today. I could burn it, it really does not threaten my ability to acquire my needs. None of us in here truly are threatened by our needs being taken away.
And that’s what he’s got: disposable income. He’s all set. Some of us know this story and we know what happens next. Guess what? He’s not all set.
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool!
I’m going to pause right here – notice that God doesn’t say you criminal or you wicked man. This is not about him doing an evil thing – this is about him doing a dumb thing. You didn’t do the smart thing, why is that? (the text goes on): This very night your life will be demanded from you.
In other words: he’s going to die. And his stuff did not buy him time. And so what happens? Just like that, all of his work, his earning, extra zeros, promotions, barn building – all of it comes to the same abrupt end that every single one of us is going to face and everything that we had going for us is not going to go with us. Merry Christmas.
It’s almost like God was saying: newsflash, remember, YOU are actually disposable. You are consumable. And then he asks him this really embarrassing question here: Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ The answer is: somebody else. Somebody else will get it. But notice: not because he was generous it’s because he’s dead. And then Jesus brings this into our present day even now Nov or 2017:
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Notice the future tense: this is how it will be, future tense, for everyone. Who focuses on satiating the worry but storing more and more up for themselves. It will all be gone in an instant. Bigger barns do not buy away our worry.
Jesus says here, the antidote of how to combat our worry – like the worry this man had – is not towards building up our riches, but is to be rich toward God.
Jesus said it a lot. When it comes to our worry, it’s very simple (yet desperately hard), how we become rich toward God, how we build wealth with God – Jesus says it over and over: deny yourself some stuff and help people. That’s it. Deny yourself some stuff and help people. Build a lifestyle of that – not just moments of bliss as we experience sporadic generosity – but a lifestyle of denying ourselves some stuff and helping people because, Jesus is saying if you are rich toward the people that God loves, you are rich toward God. And I totally get this – as a wife, mother, if you are rich toward my husband, rich toward my kids – I am good. I don’t need anything else. At the end of the day, if you’re kind, rich toward the people I love the most – man, that’s money in my personal bank. That makes sense – give towards the people God loves (all people, especially those in need) and that is what it means to be ‘rich toward God.’
And Jesus said, to close out our passage – 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…
Jesus tells a story of this man, pointing to the final result of this approach to life, that this is a dead end, that this won’t turn your money-worry around, then he turns to his disciples, most of which will be stuck in the same socio-economic status for the rest of their lives, and he says: do not worry about your life.
Worry is not going to add a day, it’s not going to add a zero, it’s not going to add any quality. Do note: the mistake of this man in Jesus’ story wasn’t that he was making money, Jesus has no problem with the fact that this guy is making money, but he completely missed an opportunity to invest it in what lasts.
Last week we looked at Jesus saying – where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, where your money goes, your heart is going to follow, your passion, and your hope, and your motivations and so why not give in an on-purpose way, where you want your heart to go? And if we give our money towards things that will depreciate, toward things that will be consumed, towards things that will disappoint, that go out of style, toward things that can be taken when we die – our heart will never have enough. A friend of mine talks about how our heart is a hungry beast – our heart always wants more than we can ever earn, so if we give it towards things that depreciate: our heart will never be satisfied and we will be discontent. Guaranteed. Give towards the life of a person and the flourish of the earth, towards God’s heart, and our heart will never be more satisfied. That’s a promise.
In your life now are folks who live a lifestyle of generosity. Do you know who they are? My experience: the generous people I know range through all different socio-economic statuses. And all of them, are the happiest, most content people I know. Same for you? And here’s what our generous friends know and what I want us to walk away with today: generous people know that this voice of worry: What could I lose, will I have enough – is not beaten with math, not beaten by storing things in our barns or closets or garages or banks, not beaten with more income, what could I lose is only beaten with: what could I give? What could I lose is only beaten by asking and living the question: what could I give?
Generous people never assume that it’s all theirs to consume. Generous people never assume that it’s all theirs to consume and I love that Jesus defies our entitlement to our stuff not by guilting us into it, but by trying to show us common sense. Because it’s foolish to think that it lasts. Because if it can all be taken without our permission, it was never ours to begin with.
So – why miss the opportunity to give into the life of someone before it’s all taken away. Why miss the opportunity for joy now? That’s why this man in Jesus’ story is so foolish – he missed the chance for generosity, he missed the joy of giving beyond himself. Just this week as we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the New Bethlehem Day Center opening in our basement last year, and how (I was corrected) 49 families experiencing homelessness were housed through the Day Center last year – I had tears in my eyes this week. So grateful that we gave our basement – not to storing our stuff (which it literally did) but to changing lives. What joy we have as a community as we see what God is doing with what we have given away!
Why miss the opportunity to give into the life of someone before it’s all taken away?
So here what I want us to do for this week, as we close to day – I just want you to change your thinking. Liberation. Don’t do anything. Just think differently. Here’s how: every time that voice of worry crops up to say: what could I lose, is there enough – or whatever your own money-story voice speaks to you. …I want you to replace it with a different idea.
Now next week if you’re wondering – next week you’ve GOT to come back – because we’re going to get really really practical. How we move from a life of incredible debt into a lifestyle of generosity, we’re going to talk about how to discern who and what to give – if you’ve been asking that question. I know folks who ask that. Also next week – remember, I promised you we’ll hear about our numbers our financial situation as a new church. I’m doubling down – I’m saying you’ve just got to be here next week. A great week. But in the meantime, all of the planning that we’ll talk about next week does not happen if we don’t change our perspective, all of the planning starts with a mindset and so that’s what I want us to work on.
So this week, to liberate our mindset, two things I commend to you: first, every time worry crops up, I want you to replace it with: what could I give? Every time worry crops up: including all the worry that crops up as we live through another week, a week of changes in our own lives, a week of our current administration and what it might threaten – as we start playing the tapes: what could I lose, need to protect, hoard – try to focus our energy towards what could I give?
Also, examine our mindset toward some of our lifestyle practices – What things could be freed up so that we could become a resource – what could I give, what could I give. Cut back on expenses by packing lunches a few times, take public transportation, question the long list of holiday expenses coming up – where we might be saying: what could I lose? We ask: what could I give? What could I give?
And here’s a big one: Look at the stuff in our lives – our clothing, goods, cars, homes, electronics, tech, furniture, supplies – and realize that it all ain’t going to last. So much of it we’ll get rid of the next time we move. You know that cool thing you bought two weeks ago, will be junk and collecting dust in 6 months. Or to honor the severity of Jesus’ story, we know one day we will be a corpse and all that stuff is going to go somewhere else, right? Merry Christmas.
So that’s the first thing: what could I give? Becomes our worry-mantra. Second, to go along with it, if we’re talking about liberating our mindset, it’s helpful to dig a bit more into the mindset we already have. Our own money stories and money mindsets. I have a handout for you –one tool for exploring and naming what role money has in your life, what kind of relationship you have with it – and how and who formed it. This is just one tool that I found online – we’ll post that link in the comments of the sermon video livestream, too. www.careerattraction.com/story-telling-money-costing/ Please make the time, with a friend, partner, to look over the money mindsets described here – based on research from 2011, folks generally have one of four mindsets – which one is you? Avoidance, Worship, Status, Vigilance. Read about the research, why it matters, and the descriptions to dig into your money story and mindset. And then coming at that mindset with: what could I give?
So this week: all I want you to do: liberating your mind. Asking: what could I give? Apostle Paul says, we’re not transformed by DOING something different or changing our behavior – we’re transformed by the changing of our mind. So changing into a lifestyle of generoisty all begins with a change of perspective. Repentance – heart, mind, soul change. I want us to have joy, I want us to experience liberation and the next time worry plugs our mind, I want us to have another way to live, another way to give. I want that for us.
Let’s pray – God, I love the fact that Jesus talked about those ideas that are so emotionally charged for us. God when we pray about the life that Jesus has given us and when we sing about the life we are no longer enslaved by – we are moved emotionally. Because there is something in our soul that you are speaking to that nobody else can speak to like that. But we also love that Jesus didn’t leave us in just the emotional world, that he moved in to our practical lives so that our lives actually look different, our behavior actually looks different as a result of the life you have given us. So since you have given so much to us, since you have lead the way in generosity and sacrifice. I pray you create in us brains that think generously. Hearts that think generously. Not so that we can earn brownie points with you, but God so we can experience all of the joy that you can’t wait to give us as we are liberated from the grip of money. We pray these things in your name – Amen.