Put your money where your God is #LukeActs2014

And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:34-36, NIV)

Clearly, Jesus did not work on Wall Street.

I don’t know if Bishop Ken Carter selected Luke-Acts for his yearlong reading invitation only because the two books have a nice round 52 chapters between them. But he had to know we were going to spend a lot of time reading about and talking about money and its meaning for a Christian.

In this very chapter we get the blessing on the poor and the woe to the rich. We get the blessing for the hungry and the woe to those who are full. We get this command — not invitation or suggestion — but command of Jesus Christ to lend to the ungrateful and wicked who we do not expect will ever pay us back.

A few years ago at Annual Conference — the first year we met in downtown Indianapolis — we had a person speak at the beginning of the conference about what to do when meeting all the panhandlers on the streets. The instructions were pretty straight forward. Give them no money. Urge them to seek the services of in the community that can connect them with all sorts of assistance.

I don’t think Jesus has a problem with that. Maybe more than giving folks a card, we should offer to walk with them or drive them to the closest office. But if there are systems in place to help people get off the streets, that seems like a good thing to encourage. First century Galilee had no social service agencies.

And yet, I am wary of pawning the responsibility for this command off too easily on others. In some ways, these institutions we create and support are meant — it seems — to disconnect us from those who are in need. We can shunt them into a system where they will not be an eyesore on our street corner or a source of conflict in our conscience.

This meditation on the Scripture, I notice, has turned much more practical than most of my others in this series. Somehow, though, I don’t think Jesus would mind.

4 thoughts on “Put your money where your God is #LukeActs2014

  1. Economic systems have changed radically, but the call to feed the hungry, tend the sick, has not. Instead of first century one-by-one alms, we must make 21st century agencies efficient and affective. In this, America sins, missing the mark by a long shot. Third world nations cannot help all their poor. We could. Only USA pegs assistance to what size enterprise one has worked at, or if one as been a producer of goods or services at some time in the past. The concept of cutting entitlements and welfare makes a mockery of claiming to support “Christian family values. “

  2. Jesus also said, “You always have the poor with you…” This from the one who fed the multitudes. I started off to college with no car, sleeping under a bridge, and $10 at the bottom of a paper bag. “Fear” of want caused my eyes to focus narrowly on the future. The guy who gave me my first real job was Russ Reid, Christian promoter and arch philanthropist. He loved doing things for people. Strangely, I never considered what he did for me as a “gift”; I thought I was adding value to his operations! He fooled me!

  3. I’m glad that you are wary. I was very unhappy with that announcement. And the person who made the announcement wasn’t too happy about it either. When I talked with her she explained that she had been pressed to do this at the very last moment before walking on stage because a spouse of one of the BIshop’s staff persons had an uncomfortable encounter with someone in the street. I am absolutely fine with not giving money. I am not fine with “referring” people. In Acts 3 Peter and John are going up the steps of the temple and they meet a lame beggar (who had been carried there every day, by no doubt good loving people) at the (ironically named) Beautiful Gate. The short version of this story is that they say something like – silver or gold have we none. We offer you all that we have – in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk. And, the scripture says – that happened. We don’t even provide for that possibility. What we often do is we say “silver or gold have we some – here ya go – see ya later.” We have so much more to offer than a few bucks. So much more. We have trained people that what they can expect from us is that type of help or referral. People don’t expect that we can offer much more. When I have been one who referred – I’ve been like those who carried the guy to the Beautiful Gate every day. I haven’t been doing something bad…but I’m not really offering the healing that is right there before our very eyes!

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