If you belong to a faith community, you might want to sit down before you read this column.
The surprise might induce rapid breathing, fainting or spasms of heart failure. You see, I’m about to tell you some truthful news that will set financial stewardship committees into an uproar. Here it is: Your faith community doesn’t want your money. Really.
So what do they want? If your faith community is a “people of the book/bible” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), what is wanted from you is twofold. First, they want a people raised up with generous hearts toward all of life and creation. And they want people who understand what it means to live in “a fair balance.”
In the first century, the Apostle Paul writes several letters to the fledgling congregations of Corinth. In one of the letters Paul speaks of an offering they’ve agreed to raise to benefit the poor of Jerusalem. His basic concern regarding that offering is not money. Really.
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What he is concerned about is that this young faith community develop generous hearts that seek to live out life and faith with a concern for a fair balance of resources and needs among their community.
Corinth at the time is a booming, prosperous economic center. In the Christian community, laborers with steady work, laborers who wait on corners for daily work, and slaves all gather in worship with people of wealth, leisure and high social status. There is an open welcome toward all the newly faithful of every class and status. It proves to be a challenge, yet what Paul seeks is not a system of welfare where the wealthy pay for the poor. His concern is wider than that.
Paul believes that need and abundance ought to find a equilibrium, at least within the faith community. Those with much are obligated to serve those with little, but even those with so little are invited to grow generous hearts for the sake of all. Paul states it this way: “A fair balance between present abundance and present need, so that your/their abundance may be for their/your need.”
What’s sought is a voluntary, gracious giving by all, out of thankfulness for the right to share in Christ’s own self-giving. For us, that fair balance may look, sound and act like this quote from the late poet and theologian Gerhard Frost: “If I am (a person of faith), all people who are in any kind of need have a right to me. If I am a teacher, the ignorant have a right to my knowledge. If I am a doctor, the sick have a right to my skill. If I am strong, the weak have a right to my strength … arms of compassion must not hang weakly at our sides … remembering Christ Jesus is not a wall but a bridge … and our common humanity (as well as our faith) places a claim upon us all.”
When you grow into being that person with a generous heart, generous spirit, and a welcoming faith, any concern about money will take care of itself because you will have begun living a life truly worth living ... newly and now naturally seeking a fair balance for one and all as joy, not burden.