Tag Archives: Rick Warren

Three radical facts about sharing money

We had to start talking about money. We were not meeting the goal we set. Drat.

For a church, organizing people to give money to support their life together and mission can be painful these days. In general, the Church is so into the ways of capitalism (where EVERYTHING is “monetized”) it is hard to tell a megachurch from a big box store, sometimes.

Meanwhile, many people are totally turned off to any mention of money or financial obligations clogging up their personal space — if Jesus is saving them from anything, it MUST be the constant barrage of oppressive advertising that demands a purchase every five seconds. They are totally wrong about this, but if the church is asking for money, it looks suspiciously like everything else trying to rob them.

Joel Osteen and Rick Warren are reportedly worth $40 million and $25 million respectively. So I think people can be forgiven if they think Christians are in it for the money — there is a lot of evidence to support that. I don’t know about Joel and Rick, but that is a lot of wealth, guys!

So our pastors and other leaders are very tempted to just keep their mouths shut. If you just TALK about money, people can get nervous. Not everyone, of course, but certainly those who are not sharing are likely to get agitated. But here I am about to talk. I need to say SOMETHING, since I think people are not respecting themselves and others if they do not share what they have like Jesus shared the life of God with them.

So here are three facts about sharing money I think everyone, especially radicals, should consider.

Sharing centers the focus

We need to know this and tell ourselves and others (like our loved ones!), “My money has a purpose for Jesus.” Like Jesus says, “If one’s eye is whole, the whole body is filled with light.” Sharing generously, with an eye on the security of grace and the promise of eternity, makes a mighty contribution to a life which fearlessly exercises freedom. Not sharing money (and all the other gifts entrusted to us) shifts the focus to fear.

Sharing is about fighting back

Sharing resources to support a common, alternative community is fundamental to undermining the status quo. If we do not share, we are individual sitting ducks for the huge powers that seek to dominate us with every ad on every possible surface, embedded in every possible communication.

Projecting your frustration with the corrosive marketing of the world onto the church is just not right! The church makes a request and you think it is an ad? Are we really going to let the world force us into such constant defensiveness that we will never open up and share? The church of Jesus is not the world, it is the antidote to self-destruction!

Sharing makes us real

“But,” I think people feel, “if I share like that, I am that person” — a committed sharer. “I am adult,” maybe stuck, obligated — everything that makes me unfree. Millennials are kind of cheap, afraid, it is said. They are 9/11 and financial crisis people.  They are afraid of debt, hold their assets in cash, don’t even like to invest. They spend less on dinner and spend less on Jesus. What a reputation!

I think sharing makes a person real. (We’ve all read the Velveteen Rabbit, right?). Sharing in the church’s common fund is sharing in a common life of love. It is a regular reinvestment in not leaving, and instead, being tangibly present right now. I am amazed at how many of us have not shared a penny this whole year, as if the church belonged to someone else and not us! What do we express of Jesus, who shares resurrection life with humanity, when we have no similar love to His, no sacrificial instinct, no trust that we are eternally provided for and so can lose our lives and still expect to save them?

Self-giving love, sacrifice, trust — everyone has something like those hopes and graces at work in them, but it seems radical to express them in a world like ours as a person like me. Sharing money: as friends, as married couples, as a team, and certainly as the church, changes the world and changes me in a very practical way.

Endless Love Chooses Limits

My sister made a good point last Wednesday after we stopped playing Wii bowling and watched a few minutes of the news. She said, “I like it when the TiVo’s got nothing and I need to watch the commercials. They are educational.” It will be part of her book “$%!# People in the Last Years of the Baby Boomer Demographic Say.”

I am unlimitedBecause she said that, I listened to the Sprint commercial for their I-Phone 5 deal while I was looking for news about the Phillies (which was not good news). While I was reaching for a Rolo, my ears perked up, because the Sprint commercial actually said, “I need, no, I have the right to be unlimited.” I looked at Gwen and asked, “Did you hear that?” She verified that it happened. Then YouTube confirmed it.

I think the commercial is supposed to be a little ironic. But since truth is not a goal for most advertisers, one cannot be too sure — and ads rarely say something which isn’t supposed to resonate in thirty seconds. So I think being unlimited is exactly what the advertiser meant to promise. And even though it is absurd, I think they meant to tap into the innate, entitled feeling (that is becoming more prevalent all the time) that we have a right to be unlimited. Maybe that sense of entitlement is a legacy of those baby boomers I mentioned. YouTube also verifies they promised fame would make their children live forever (who all sing and dance), all while enjoying endless love. Now those well-educated boomers are working on how they will make it literally possible not to die.

Endless love

As a missionary, that thirty seconds was very educational. I also promise people can have eternal life, which is unlimited. I don’t think one has an innate right to it, but once it is given by the Giver I could say, “I need, no, I have a right to be unlimited.” My fame won’t make me live forever (or my children, as our brothers and sisters at Saddleback are pondering), but God’s fame will live forever. But what about endless love? The Bible records this teaching:

Romans 8:37-39: But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 4:9-12: By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

What about endless love? God has loved us from the beginning and will love us until the end. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love. But what kind of love is this unlimited love? It is not like Sprint’s sense of being unlimited, which you can pay for and buy a right to. It is not something I can work hard enough to deserve, like people think of fame or scientific progress.

I suppose it could seem ironic that God’s unlimited love is the kind that limits itself. Nothing can separate us from the love of God because it is in Jesus our Lord; the love is expressed by God who became a limited human to serve humans. Nothing can separate us from the love of God because the one and only Son limited himself to life like ours, killed death, went beyond angels, undermined the powers that be, invested our present with hope and guaranteed our future. God-with-us, who knows the heights and depths and every possibility of our creation, put endless love in limited flesh and made limited flesh full of endless love.

Expressed in our limits

make it workOne the way home from my sister’s, I read a book on the plane about psychology (of course). It had a great metaphor for seeing our many inner “selves” as a family system. What the author suggested is that we get in touch with our true, inner Self with a capital “S” and learn how to let that Self relate to our many selves with honesty and understanding, just like a family therapist would help a family. That is a nice Hindu-ish idea that assumes that people can find the image of God in themselves and “make it work.” I think it was another example, like the Sprint commercial, of how we are being trained to see our potential as limitless.

But true, endless love from our true selves is a gift of God, who demonstrates how it comes alive in Jesus. We don’t make it work as much as it works in us. It is endless, but it limits itself to be expressed in us. Our sin gets us condemned to being in charge of forever. But God’s love demonstrates the alternative that saves the world.

For instance, tonight we are going to have a meeting about making a covenant with the other members of Circle of Hope. We would need an alternative commercial for our alternative kind of life: “I need, no, I have a right to be limited.”  I make a covenant with a visible group of Jesus-followers because I need to love in this time and place as one of these people — Christ in me, Christ as us. The meeting answers crucial questions:

  • How am I going to be a visible part of an actual body?
  • How can I not end up like some kind of imaginary god whose love is endless, a god outside an actual body, an aspiration I need to make work?”

God’s love is in us and is something that works in our limited condition; it is a life into which I can enter and from which I can live.

This is a big deal. The love of God is Jesus entering into our world and our lives. Expressing love like God’s is living fully in our world, entering the experiences of others, and living with Jesus in his body, the church. It is a love that serves within the limits of creation. It is limited by the need to be a receiver who gives as a real person to other real people. It is love that is not looking beyond what is to what isn’t, and so love that honors the person in front of them and doesn’t expect what has not matured to fruit yet, much less the impossible.

When we meet in our cells or public meetings we are not there to experience wonderful people whose fame should live forever (or to lament the undesirables we are stuck with!). When we meet, we are humbly emptying ourselves of self-aspirations to endlessness and entering in to the smallness of knowing someone and being  known, of discovering the goodness created in us and the new life given to us by Jesus. I am not going to “make the cell work” or bring all my endless demands for what I deserve to it. I am going to give of myself as love is given to me by God. I am going to honor the limited person and context and be used to fill them with whatever fullness of love they can contain.

That’s a lot of meditation on a thirty-second commercial! But I needed to do it. We are longing to be the body of Christ – not the only representation, of course, but a real one. I love the limitations of a love that empties itself of rights and gives out of God’s endless supply. Within those limitations is where the love of God saves us. It sounds reasonable, I suppose. But then my wife wipes me out at Wii bowling and I have to love her. Someone  messes with my I-phone and I have to make a choice. Someone invites me into a covenant of love like God’s and I have to reorient who I think I am!