I made a decision on Saturday to put the study through the book of Acts on hold and devote a few weeks teaching about Faith & Money. I’ll continue this series for the next two Sundays. I’ll also be chatting about Faith & Politics on Sunday, Nov 2 for obvious reasons. While this series of posts [over the next two weeks] are broadly entitled “Faith & Money,” my hope is that it will resonate with a broader audience so feel free to forward this onto other folks. I’m not an economist, a financial planner, or someone who has it all together…I’m writing simply as one person bumbling and stumbling my way as a follower of Christ and a person that wants to help change the world – while constantly being changed.
If last Sunday was any indication, I’d encourage you to make it out to Quest the next two Sundays or listen to the podcast if you’re able. The response from last Sunday for Part I on Faith & Money was probably amongst the highest. Why?
People are freaked out, or at least, very concerned.
The last few weeks – locally and globally – have certainly been like a bad roller coaster ride that leaves one disoriented and vomitaceous. And unless you’re completely detached from the money machine, you’re likely impacted on some personal level and feeling pretty anxious. Why? Here are some real examples from our church community:
- Just last week, five more people got laid off or received notices. Several more have been unemployed for couple months.
- 401k[s], retirement funds, and life savings have taken a big hit for folks who are invested in the market. I know of two people whose savings were completely wiped out because they held stock in companies that no longer exist. Painful. We have numerous senior citizens who are worried for obvious reasons.
- Mortgages and foreclosures? Yes.
- Students worried if their student loans will be impacted.
- Small business owners who aren’t able to get loans to help build and sustain their businesses.
- People becoming homeless. We haven’t had any folks at Quest…yet…but 10 folks from Nickelsville came by Quest last week and asked to use our parking space for their encampment. The Elder Board was seriously praying about their request but thankfully for them, they found a larger church with a larger parking space. But the stories we heard are not unlike the situations of people at our church.
Another reason why I’m talking about Money? Because, in short, it is the prevailing idolatry in our world. It’s subtle but it is seductive and power. More on this during the next post.
Another reason why I’m teaching and writing about this? Because I need it.
I had a personal bout of anxiety, faith, and trust. About two weeks ago, I literally froze with fear and anxiety. I’m typically pretty even headed but I just lost it. Six months ago, Minhee and I [and our children] finally decided to forge forward in starting our vision for the global poverty organization but we couldn’t have conceived the current financial climate. As some of you know, we’ve covenanted 100K to the project; We’re trying to sell our rental home in this market to make the donation and it has been brutal. Had to invest lots of money to get the home ready, lower the prices, and still waiting; Minhee returned back to grad school and thus, we had to apply for school loans; we have mortgage payments, blah blah blah. Suddenly, in a span of few months, we went from living quarter to quarter to month to month. And I just panicked.
But I sensed God reassuring me. Huh? Let me explain.
No reassurances that my portfolio will rebound. No reassurances that my home will sell. No reassurances that we’ll come up with the money to honor our current obligations and bills. No reassurances that we’ll be able to fork over the 100K to start the poverty org in the next three months. None of that.
What reassurance, then? His presence as I sensed a strong rebuke and conviction:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19-21 [NLT]
That scripture and words of wisdom reminded me of a meeting my wife and I had a meeting with a friend in Korea this past summer. She’s a “foreigner” living in Korea as a missionary and simply, a follower of Christ. She’s learned the Korean language and asides from being “white,” she’s pretty much “Korean.” She’s adopted the customs and cultures and grown a love for the people of Korea and beyond.
She and her husband have also adopted a lifestyle of simplicity. This is different from a life of poverty. They’ve simply chosen to live as simply as possible…free from the stuff we often find ourselves loving, lusting, and labeling.
During our conversation, she shared her enthusiasm for our vision to fight global poverty and her commitment to keep us in prayer. That in itself was enough: deeply edifying and encouraging. She proceeded to share that she didn’t really have any money to donate at this time. We explained that was not what we were asking for…her emotional and spiritual support meant a great deal.
What happened next…we will never forget.
She opened her shoulder bag and proceeded to take out 6 or 7 small boxes and explained:
“My husband and I have committed to a life of simplicity and we don’t have money to give. I love and believe in what you guys are doing. These boxes are my jewelry…my heirlooms. I don’t need this. I want to give this to your organization. Please sell it and use it to help the poorest of the poor.”
God convicted me with this question:
“Where is your treasure…Who is your treasure?”