All that I am All that I have is a gift from God. Amen.
The old King James Version said it like this,“Render onto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Render onto God what belongs to God.”
Now we might just wonder what belongs to God and what belongs to empire.
There’s a short story that haunts me: the Rocking Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence. It tells the story of a middle-class family that hears the incessant anxious whisper in their home: there must be more money. It buzzes around the family and through the home setting the children on edge as the little boy in the story jumps on his rocking horse trying to race away to no avail because there is never enough. There is not enough money, there is not enough time, we are not enough as people. There is no escape from the incessant buzz and shame of not enough. It is this stark, impoverished thinking that corrodes all of us.
This is what belongs to the empire. This story haunts me because even though the Rocking Horse Winner is almost 100 years old, it names the reality we live with today, the shame filled anxious buzz of never enough still whispers. There is never enough. When we see that rising up in us, Jesus invites us to give that back to the corrosive imperial forces of our time to whom it belongs.
The question is what belongs to God. What belongs to God is EVERYTHING.
All that we are, all that we have is a gift from God. What forges our life and all that we have is love. That love has one source with no agenda other than love. And because that is true, God is worthy of our trust. That is at the heart of our faith. That kind of love without an agenda and trusting in that might just be the hardest thing we ever embark upon in our faith journey; harder than the virgin birth and resurrection is believing in love that has no agenda, love that is completely trustworthy and we are the beloved of God. That is the premise even now. Even as the Holy Land rages with war. Even now as our country braces for 2024 and elections amidst sad deep division. Even now as our planet chokes on greenhouse gases and way too much plastic. God is trustworthy, and we are enough. What we have been given is pure gift from God.
And the best question is the one poet Mary Oliver posed: Tell me what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
How are we going to share and spend what we have been given? The mistake we make is that we begin to think of everything we have from our shoes to our abilities to the time we have left on this planet as belonging to us. It belongs to love. It belongs to God. We were meant to offer it for others and for ourselves in compassionate ways that help us arrest and challenge shame greed and fear. Because it is not what we have, it is how we use it.
Sometimes when I am trying to wrap my brain around the totality of what belongs to God and what belongs to me, I do this simple little exercise where everything I see that is in my stores I name belonging to God. These are not my shoes, my robes, my car. These are God’s shoes, God’s car, God’s home. God’s money. God’s life and time. How then am I going to use it?
Since our world says there’s never enough then our world demands that we spend it all in resourcing and equipping ourselves exclusively to the detriment of others. We create winners and losers. Then we wonder why violence erupts in desperate places from those that have lost. But Jesus didn’t live that way.
Stewardship in the Bible looks different. True Christian Stewardship is this: that all of creation and beings thrive and flourish. That’s what we are to set about doing with all that we have and all that we are with God’s gifting to us and in us.
Let’s also name that money and time in our world have a great deal of energy for us—a lot of juju! They are sources of power in our world and therefore a big part of God’s interest in our lives and a big part of our spiritual life because if we are not investing our time and money towards the flourishment of creation and others with what we have been given, then we aren’t following Jesus in the totality that the Holy Spirit calls us to.
So what’s our money story that we learned from our family? Do we know it? Can we tell it? How did our family spend and share their time for the betterment of others? How do we share?
Something I like to point out to people is more than anything else in the Bible—more than anything else—even love, there are more passages dealing with how to be in relationship with our resources and money than any thing else. Don’t tell me God isn’t interested in money and our relationship to it. We tend to want to ignore God’s words on the flourishment of all humanity and creation because it interferes with that brutal whisper of shame that mammon offers.
So how are we going to give away our fear and greed? I’ll tell you. One minute at a time. One dollar at a time. One pledge at a time by choosing to plan our budgets around a theology of sharing, saving and spending. By choosing a journey toward proportional giving of time and money toward the church. By choosing to live into the fruit of the spirit called generosity. By praying about what we share save and spend annually and being on a journey.
So what are we being invited to share with our church so that this place that is free to question can flourish? Everyone of us has something to offer and share in this community and what we strive for is 100% of us participating in the stewardship of this church. All of us sharing something because all of us together make the church what it is. This is our relationship with the Almighty—the ruler of everything, the greater than, that is beyond us. Do we really want to leave that up to someone else’s labor and giftedness? If all that we have and all that we are in a gift from God, then our faith is not a spectator event. In fact, liturgy is all about what we participate in by offering what we have.
A therapist friend who had a heart for those living in poverty, offered several slots for people on the margins. She absolutely insisted that every client had to share something with her—from knitted caps to $3 sessions. When asked why she held this practice she replied, “How will they take their healing seriously if they aren’t willing to share and offer what they have?”
So what will we offer and how will share from all that has been given to us by God?
All that I am and all that I have is a gift from God.