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Sermons on the Mint

Money talks, but it’s not always easy to preach about

We asked pastors from a variety of churches to tackle some of the Bible’s tricky money passages. What they shared reveals a lot about the different ways we approach the topic.

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Widows, Orphans, and Usury

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans. If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. —Exodus 22:21-25

Willie Peterson: “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest” (v. 25).

Taken in isolation, this verse could be misleading. It is but a single line of a larger policy statement expressing God’s protection for the defenseless. The differences of time and place might invalidate claims for interest-free bank loans for the poor in our context. However, the universal principle of a correlation between the character of God and the behavior of God’s people will never be null and void. The particulars of this verse may not apply in a free market, yet the obligation to defend the rights of the defenseless will always apply.

This passage is filled with threats by God against his own people. God stipulates Israel’s obligation to defend the rights of four defenseless social groups in the land: immigrants, widows, orphans, and the poor. In this, and in the wider context, death was stipulated for certain infractions. God was articulating a policy concern. His character was the grounds for why Israel must protect the defenseless and the consequences for failing to do so.

Scripture consistently draws a direct correlation between the character of God and the behavior of his people. The world comes to know God by the actions of his people. The consequences for misrepresenting him are always harsh. In this extraordinary passage God obligates himself to any who are vulnerable. Therefore he will always be opposed to policies that harm people. This principle explains why such detailed obligations are stipulated in the law. But the primary reason is that he has made each human being in his image. Thus the image of God in humans becomes the sine qua non for how to treat human beings.

God was warning Israel, who had been the oppressed in Egypt, “Do not become the oppressor in your land.” Should Israel become the perpetrator, God was obligated to act consistently with his compassionate character and to protect the oppressed.

Pastoral leaders must advocate for policies that are compassionate toward the poor by offering sound theological equivalences for harsh modern-day policies. God remains the compassionate God who protects the oppressed. He continues to expect similar expressions of compassion of his people.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-willie[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Willie O. Peterson is assistant to the superintendent of the Midsouth Conference. He lives in Coppell, Texas.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]Carmen Bensink-Lewis: “Messengers of reconciliation for the new community in Jesus.”

That’s our tag line at Bridge Covenant Church in Salem, Oregon. It calls us to be people who live differently because Jesus has ushered in the kingdom. It’s not a kingdom we’re waiting to experience but a kingdom we’re called to participate in now.

Living in the kingdom requires me to act and think differently from those around me. Living in the kingdom requires an ethic of generosity not greed. It requires me to acknowledge that the resources I’ve been given will be used either for my own benefit or for the kingdom.

Living in the kingdom is hard work. But God has always called his people to a higher standard, because he is concerned about how we treat others. He is especially concerned about how we treat those who “drain the system” due to their lack of resources. We see God’s concern reflected in this verse in Exodus about loaning money to the poor.

A few things stand out in this text. 1) The choice to lend money is ours. The passage says “if you lend money.” 2) When we do, we are loaning money to one of God’s people, a person of equal value and worth in the kingdom. 3) God calls us to think and act differently than the money lenders (who are focused on a profit). 4) God gives us very specific instructions—charge no interest.

Perhaps we are tempted to think the law doesn’t apply to us today. But I wonder how Jesus might have responded if asked about this specific law. I think he might have called us to an even higher standard.

My dad taught me that I shouldn’t lend money I wasn’t prepared to give away. In other words, when I loan money to someone I should consider it a gift. Then if the money was returned I could be joyful, instead of resenting the person who couldn’t or didn’t repay what they had promised. My dad understood that living in the kingdom requires an ethic of generosity not greed. Perhaps Jesus would tell us the same thing.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-carmen[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Carmen Bensink-Lewis is co-pastor of Bridge Covenant Church, an English- and Spanish-speaking congregation in Salem, Oregon.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]

Storing up Treasure

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21

Becky Manseau Barnett: Thieves broke in and stole this tax season: a whopping bill we didn’t expect as we inadvertently did not have enough withheld from our paychecks. I was mad. Really mad. Took me three months to get over it mad. We were so close—so close—to having the credit card paid off. Fourteen years of graduate school between my husband and me, with three kids in the mix, and we were finally almost there: financial freedom, able to pay our bills and high-interest-loan free. Then, bam, a mountain of debt back on the card, just like that.

“What’s the deal, God? Haven’t we been faithful? Can’t you cut us a break?” It was months before I woke in the night suddenly aware of the absurdity of my complaint. For years we didn’t pay taxes because we didn’t make enough money to owe anything. Now we both do work that we love. We can pay our bills, we own a home, we live in middle-class America with riding lawn mowers and piano lessons and schools that produce Ivy League superstars. We have plenty.

But so often we are sure that we don’t have enough: enough money, enough time, enough love, enough freezer space for stocking up on Costco steak tips. In her book Daring Greatly, sociologist Brene Brown calls this an issue of scarcity, explaining that “scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack,” and we “spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don’t have.” I thought I knew exactly what I lacked, and how much it would take to get back to enough, and I didn’t like it. I wanted God to provide, to make that tax bill go away, and not to have to wait any longer or work any harder for it.

Matthew’s Gospel is about the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us what does satisfy: not earthly treasures, but heavenly ones. For Matthew, heaven is not some faraway place that we’ll get to someday, it’s right here, right now. It’s where God is. In all the mowing and calculating and storing, I had lost the greater treasure: my heart had lost its home.

When I woke up in the night and saw my complaint for what it was, first I felt dumb, and then I laughed. The real provision was being reminded that while I was lost on a hunt for the wrong kind of treasure, all the while God was on a hunt for me. I’d like to say that not only am I now cheerfully paying back the tax money I owe, but I’m also giving extra elsewhere, just for the chance to exercise faith, because it’s all the same to me. But at least I’m paying attention and looking where I’m going. As long as I’m home, then the planks and plaster I live in really are no more than a house. As long as I’m home, I have all the enough that I need.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-becky[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Becky Manseau Barnett is associate pastor of Highrock Covenant Church in Acton, Massachusetts, a church plant in the northwest suburbs of Boston.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]

The Root of All Kinds of Evil

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these….For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
—1 Timothy 6:6-10

Jorge Garcia: In this passage Paul tells us that a godly life is only possible if we live with an attitude of being happy with what we have, where we don’t need anything else. In other words, if we have just the basic life necessities, we should be content.


If we came to this country to achieve the American dream, how can we accept that as a valid proposition? Maybe that dream included a better life, a bigger home, a newer car, an improved education—the promise that if you dream it you can reach it, and the bigger your dream the higher you’ll reach. We might conclude that contentment means we do not believe God will provide us fame and wealth, that instead we are destined for failure.

We can learn two things from these verses: 1) we need to have contentment, and 2) we need to avoid loving money. As we learn that God is revealing to us his will and purpose then we can understand that God, who knows us intimately, has a plan not just for good things but for truly excellent things for us. Such knowledge on its own should bring us sincere joy. And then we really begin to realize what a godly life is.

God wants to provide us not just the good—which might include some of those material things we need; God wants to give us what is excellent. When we are able to receive all that God has for us, we can set aside our desire to play the “me too” game, going after material things, temporary things which distract us from walking faithfully with Christ.

Let us all walk godly lives, enjoying the excellence God has for us. That knowledge is more than enough to achieve contentment, to walk humbly before our God, to please him in everything we do.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-Jorge[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Jorge Garcia is pastor of Gracia y Paz Covenant Church, a primarily Hispanic congregation serving Chula Vista and the greater South Bay San Diego community.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]Damien Howard: Recently one of my mentors, who is financially unfettered, told me that failure isn’t an option for him. I asked him, “Do you think it is fair for me to expect that same level of confidence for the people I work with who live well below the poverty line?” He responded that poverty is a state of mind, adding that if someone can change their mind concerning money, they can attain wealth. Their asset vs. liability sheet would change for the good.

I started to get angry. I serve people who are not free to take financial risks. They don’t have the flexibility to start a business that could fail. In my urban context, I don’t want to see people love money, but I do hope they will be prudent and watchful.

Sometimes God-fearing and Christ-loving people find themselves barely surviving instead of thriving. It might be due to a lack of prudent budgeting, or sometimes they have not acquired financial planning skills. But they find themselves in the same trap as Paul’s conceited and puffed-up teachers.

So my caution here is not to teach 1 Timothy 6 in a manner that develops hate or fear of money, or one that lulls people into an overly casual approach to money. If not coupled with a good theology of stewardship, the “God will provide” message can reinforce sporadic and irrational spending practices that perpetuate poverty, rather than empowering people to take ownership of their financial situation.

We serve an omnipotent and benevolent God. Our hope is to live without fear of financial failure, but rather to be empowered to experience financial success. For that to happen, we need strong coaching on stewardship, saving, tithing/giving, and investing. As we focus upon our financial potential and learn from our shortcomings, I trust that God will indeed provide far beyond what is required to fulfill his commission.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-damien[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Damien Howard is a middle-school special-education teacher and pastor of Thrive Covenant Church, an economically mixed African American congregation on Chicago’s West Side.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]

The Rich Young Ruler

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”… The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. —Matthew 19:16-26

Don Johnson: Talking about money in the church is always tough for me as a pastor because the church pays my salary. If the church has sufficient money, I get money. And when the church has a shortage of money, leadership looks to me to find money or cut expenses. Added to that is the Covenant operating principle that pastors generally do not know what anyone gives to the church. That information is kept confidential.

The text in Matthew 19:16-26 is every pastor’s dream—and nightmare. Here is a guy who comes as a total package. He knows the Bible, keeps the commandments, has abundant resources, and wants to participate. When such people show up at church, if I don’t notice them, others do and shepherd me toward them. These people are the business owners, the millionaires, the celebrities. They are the attractors. People listen to their voices because they are successful and influential.

In my thirty-five years of ministry, only during my current pastorate have I experienced people like this. In a couple of instances, individuals have approached me and said something like, “I like what is happening here and want to help out.” Then they either give me a check or one comes in the mail. These checks have erased deficits and underwritten initiatives. They kept the ministry afloat. Pastors protect this sort of people.

This text from Matthew is a great source of guidance for me and for all leaders. All disciples are called to leave in order to follow. The fishermen left their boats, nets, and families to follow. Matthew left his lucrative tax office to follow. This particular man was called to leave his wealth in order to follow. There is no following without a leaving. And if there is no leaving, Jesus does not renegotiate terms. I wheel and deal, but Jesus doesn’t. Jesus lets this guy go. He does not make an exception just because this guy could really help the bottom line.

One of the lessons I am learning when pastoring among a wealthy community is that really wealthy people are not used to hearing the word “no.” Wealth can get in the way of obedience, because obedience demands leaving and hearing “no” to my desires.

But the even more painful lesson is that I am that wealthy person. By the world’s standards, I am in the 1 percent of global wealth. I am the rich person Jesus invites to go and sell it all to follow him. That is as easy as a camel threading his hump through a needle’s eye.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-Don[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Don Johnson is pastor of Montecito Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, California.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]Dominique DuBois Gilliard: The rich young ruler thought religion was about getting into heaven. He approached Jesus to ensure that he was good enough and had done enough to secure eternal life. He coveted Jesus’s affirmation, but only to assuage his doubts. This self-centered interaction was about uncovering any fine print he may have missed—and confirming that following Christ would not disrupt his lifestyle.

Jesus did not deny that the man had indeed obeyed all the commandments since his youth; nevertheless, Jesus still desired and required more. He instructed, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor….Then come, follow me.” Knowing the commandments, and even religiously following them, is not what ultimately secures eternal life. This is important because our faith can become a checklist of dos and don’ts. When that happens, we mistake legalism for the gospel and misinterpret dutifulness for faithfulness.

Jesus does not tell the man to destroy, or merely separate himself from, his possessions. He instead instructs him to redistribute his wealth among the poor. He challenges the young ruler to see himself as connected to the poor, as bonded to them in the kingdom. He prompts the man to connect the excess in his life to the lack in his neighbors’ lives, to understand that he was blessed to be a blessing.

In asking him to envision and enact this new posture toward the poor, Jesus implores the young man to begin identifying with the poor and to start exploring ways to faithfully and righteously steward all that had been entrusted to him. Ultimately, Jesus was calling him to transcend social barriers and constructs that all too often regulate and dictate human interactions—especially between the haves and the have nots—in order to authentically bear witness to the kingdom and to foster authentic communion with the poor.

The cost of Christ’s words constitute this man’s grief; he decides not to follow Jesus. He refuses to surrender his life to God, partially due to his wealth but also because his identity is rooted in his status and power. He refuses to identify with the poor, to participate in socioeconomic justice, and to intentionally leverage his power for righteousness and furthering the kingdom. In the end, the financial, social, and political costs are too great for him.

This man’s original question assumes that one can do something to inherit the kingdom, but Jesus reveals that this is not true. Furthermore, Christ makes clear that the life we are called to live as believers is countercultural, sacrificial, and cruciform.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-dominique[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Dominique DuBois Gilliard is executive pastor of New Hope Covenant Church, a multiethnic congregation in Oakland, California, that is committed to the inner city.

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Sharing All They Had

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had….From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet,
and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
—Acts 4:32-37

Jill Riley: One Sunday morning we welcomed a member back to church who had been “enjoying” the hospitality of the state correctional facility. After warmly acknowledging his return to our family, I asked if he needed anything. In the weeks before, members had moved his things out of his halfway-house apartment and stored them in a garage anticipating that his incarceration would be long term. Now he was back and moved into another apartment, this one with a kitchen. So, he said, “I need pots and pans because now I can cook for myself!”

“Anybody have some cookware they can share?” I asked. Frank, in the front row, formerly imprisoned himself, said, “Yeah, I have several sets. I’ve done that (parole violation) trip several times!”

This is grace in giving. Church members gave of their time to move their brother out of his apartment so he wouldn’t lose his possessions to opportunistic housemates. They sacrificed space to make room for somebody else’s stuff. Frank sacrificed anonymity and privacy by declaring solidarity, out loud during worship service, with his brother who was trying to re-acclimate to life “outside.”

Our little church is largely supported by a realtor who doesn’t even attend. The realtor’s gifts of money (ironically from the sale of property) keep Navigate Church fiscally moving forward. However, there is not enough money in the world to replace the active love of these regular Sunday worshipers.

Teaching giving from Acts 4:32-37 to my church means simply holding up a mirror to let them see themselves, in their imperfect, stumbling, sometimes begrudging but consistently loving ways. It is God’s grace that brought us first to himself, and then to one another. In our context, teaching about giving is recognizing that some have property and resources, some have space on a garage floor, and some only have mismatched old pots and pans. But everybody has something and as we share our resources the needs are diminished, love grows exponentially and is in itself a testimony of the transformational work of the resurrection in our lives.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-jill[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Jill Riley is the lead/planting pastor of Navigate Church, an urban, multiethnic church plant in Billings, Montana.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]

The Question about Paying Taxes

And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” —Mark 12:13-17

James Barefoot: As a teenager I went moose hunting with my father. We set up camp in a stand of trees and soon fell asleep. Deep into the night my father heard a suspicious noise and woke me. It was very dark and we could see nothing—until we turned on the flashlight. The light exposed the source of that shuffling sound. A big black bear was walking right into our camp!

Jesus continually exposed sin among the people he lived with and ministered to. He exposed sin that was dangerous to their present and eternal well-being. He exposes our sin because he loves us.

In this passage Jesus exposes the curse of entitlement. We struggle with the same curse today—the belief that we deserve certain privileges that really are not ours. Such a perspective causes us to live fearful, small lives.

In the previous chapter, the chief priest, the scribes, and the elders seem to be jealous of Jesus because he speaks with authority and is popular among the people. In these leaders’ minds, they are the ones who deserve the authority and respect of the people. So they send some very smart Pharisees to Jesus with a question: Is it lawful to pay taxes or not?

It was a tricky question because it involved money, and even the common people who admired Jesus would be reluctant to give up their hard-earned money. The question also involved the government—not a democratic government where the people chose their leaders, but a government that had come in by force and dominated their lives.

In response, Jesus threw his own “trick” into the answer. Jesus brought up the more important subject concerning what one should give to God. The text also tells us that Jesus knew their hypocrisy. They claimed to be living for God, but they really were living for themselves.

I dare say we make the same mistake today. What are the things that belong to God? Everything! We start by genuinely giving him our hearts, and our treasures will follow. We will be cleansed of any self-deserving attitude that hinders godly generosity toward others.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-james[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]James Barefoot is a pastor to pastors in remote villages of Alaska, and associate superintendent for the Alaska Conference.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]Don Schiewer: There is a great moment in the gospel narrative when Jesus is asked a question that many of his fellow Jews wrestled with. Israel was in a strange situation, being in Jerusalem yet in many ways still feeling the pains of exile because of Rome’s oppressive rule. Israel enjoyed few freedoms beyond their Temple practices, often being forced to contribute to a system that revered other gods, goddesses, and idols belonging to Rome and their fellow conquered nations. Though Rome relented and allowed Israel to abstain from offering a “pinch of incense” as they entered each city gate (a way to honor the gods of that city), they were still expected to pay a tribute tax to Caesar. This tax was complicated for Israel; Rome—and Caesar himself—proclaimed Caesar’s role as a deity.

The religious leaders of Jesus’s day debated the virtues or evils that were inherent in the very giving of the tribute tax. On one hand it kept things peaceful (Jeremiah 29:4-7), but on the other, it was counter to their sensibilities of the shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the Ten Commands (especially Exodus 20:3). These new exiles were left to debate, wrestle with, and find a way forward in paying a tribute to Caesar.

This is the setting for the scene in Mark 12:13-16. It is interesting to note that the two groups sent to trap Jesus were Herodians (who had every reason to keep Rome happy) and the Pharisees (who were most likely against paying a pagan leader tribute). They assumed their trap to be foolproof because Jesus would ultimately have to choose a side.

Enter, stage right, the brilliance of Jesus. He responds to their question by employing the cleverness of a truly great rabbi—a better set of questions! This is where things get interesting and take an unexpected twist for the original questioners, because they responded to Jesus’s two questions, “Whose image?” and “Whose inscription?” with one answer, “Caesar’s.” Jesus corrects their answer by saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”

The passage ends with everyone being “utterly amazed,” yet we typically aren’t that impressed with this story. Why should we be? When we look at a denarius we find that throughout the time of Jesus there were several different versions struck for each Caesar. Each of these contained the image of the current Caesar and then a title that made the declaration of divinity of said Caesar. Jesus counters the trap by saying that the image is indeed of Caesar but the inscription belongs only to God.

This is the picture drawn for us, one that still comes with great difficulty as we wrestle with the theology of our bank accounts. What things, people, and places do we elevate above God? It is not a problem to spend money, to enjoy money, to save money—but we must always know whose inscription is on our finances.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-don-sw[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Don Schiewer is discipler/pastor of Dust Covenant Church in Blacksburg, Virginia.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]Scott Bensink-Lewis: I love the flattery offered to Jesus. His “admirers” flatter him for teaching the “way of God.” When it comes to money, living out the way of God is a great challenge to most Christians. If we identify with Jesus, then our friends and neighbors inevitably compare the authenticity of our identity with that of Jesus. When it comes to money, I can easily imagine friends and family putting me to the question. They know intuitively that what I do with money says a lot about my beliefs.

In this passage, Jesus reminds those who are residents of the Roman system of governance and economics that they do indeed have a responsibility to pay taxes. Those taking a stand against paying taxes because they disagree with Caesar’s self-perception are not only hypocritical, they misrepresent God. Their “God-fearing” identity is a ploy to avoid their obligation. They are beneficiaries of the system they defraud.

The reality, Jesus says, is that we can confuse what belongs to whom.

This passage brings two situations to mind in which Christians should be put to the question: taking money under the table and tax avoidance.

I repeatedly hear Christians brag about getting paid under the table. It is a favorite stick-it-to-the-man pastime of both the poor and the wealthy. The action is often justified because it’s OK with the employer.

Tax avoidance is a related challenge. While avoiding taxes can technically be legal, it is a clear abdication of citizen responsibility and a dubious action for one who claims the way of God as their identity.

Does this passage in Mark give us any insight about refusing to support the economic system that supplies many of our needs and protects many of our rights? Does it say anything about being truthful? Does it have anything to say about avoiding taxes?

Our money is God’s gracious gift, and stewardship of that gift is an honor. Our money is an opportunity to live out the way of God, to identify as Christians in plain sight of those who are watching, in a manner that never seeks to withhold the legitimate resources necessary for our government, our church, and for a hurting world.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-scott[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Scott Bensink-Lewis is co-pastor of Bridge Covenant Church, an English- and Spanish-speaking congregation in Salem, Oregon.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”white”][vc_column_text]

A Lavish Generosity

by Robert Rife

His bank account mirrored his spirit, dusty and fatigued. He had not seen positive numbers on an ATM receipt for weeks. Prayer was becoming burdensome—how long can a person pray about the indignities of insufficiency and lack, never seeing any change? A bad economy and an education unsuited to the demands of the workplace had left him almost bankrupt.

His love interest of three years had been a champion of positivity, a voice of cheer and grace. Although she was a light and a buoyant soul with whom he shared his woe, he was as depressed as he had ever been.

He hadn’t bothered to open mail for some time now. But today he suffered from a rare curiosity. Bill. Overdue bill. Final warning bill. Coupons. Yet another credit card application. An envelope from the Internal Revenue Service. Even under the best of circumstances, such a discovery would raise the blood pressure. He swore as tore open the envelope to discover the latest bad news.

Then silence. He read the enclosed letter. He read it again, dropping it to his lap, eyes squinting slightly in confusion.

“Dear Mr.__________, in reviewing your tax information from the past three tax years, we have discovered a discrepancy. An overpayment from last fiscal year, combined with a clerical error two years previous, has revealed that you are to be reimbursed for the amount in question of $3,421.16.”

He was too numb to either shout or cry for joy. He simply sat. He looked once more at the numbers. He spoke them out loud. He looked at the stack of bills taunting him from the kitchen counter. He did some rough addition. It would come nowhere close to paying even the top three outstanding accounts.

He hung his head in a chaos of elation and frustration. Then he saw her picture, the one taken at her parents’ house three summers earlier when they’d first me. Her effervescence and indefatigable faith—in him, in God—had sustained him more times than he could count. Her iridescent presence, her unwavering love, her lingering scent all stayed in the room long after she’d gone.

And in an instant he knew what to do.

He proposed at the gazebo by the river with a ring the government bought. The ceremony is in four months.

He’s still not working. But he is hopeful. And, for now, that’s good enough.


To many of us, stewardship is simply a practical matter of dollars and cents. Yet this is more capitalism at work than theology. To God, stewardship is a matter of priorities and the indefinable nature of all that captures our hearts. The Old Testament God of theocratic nation-building was happy to be known for extravagance in the arenas of holy nationhood, justice for the oppressed, willingness to allow redemptive suffering, and particularly worship.

Let us not succumb to the allure of tight money management, calling it “responsible stewardship.” Instead, let us risk the call of God within us that woos our hearts to abandon such fear in favor of the lavish nature of the soul’s journey toward union with God. When we “waste in grace,” we often steward something far more important than cash—we invest in our souls.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”white”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Speaker-circle-robert[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][vc_column_text]Robert Rife is the minister of worship and music at Yakima Covenant Church in Yakima, Washington.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black” style=”dotted”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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