October 08, 2018
By Kevin Williams.
Kevin Williams most recently served as pastor of South Killingly Congregational Church in Killingly, Connecticut. He is currently between calls, discerning what to leave behind and what to give next because of the good news.
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
One of the things that has fascinated me is just how much Jesus talks about money, and just how much we try to shy away from it in our churches today. Stewardship season, at least in the churches I’ve been a part of, tends to be a gentle appeal to people’s empathy in giving combined with something akin to “Won’t you consider giving just a little more this year?” And yet, aside from the kin-dom of God, money is one of the most frequented subjects of Christ’s lessons.
It’s not so much the requirement to give that scares us. It’s how much. “Sell what you own?” Everything? How would I keep my family sheltered, fed, clothed and educated? We bargain with ourselves to ask “Can’t I just keep enough to live the life I’ve envisioned,
and then pass on what’s left?”
And that’s what we do isn’t it? When confronted with Jesus’ answer, we act like the unnamed man in this week’s text. We go away saddened, because we actually have more than we think we do.
But that’s why this full reading is important. “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God.” We’re reminded that we need God’s grace, because we are incapable of doing exactly what we’re told is needed. But that doesn’t let us off the hook. We are asked to examine our giving and to know the return comes in a larger way than we can envision. Noted financial author and advisor Dave Ramsey points out how generosity brings joy, peace, happiness, reduced stress and counters depression. Aren’t these rewards far more powerful than a larger house or a sleek new car?
We may never as humans be able to be last by giving everything, but we can sure aim to give so much that we are among the first rather than standing at the back!
Generous God, giver of life and all that sustains it, grant me the wisdom to know not just how and where to give, but why. Guide me to leave behind the things of this world, that I may see your kin-dom more clearly. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at email@example.com.
The First Congregational Church of Willimantic
The Federated Church of Willington UCC
Wilton Congregational Church, UCC
Winchester Center Congregational Church, UCC
First Church in Windsor, UCC
This Week in History:
Oct. 8, 1635 (383 years ago): Roger Williams is banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony after speaking out against civil authorities practice of punishing religious dissension and confiscating Native American lands. Williams founds a new settlement in present day Rhode Island and calls it "Providence," declaring it an open settlement for all seeking "freedom of conscience and the removal of the church from civil matters."
Starting With Scripture: October 08, 2018 , by Kevin Williams.