“Whose Job is it?”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
October 2, 2016
Last week we took most of our sermon time to talk about our church’s purpose and what our overarching vision is for our community of believers. We talked about the importance of having vision. I shared what I believe to be our vision: to be a place of refuge for all of God’s children, where lives are transformed. A place where we can belong, learn and grow in our faith tradition. A refuge for people in all stages of life; and specifically for our LGBTQ friends who have been harmed in the name of religion. We are a refuge. This is why God put us here in Boulder City and it is that vision that excites us and keeps us doing what we’re doing. Yes? This morning we are going to look at whose job it is to fund this vision. Where will we get the resources to put God’s vision into practice?
Let’s begin with a prayer: Lord God, open the hearts and minds of us all hearing my voice this morning. I pray that my words are your words, my thoughts yours. Bring forth your message today. Amen
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley was the son of an Anglican priest in one of England’s lowest-paid parishes. To say that their family was poor would be an understatement. In fact, when John was young he witnessed his father being taken to debtors’ prison. So when he felt the call to ministry, he decided that he did not wish to be like his father, living in poverty with a large family and little means to care for them. John turned to academia, taking a teaching job at Oxford University rather than being a poor parish priest. He did very well at Oxford. He had arrived. He was quite successful by the world’s standard.
But one day something happened that changed his view of wealth and status. One cold winter day, after he had just purchased some pictures to decorate his room, one of the chambermaids came to his door. As I mentioned, it was in the middle winter, a bitterly cold day and here she stood with nothing to protect her from the elements, except a thin linen gown. John reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a proper coat, only to find that he didn’t have enough. He had spent most of his money buying adornments for his wall, while this young woman was freezing, out in the elements.
“Immediately the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. So he asked himself, “what will my Master say? Will he say, “Well done, good and faithful steward”?” Hardly! He had adorned his walls with money that he might have shared with this woman. In that very instant, he was transformed. As a result, he cut back, he limited his expenses and the first full year at Oxford his income was thirty pounds. He needed twenty-eight to live so he donated two pounds to charity. The next year his income doubled to sixty pounds, he still lived on twenty-eight and donated thirty-two pounds to charity. A year later his income increased to ninety pounds, that year he gave away sixty-two pounds. And it continued, he maintained a modest lifestyle and donated the majority of his earnings to the needy. “Wesley felt that Christians should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but their standard of giving.
“This practice, begun at Oxford, continued throughout his life. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply, and he quickly gave away his surplus money. Because he had no family to care for, he had no need for savings. He was afraid of laying up treasures on earth, so the money went out in charity as quickly as it came in.”
John Wesley lived his life giving away most of what he earned. He gave sacrificially. He chose to live a very modest lifestyle so that he could share his resources. He understood that giving sacrificially meant that it was done not as a transaction. It is not simply a box to check off that was duty-based. He knew that giving sacrificially was done because that is what God asks and it was done as an effort to transform lives. John Wesley transformed lives by his lifetime of giving. It’s said that when he died in 1791 his will noted that his only wealth were the miscellaneous coins that were found in his pockets and dresser drawers.
You see, money is a tool; it is only a tool. Money isn’t good or bad. It just is. It is a tool given to us by God to advance his kingdom. Scripture says in 1 Timothy 6:10 “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.” We can’t love both God and money. Our scripture this morning tells us that we can’t serve two masters. We must choose who will be our master, God or money.
God calls us to demonstrate our faithfulness by managing our resources well. When we are faithful with little our lesson says, we will be entrusted with more. We must demonstrate our faithfulness by giving all we can. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to “store up for themselves 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.” Amen?
I challenge you to take out your checkbook register or go online when you get home and review your spending habits. What is the majority of your money being spent on? If you’re like most of us housing, utilities, food, and clothing are the largest demands for your resources. After the necessities are taken care of, where is the rest of your money going? Railroad Pass Casino? Galleria at Sunset? Amazon.com? Boulder Creek Golf Club? Where is your charitable giving in your budget? Is it top of the list, or on the bottom? How we spend money and resources tells us a lot about ourselves.
All of our resources are gifts to us from God. We are stewards of all that we have and we are responsible to use our resources to God’s honor and glory. What does that mean, all of our resources are God’s? That means that we must confer with God before we spend his resources, entrusted to us. We must be sure that we are living a balanced life and not spending too much on selfish ambitions, but giving to God to support His ministries.
You may find it surprising but Jesus liked to talk about money. Maybe he didn’t like it, but he did it. They say pastor’s hate talking about money, I don’t particularly mind myself! Jesus talked about money and material things, a lot. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables are about possessions and money and how to manage them. In the bible there are more than 500 verses about prayer, a little less than that on faith and more than 2000 verses on money and possessions.
Jesus knew that we would struggle over money, that is why he spoke and taught so much about it. And I find it doesn’t matter how much you have, there is still struggle. How many millionaires have declared bankruptcy? If you look at lottery winners, you might be surprised to learn that “about 70% of all lottery winners end up going broke and filing for a bankruptcy. 44% had spent all of their winnings within 5 years of winning the lottery.”
Money problems can happen to all of us. Money is something “we think about, a lot. How and when we might get more of it. What we will do when we get it. How much will we share? How much will I keep for myself? What will I do if I suddenly come into a large amount of money?” Ever daydream about what you will do when you win the lottery?
“Money consumes our waking hours and interrupts our dreams. When we’re not thinking about currency, credit cards, checking accounts, or investments, we wonder about good prices on automobiles, clothing, generic mediations…we try to keep our taxes down, save on energy in our homes and seek cost effective ways to travel. In North American being a consumer is considered a birthright. Money’s hold is so powerful that one-third of all adults say financial worries prevent them from sleeping or relaxing.”
People of all walks of life have challenges when it comes to managing their money. Like I said, balance is the key. Most of us won’t be like John Wesley, and God isn’t asking us to give it all away. God is asking us to allow Him to work through us to help His kingdom. We are asked to give generously and sacrificially to our church so that God can transform the world.
Are you aware that our church budget is nearly $150,000? With that budget we fund all of our ministry programs, our outreach and education, worship and fellowship, programs for children, adults and seniors. Everything that we do is funded from this budget. Where does the money come from? Whose job is it to fund our church budget? Since we were founded in 1999, our church has been 100% self-funded. That is unusual for a Methodist church that is just starting out. Most begin as new church plants that are financially supported by the conference. But not BCUMC. The group of incredible servants who founded our church took on the responsibility to create a new Methodist Church in Boulder City and were committed to supporting the church through their giving.
Today we are still 100% funded by the generous donations of our congregation. Every dollar that goes into the collection plate is spent on managing the missions that God has called us to create and lead. All of us here are responsible for the day to day operations of our local church. God funds the ministries He desires through our pocketbooks. But we must be listening to the call and giving as much as we are able.
There are scriptures that will tell you that our giving must be 10%, a tithe. Jesus would say that 10% is minimum. If all of our congregation gave 10% of their income, we would have an excess, an excess such that our building fund would be funded in just a year or two. Instead, we struggle each month to meet our ministry obligations and in recent months have had to reach into our savings to make ends meet. So, what do we do? Cut back on ministries? Stop being the hands and feet of Christ in our neighborhood? Or are we to trust that if God has brought a ministry to us to manage, that He will provide the means to make it so. I believe that having enough money is a matter of faith. When I see people excited and revved up about a new idea to reach the hurting in our world, I don’t worry about how we will pay for it. I trust that God will provide what we need for those projects he has given us.
If we get distracted by focusing on what we don’t have, we will become inwardly focused and that becomes a downward spiral. What we can do is to listen to God’s calling on each of our lives. What is it that God is calling us to share of our personal resources so that God’s work can be fulfilled in Boulder City and in the world beyond? How many lives will be transformed by the work we are doing because the majority of us will give sacrificially and with a joyful heart?
Should we take the total budget and divide by the number of members? Let’s see, $150,000 divided by 87 members, that would be $1725 per person, per year – $33 per week. Couples, you’d be responsible for twice that. Is that what we are supposed to do? Some churches do just that. But that’s not how we do it is it? God doesn’t ask us to give our fair share, he asks us to give sacrificially and a portion of our income, 10% in fact. Do you remember what Jesus said about the poor widow who gave a penny? Jesus pointed out that the rich people, although they put in large sums, they gave out of their abundance. The widow who gave a penny, gave out of her poverty, because you see, she gave it all.
It is my prayer today that as dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ that we would evaluate, each of us, what we are giving to the church. Are we being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us? Are we giving sacrificially or merely out of our abundance? What is God asking of us? Can you envision a time when our budget woes would turn into celebrations? When we are able to expand our influence and reach further into our community. When we will have worship space that we can call our own. It is all up to us, to hear and follow the call of God and to be faithful servants. After all, that is our job!
Let us pray: Lord God, let us be joyful givers, knowing that through our sacrifice lives are transformed. Amen.
 A Holy Habit: The Vital Connection of Faith and Money.
 Mark 12:41-44