I’m in this in-between season.
This past January we closed the church I pastored for 2 ½ years.
It was my first foray into “professional” ministry. I avoided it for the better part of my adult life. Now that it’s not there, I want back in.
I don’t sense a specific call, a specific place. I have some ideas. The starting gun hasn’t gone off yet.
I don’t like it.
I’m the kind of guy that thinks five-year plans are short-sighted.
Now all I have is the work in front of me. Today I’ve been called to this. By tomorrow everyone (maybe even I) will forget that it was done.
Although it grinds against every fiber of my being, there’s something about this liminal space that is human. There’s something about it that feels present. It’s almost incarnational.
What’s this have to do with money?
I’ll get there. Take a breath. Be present.
Wasn’t Jesus all about being present?
Didn’t He come to “dwell with his people”?
Did he come to tell us “Don’t worry, in the future things will get better?”
“Someday, the Kingdom of heaven will show up.”
“In the sweet by and by, we’ll be together.”
Or did He say “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?
The way we talk about money is always future-oriented. We’re always working for an end result.
Work hard SO THAT you can retire.
Give SO THAT you’ll prosper.
Save SO THAT you’ll have money in an emergency.
Live like no one else SO THAT later you can “live like no one else”.
What does money do to us today?
How Do we act upon our money in the present?
Does God want something from it today? Or as long as we accomplish a result, we can get there however we like?
What if we went to work BECAUSE our workplace needs a Kingdom presence?
What if we gave BECAUSE we are saying “no” to selfishness and greed today?
What if we saved BECAUSE we believed in simple living?
What if we lived like no one else BECAUSE we are a city on a hill?
Get It Done or Grow?
Jesus didn’t ask us to “get there.”
He asked us to take a step.
He asked us to carry our cross.
He asked us to abide in him.
I’m a hard-charging, take-the-hill kind of guy. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. What’s the program? I’ll smash it. Is it hard? I’ll do it.
I used to pray “God, help me hear what you’re asking me to do.” – That’s an OK prayer, but it’s not a great one.
Lately, I’ve been praying “God, whatever you have to bring into my life to form your character in me, I want it.” – That’s a better one.
It’s so easy to hear a calling, a mission, or a direction and say “OK God. Message received. I got it from here.”
It’s so much harder to stay present.
It’s harder to say, “God I feel like I should give that person some money. It’s kind of all I have, but I’m going to trust you.”
It’s harder to say, “God, I think you’re asking me to start this business. I’m not really sure it’s going to work, but I’m trusting you.”
It’s harder to say, “God, I’m going to pray for my boss I can’t get along with because I know you’re doing something in my character through this personality conflict.” (that’s a great story, maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.)
Jesus said “Let tomorrow worry about itself. Sufficient for today is its own trouble”
He said, “if birds and lilies can trust me for what they need each day why can’t you?” (Matthew 6)
We’re so busy working towards the future, we often miss the present. We miss humanity. We miss the incarnation.
We work to pay off the house, but miss God’s call to invite strangers around our table.
We work to build up the retirement fund but miss God’s call to support the work of pastors and missionaries.
We work to pay for the kids’ college, but miss God’s invitation to train our hearts for His desires.
We work to pay off our churches, but miss God’s command to “Go”.
I’ve been feeling a little philosophical of late, so let’s get practical for a moment.
Training our Money to be Present
How can we train ourselves to be present in our money?
- Carry cash with a rule: I hate cash, however, there’s nothing like getting a $20, $50, or $100 handshake. Carry cash with a specific purpose and try to run out.
You might say “Every time someone on the street asks for money, I’ll give them a $5. Or you may say, every time I hear someone complaining about grocery prices at the store I’ll give them a $20.
I don’t care what the rule is. Make it up. You’ll find yourself scanning your present life for need. You’ll stop thinking about what that $100 can do for your future and start looking for ways to bring the Kingdom of Heaven with it today.
- Save for Generosity: I have a savings account that I sweep a specific amount of money into each month. It has been a blast to bless people who are doing good works that I’m not called to, but I want to participate in.
“You’re adopting a kid? So cool! Can I be a part of that?”
“You’re moving to Guatemala? Awesome! Can I help?”
When the saving account gets to a specific dollar amount, I know it’s time to actively seek a way to give it away. But if a need arises, I’m not caught in a position where I say “I would but….”.
This is a non-negotiable transfer, by the way. If I have a bad month, money comes out of my personal opportunity fund to fund this important discipline.
Additionally, since I pay the bills it has been a way to include my wife in our giving. “Hey, we have X in that savings account, anyone we should give it to?”
- Sing the Doxology: I started this on accident, but it has really helped. When I receive anything or something goes well for me, I sing in my head, hum the tune or belt out in my best Gregorian chant:
Praise him from whom all blessings flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
AAAAAAAAMEN. (Holding the A is crucial).
This reminds me that everything I receive is from God’s hands. It forces me to recognize that “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of heavenly lights.” James 1
I’m considering using my calendar as a reminder to sing the Doxology on pay days. I have to constantly remind my brain that whatever I receive is “not my own doing. It is a gift of God. Not by works so that (I) can’t boast.” Ephesians 2:
Literally the title of my day job includes the word “planner”. It’s what I do. There’s something valuable in that skill set (I truly hope). However, we can’t sacrifice being present to the invitations of Jesus out of hope or fear for a future that is uncertain.
Our only hope for the future should be in the reunification of our new bodies with our souls that are already raised up and seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Maybe we’ll be rich. Maybe the business will grow. Maybe the ministry will take off. But maybe not.
I wasn’t called to “win with money”. I was called to abide.
That’s what I think I’ll do.