We Don't Like Jesus, Part 4 - Wealth

Matthew 6:1-4, 19-21, 24

Rev. Christopher Harbin

29 November 2015

For part four of this series, we turn to how Jesus addressed wealth. In so many ways, this is one of the touchier topics, for we tend to get very antsy when preachers and churches turn to finances. The main issue we have with it is that we want to hand onto our financial resources and perceive that others want to take them from us. Letting Jesus have his say to economic issues feels very threatening to all too many of us.

We rather like the idea of being wealthy. It is part of our definition of the ''American Dream.'' The dream is that we might rise above the economic standing of others. We dream of being wealthier than others, but we don't put much thought into how striving to achieve the dream might impact those others we want to rise above. Jesus, however, would call us to a rather different set of priorities. The dream of the gospel would seem to clash with the principles of our dream.

As Jesus begins discussing wealth in the Sermon on the Mount, his topic is actually putting our piety on display. From that perspective, he addresses the fact that our generosity toward the poor should have much more intentional focus on helping the poor than on using our gifts to advance our own interests. At first blush, his words may not appear to have much to say on the topic, but a deeper look tells us that the standard practice of the day focused much more on the giver than the receiver. Our society, however, focuses on the reverse.

We raise money for non-profits and community programs, only to place the names of donors in prominent places. While working to begin a Spanish-language church in South Carolina, I watched former members enter the building our mission had been given in order to remove memorial plaques from pews, windows, and other adornments of the sanctuary. In every case, these were records of specific donations to the church by various families. Like the bricks with engraved names adorning walkways at a Baptist conference center, they were public testimony to donations made to charity, precisely what Jesus tells us not to do.

No, Jesus does not forbid that kind of giving, but he tells us that is giving of a lesser standard than the generosity to which he would call us. Rather than calling attention to ourselves as donors, our generosity should center on the needs of those to whom we give....

...for the full text of this sermon, see We Don't Like Jesus, Part 4 - Wealth, at SermonSearch.com

—©2015 Chri­stopher B. Harbin

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