This week I’ve been reading about the early Anabaptists. They wanted to put their faith into practice, and to take seriously the witness of the early church from the book of Acts, where people held things in common.
The problem was that this turned out to be a very dangerous thing to do. Some Anabaptists were very generous to members of their congregation and the broader community. Other Anabaptist groups shared all their possessions with each other, and held things in common. The Anabaptists were preaching that Christians should not keep their wealth to themselves. God required that they share. Government authorities were alarmed. Was this a judgement upon them, that they should be required to give up their wealth? They were Christians too! The Anabaptists tried to explain that when God changes your heart, you want to give things away.
What does this mean for our generosity and offerings? Do we wait for our hearts to be changed, so that we want to give away more and more? Or does the action of giving actually change our hearts? Perhaps it’s the old common question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
This week’s prayer: Lord, how much should I give? How much does my heart need to change?
I remember my first financial crisis. I was 14 years old. I went downtown to go shopping and I left my purse at the bus stop. There was $23 in my purse. That was a lot of money. I had worked as a babysitter for several evenings, and I had meant to go to the bank, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I still remember the sick, hollow feeling I had in the pit of my stomach from that financial loss.
I know that my parents faced financial troubles, although they mostly tried to hide it from us. My dad was unemployed for over a year. And then later, my mom had a business that had to close. All I knew was that I couldn’t go on a class trip I wanted to go on, and one year we didn’t get many presents for Christmas. Looking back now, I wonder how they coped with that sick, hollow feeling in their stomach.
Since then, I’ve been able to put things in perspective. While we may have had hard times, we were never hungry. There was a social safety net, as well as a family safety net, that kept our family from reaching rock bottom. Many people in the world live without nets.
This Sunday we’re going to be thinking about where we find God in troubled financial times. Can we pray about money? Does God answer money prayers? Does Christianity offer an antidote to that sick feeling?
In preparation for Sunday, think about a time where you faced a financial crisis. What sorts of feelings did you have? Where did you go for help? Did you call on God? Why or why not?
This week’s prayer: You are our God when our pockets are full, and when we have empty pockets. Help us to be faithful in the full years, as well as the lean years. Amen.