|The courtyard in summer|
Can you imagine that? In the US, people shudder when we mention that financial list. "What? Give others access to what I give to my church? NEVER! That's between me and God." (I haven't heard anyone say, "between God and me." Interesting.) In this culture, many church boards refuse permission for their pastor to see who is tithing or giving. Never mind everyone sitting in the pews!
Why? What's the big secret, I wonder. Why are we afraid to let others know what we earn and how we spend our money? Are we over-giving and humble? Or would we feel shamed that we do so little?
One of the biggest cultural differences between our upbringing and where we live now is this idea of ownership of money and resources. So I've been asking myself,
- Whose money is it, anyway? If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), what do we own? Isn't the money we earn or inherit ours, to do with as we please? (Cattle represented the wealth of biblical people.)
"I work hard for my money," we may say. "I can do with it as I please." Is that true or an illusion? By Whose hand do we have health and strength to work, think, and earn the exchange of goods and services?
If God gives us life and breath, isn't our income all His? He can give in abundance or take everything away in a heartbeat. It's all His. So why do we wrap ourselves around secret greed, possessions, and acquisition?
|The courtyard, from the front steps|
One of our neighbors is a landscaper. On my walks, we'd chatted briefly about God and church: he mentioned he was a member of a good church just down the road. Eventually, I hired him to work on our yard and he did a good job. When I paid him, I asked if he'd keep the yard and driveway weeded that summer.
"Sure, that would be appreciated. I need the work," he said.
I gave him a check for another $400 in advance. "I'm in a doctoral program. I don't have time to prune or weed. So please keep track of your hours. Let me know when you run out and I'll give you the next installment." We shook hands and he took the money.
He never came again. After a few months, I went to ask about our untended yard. (Thank God we live away from the street!) "Are you planning to do the work? I understand if you've been busy. But if you don't want to do it, may we have our money back to hire someone else, please?"
He looked at me angrily and stalked into the house. I waited a few weeks and came back with a photocopy of the check I'd give him. "Here's the money we paid you. We'd love for you to do the work - which is what we really need. Or please return the money."
Instead, he sent me a check in the mail a few weeks later. $99. What?
I could never find him to ask about it. I'd see him disappear into the house when I'd walk. I didn't want to stalk him. Finally I ran into him when he couldn't flee. "Hey, we gave you $400 and you gave us $99 back. Are you intending to work off the other $301 or ...?" He just glared at me and left me standing.
I was livid. This man had stolen "my hard-earned money." Should I sue him for it? Nah, I came to my senses. We're Canadian. Not big on lawsuits. I'd spend life and energy stirring strife and trouble and never get the piddly amount if he lied about his services. However, just in case, I took pictures of the yard. And discarded them. I weeded my own yard, mumbling hardships and deprivation down on him.
|I'll miss our little hideaway ...|
The guy advertised his services on a sign in his yard: "Years of Experience in the Northwest." I wanted to write, "But don't pay me in advance" under his phone number, with my number as a reference. (Yup, I was bugged about it.)
Then I heard the Voice I love: "Is this your money? Isn't everything you have Mine? If so, he's stolen from Me. I know how to get back what belongs to Me." Because the landscaper claimed to be a believer, it felt easier to release him to God's accounting. That doesn't mean I didn't feel upset for the first month when he or his truck went by.
I never got the money. But here's God's grace to me - a favor unasked for @ a mere $300. I am reminded each time I pass the neighbor's yard that everything is God's. And justice and mercy (which I need every day) are His. That lesson is worth much more than my investment, don't you think?
More money perspective from my POV next time!
The mighty God, the Lord, has summoned all mankind from east to west!
God’s glory-light shines from the beautiful Temple on Mount Zion. He comes with the noise of thunder, surrounded by devastating fire; a great storm rages round about him. He has come to judge his people. To heaven and earth he shouts, “Gather together my own people who by their sacrifice upon my altar have promised to obey me.” God will judge them with complete fairness, for all heaven declares that he is just.
O my people, listen! For I am your God. Listen! Here are my charges against you: I have no complaint about the sacrifices you bring to my altar, for you bring them regularly. But it isn’t sacrificial bullocks and goats that I really want from you. For all the animals of field and forest are mine! The cattle on a thousand hills! And all the birds upon the mountains! If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you—for all the world is mine and everything in it. No, I don’t need your sacrifices of flesh and blood. What I want from you is your true thanks; I want your promises fulfilled. I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you and you can give me glory.
But God says to evil men: Recite my laws no longer and stop claiming my promises, for you have refused my discipline, disregarding my laws. You see a thief and help him, and spend your time with evil and immoral men. You curse and lie, and vile language streams from your mouths. You slander your own brother. I remained silent—you thought I didn’t care—but now your time of punishment has come, and I list all the above charges against you. This is the last chance for all of you who have forgotten God, before I tear you apart—and no one can help you then.
But true praise is a worthy sacrifice; this really honors me. Those who walk my paths will receive salvation from the Lord. Psalm 50 LB