Unless you have been ignoring the news, you have probably noticed the word “inflation” entering the day-to-day lexicon of everyday Americans. Even if you haven’t heard the word, you’ve noticed it at the gas pump, at the restaurant and in the grocery store. Everything costs a bit more than it did last year. In August, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, called the then experienced inflation as “transitory,” that is, not permanent. Fast forward a few months when the November report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the consumer price index had risen more in the last year than any 12-month period since 1982. On November 30th at congressional hearing, Chairman Powell revised his previous comments on transitory inflation stating, “I think it’s probably a good time to retire that word [transitory] and try to explain more clearly what we mean.”
The price changes you and I have seen in the last year are probably here to stay for the foreseeable future. Financial stresses are real. Whether you have lived through them or walked alongside people who have, they are trying on people. As the people who bear the name of Jesus, how do we rightly understand money and resources? To first answer this question is to first understand that you live your life as one who is wholly given to.
First Article Gifts
In his explanation of the First Article of the Creed, Luther writes:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.
God made you and has gifted you everything. Your life is nothing but a pure gift. The touch of Jesus in the water: gift. The touch of Jesus in the reception of the Word: gift. The touch of Jesus in His holy Body and Blood for you: gift. As the now-sainted Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel would often say in many different ways, “We are nothing but given to.” We hear this call repeatedly in Scripture (Emphasis added):
- As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17)
- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)
- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Nothing but given to
The call to live your life as nothing but given to is seemingly simple, but ever complex. Our sinful nature turns us away from the beauty of being a created creature, as one who rejoices in the goodness of fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, and instead turns inward, trusting in ourselves above the One who has gifted us everything.
This is the story all the way back to Eden. The current financial woes in which we find ourselves do not create a new idol in our lives, but rather reinforce the only sin that exists. That sin is that I know better than God. I do not fear Him, love Him or trust Him. I do not live my life as one who is wholly given to.
The answer to the original question of a right understanding of money and resources finds its answer here: You are marked by Christ who gives you all that you have. Consider your current earthly situation in that light. Trust that God has provided for all your needs of body and soul. Steward the gifts you have been given. Look for those who have need and share your gifts with them.
This may call for a re-orienting of your priorities. The vacation you had planned this year might be postponed, the car you were planning on replacing gets stretched out one more year or the old fence out back is refinished instead of replaced. These struggles are annoying on this side of the new creation. The cure for that annoyance is the ever continual struggle to pursue a life recognizing that everything is a gift.
So, whether the things that God entrusts you with here on earth are scarce or plentiful, transitory or ongoing, they are pure gift from the one who gave His life for yours. Because you have been crucified with Christ you are blessed, you are set apart, and you are nothing but given to. These truths might not change your earthly struggles. But the eternal Giver of all good things is the same today as He was yesterday, and He will be forever. So, rejoice in what you have and steward it well, because no matter the price of a gallon of gas or milk, Jesus is not transitory. He is ever and eternally for you.