Back at another church where I served, there was a retired couple, Bob and Sigrid. They were missionaries for most of their marriage of over fifty years. They both were the best examples of living a life of faith. But, it was Sigrid who really had an influence on me. Not only did Sigrid’s faith show up in all that she did, but she also had a vibrant personality. Sigrid had grown-up in Germany during World War II. She saw the horrors of war. In the few stories that she told, it was easy to see that her struggles and hardships built her beautiful character. Sigrid had the unique ability to be humble but also bold. She was witty and always said the right thing at the right time.
The church was in Louisville, and one of the first things that Sigrid said to me was, “We are very happy here in Kentucky. If we are not, we have at least a lot of whiskey.” At times, we talked about ministry, and Sigrid said, “In ministry, there are two kinds of people. There are the check writers and the diaper changers.” If a ministry is an orphanage, the ministry needs diapers. The diapers cost money, so it helps to have people who can write checks to pay for the diapers. Then, the diapers need to be changed, so it helps to have those who are diaper changers. Taking up Sigrid’s observation about how there are two kinds of people in the world, are you a check writer or diaper changer?
If you don’t mind since I know all of you here today, I can make a good guess here that all of us are both check writers and diaper changers. Maybe, we are more of one than the other, but, to say, we give our offerings, and we are not afraid to get our hands dirty doing things around here at the church.
What I want to do is to talk about each type of person. First, let’s talk about check writers. I mean the real big check writers who can give lots of zeros behind their one on the check. Does it sound to awkward for me to say from standing up here that I love rich people? In a way, I think we have to agree with the saying, “Money makes the world go around.” Even for the church, we talk about how church is like a business. We have bills to pay like any other place. So, when talking about people who are good at writing checks, I’m more than happy to take money to help pay those bills, and we have an old building here that makes for a lot of projects that need money.
Money, money, and always more money.
I don’t think I’m the only one who likes those good check writers. I’m sure those who own housekeeper businesses, landscape companies, and even yacht makers are all glad that there are people with piles of money in the bank. That yacht maker has employees, and those employees depend on people who can afford to buy a yacht. Those employees with their paychecks buy homes, cars, food, and whatever is needed to care for their families.
Money does make the world go around.
A factory owner hopefully pays his employees well, provides safe working conditions, and gives good benefits. With his profits, he builds another factory that benefits another community. He donates to the communities like to the recreation center, so kids can have a safe place to play. Money can make the world go around in ways that all benefit. But, the rich do get a bad rap.
We do have to be clear that nothing in Scripture says that it’s a sin to be rich.
Scripture does give us some cautions about how money can cause temptations to over indulge in the pleasures of life. Also, when a person has money, it never seems to be enough. What good is money and lots of stuff if we should die tonight? Not a pleasant thought, but it helps to put things in perspective. To be clear, it’s the love of money that is a sin and not money itself. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up all that he had and follow him, it’s not that the rich can’t be followers of Jesus. But, it’s that this particular man had a lot of stuff and was really attached to it. He was so attached to his stuff that he could not let Jesus into his life. Jesus said it’s difficult for a rich person to enter heaven, but it’s not impossible. When a person has a lot, all of it comes with responsibilities.
Rich people can be generous, and in their generosity, they can be helpful.
Those who have a lot are not to be like the Scrooge before the ghosts, but they can be like Scrooge after the visits of the three ghosts. As we are talking about the rich, we need to talk also about the poor. We need to be sure to say that it’s not a sin to be poor, either. Poor people can be happy, too. If we say that having little brings only misery, then we have to ask, “How much stuff does it take to be happy?”
Didn’t we all sing with Sonny and Cher,
“They say our love won't pay the rent
Before it's earned, our money's always spent
Well, I don't know, we got no plot Still I'm sure of all the love we got?”
Okay, the reality of it is that love doesn’t pay the rent, but Scripture says if we don’t have love, we don’t have much of anything. The Puritans thought that a person is cursed if they are rich because it can lead to the sin of greed that having too much brings, and they also thought that a person is cursed if they are poor because living in poverty must be miserable. Nothing wrong with having goals to do better in life, but what good is thinking, “I’ll be happy only if I had more money.” It’s like singing, “If I was a rich man,” all day long. So, if you are middle class with a home with a three car garage in the burbs, you are blessed. Well, I have to disagree with the Puritans and many others these days that want to make an argument for a completely equitable world. The world has always been out of balance. Again, Scripture does not say that any way of life is a sin. Each of us has different outcomes in our lives.
The problems come when we are not treating each other fairly and honestly.
It’s that old golden rule that we should treat each other like we want to be treated.
The world is seeming to make that simple and clear rule so very complicated. What is missing is that most people are not looking at things in life from a faith point of view. Although we can have some power that comes from having money that gives status, God is the one with all power as the creator of heaven and earth. We come here today humbly before our God knowing that we are sinners asking for forgiveness.
When it comes to sin, we are all the same. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.
Each of us deserves eternal death as the punishment for our sins. We confess our different sins, but each sin makes us guilty before God as sinners. When we come to the communion rail, we come as sinners kneeling next to each other, but we leave as forgiven people with the same power of God’s love in Christ Jesus in us.
What is different is that we go out to our different stations in life, but each of us able to use power of God in our lives for our benefits and for the benefits of other from our families to the community. In other words, we are people who live by faith. What we believe, we share with others. We give others what God has given to us, which is His love shown to us in the life of Christ Jesus. For us, if you don’t mind, I think the Good Samaritan Story fits for us here today. The Good Samaritan wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to help a man who was left for dead by robbers out of a ditch. The Samaritan and the man were of different backgrounds, but that didn’t stop the Samaritan from helping the man. The Samaritan took the man to an inn and left money if the man should need further care.
I’ve heard on the news that some places of work are asking for employees to give statements on equity. I’m not to sure how I would do by giving a statement that talks about what happens at the communion rail and my summary of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Or, I would tell this story that happen over this past summer with one of our young students. As you know, we are planning to do some work in our school parking lot and to add a playground. On a hot day this past summer, a young student got her mom and dad to help her with a lemonade stand. The proceeds were to go to the playground. What a nice surprise one morning when they came to St. Philip with that story and a check for one hundred and fifty dollars for the playground.
The total cost of the parking lot and playground is over $150,000.
If a person with piles of money in the bank gave us check for any big amount, we would gladly take it. But, I have to say what our young student did with her mom and dad by having a lemonade stand means more, for it was about money but doing something, too. As we are about to end here, I want to be sure that you don’t get me wrong when I say that the world is out of balance and has been, is now, and will always be like I’m okay with that. I know that there the world is unfair and some people suffer from injustices. We are to be justice fighters for all people. But, we will each have different outcomes to our lives. And, the reasons that our lives turn out as they do is for a large part a mystery.
If we are able to write big checks, that’s good. If we are able to roll up our sleeves and get to work, that’s good, too.
If you can write checks and do some work, that’s good.
Most importantly, we are all in this together, and the more we see it that way, the better it is for us. And, if we would love each other as God has first loved us in Christ Jesus whatever our station in life, that would be the best of all.