As a pastor to a developing congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I have often pondered how faith and money are linked in the way they define us as individuals.
Money is often the ultimate way many of us value ourselves in this society. As people of faith living in a community together might ask, can we aspire to a new communal ethos that invites us to experience money as blessing for the sake of the whole reign of God over our individual self worth or individual sense of security?
Let us name the symbol and power of money that is so prevalent in defining people in our society and communities. We hear a plethora of voices telling us that we are valued by what we are worth, what we wear or drive, by where we live, who we know, what we do, and how we look.
To be alive in our culture is to hear the message that we are defined by money or what money can provide. For too many people, our economic reality determines our place in society. Too often money exerts power in our societal pecking order. When people regard us for our perceived economic status, we soon come to view ourselves the same way. We then begin to regard others according to our perception of their socioeconomic status.
If you agree that we allow the symbol and power of money to define individuals inside and outside the church or any benevolent organization, this needs to be voiced. As I write this, I am aware that it is taboo to talk about faith and money in relationship to one another, but naming our reality empowers us to grow in positive ways. Publicly naming and exposing the lie that we are ultimately defined by our economic reality makes way for all of us to encounter something new.
Because we live in a society where money defines us, people often unknowingly crave to encounter the good news of God who ultimately defines us. This is freeing because buying and possessing stuff that money might get us will never cure our emptiness and longings. Make no mistake, money does buy us stuff we need and want. Money can be used for many good things, but can never answer our deep questions in life or provide enduring meaning. That meaningful new car that, at first, made me feel so good and smelled so wonderful is now just a set of wheels that gets me where I need to go.
As people who embrace a faith in God, we are defined by the gospel that offers peace and contentment in God. The gospel values all people entirely equal regardless of who they are, what they have done, and how they look. Defined by the proclamation of the gospel story, we are free to live a life of contentment and invited to share generously in this life. We can look to God, who defines us, and for many of us we can then admit that we have more than enough.
Therefore, we live with a deep sense of blessing. Being blessed, with a meaningful sense of purpose, we are set free to share and bless others in meaningful ways. In the end, God, faith and money are related and together can bring about of a lot of good.
• Dr. David M. Marz is pastor at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 1159 N. Greenfield Road in Gilbert. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter-@spiritofjoyluth.