Lectionary readings for today:
Morning Ps. 102, 148
Evening Ps. 130, 16
He said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but he out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:3
When I asked a group of people to tell a story about money and growing up, an incredible array of narratives started pouring from the crowd.
Some people talked about how their parents had a lot of money, but they would never allow any ostentatious display of their wealth.
Others explained how their parents tried hard to make it look like they had more money than they actually did.
One man described how his father would come home from work, complaining about the obnoxious rich people whom he served. The little boy grew up thinking that there was something morally wrong with being wealthy.
A woman described how her mother displayed how much she loved her children through presents, and she often manipulated them with large gifts.
People described the lottery ticket mentality-the endless hope that they would get rich and all of their problems would be solved.
Another person described whispered fights in the bedroom, where her mother would criticize and her father would end the fight by pleading, “I’m trying the best that I can.”
Throughout the thread of stories, it became clear that it didn’t actually matter how much the family actually had. Instead, the attitudes and energy around the money became the source of stress, frustration, or joy.
The idea echoes the teaching of Jesus. The actual amount of money a person has doesn’t matter. Rather it is the spirit that is somehow attached to our resources and gifts. Does our greed allow us to consume a widow’s household?
Do we become so overwhelmed with generosity that we would give away our last dime?
As we prepare for Christmas, we acknowledge this peculiar time when the messages of greed and consumption struggle with the beauty of generosity and community. In all of it, may we learn to understand our complex attitudes toward money, and may God grant us overflowing big-hearted abundance.
God, in you we live and move and have our being. Remind us in the stresses of giving and receiving that we have great abundance, because you give us breath and life. By the power of your life-giving Spirit, we pray. Amen.
-Rev. Carol Howard Merritt