Rector's Blog: Throwback Episode, Where is Jesus in your Spending?
Editor's note: As part of our When Love Shows Up Fall Throwback Series we are re-posting this blog post which was originally posted on July 22, 2020.
Where is Jesus in your spending? I asked you this question last week, but I sort of hid it at the bottom of the blog, so maybe you didn’t notice it. We don’t get to avoid that question today. Where is Jesus in your spending?
You’ve heard me say before that I don’t like the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” That may seem strange, because I’ve got a pretty clear Pro-Jesus track record in terms of my preaching and teaching. Why would I not like people asking what Jesus would do? My reasoning is simple: The implication of that question is that Jesus isn’t here right now. “What Would Jesus Do?” is a half thought, the whole thought being, “What would Jesus do if he were here right now? If he were in my shoes?” The question is good in that it pushes the questioner to think about Jesus and to acknowledge that, as Christians, we would want our response to something to align with Jesus’ response.
But we shouldn’t be asking what Jesus would do if he were here BECAUSE JESUS IS HERE. This sounds absurd at first. It is a foundation of our Christian understanding. No, Jesus isn’t walking around the earth quite like he did 2000ish years ago. I get that. But Christian belief is that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church is the Body of Christ, alive and breathing and acting and loving. We are participating with God in Jesus’ work in the world right now – not as a memorial of who Jesus was, but as an ongoing expression of who Jesus is. Do you see the difference?
What happens when, instead of asking, “What would Jesus do?” you ask the question, “What is Jesus doing?” or “Where do I see Jesus in this?” The emphasis shifts dramatically. “What would Jesus do?” is like a game of make believe – treating Jesus’ presence as hypothetical. “What is Jesus doing?” pushes you to see Jesus working in your life. “Where do I see Jesus in this?” forces you to recognize there is no part of your life where Jesus isn’t Lord, where the life and love and peace and mercy of God aren’t meant to be expressed.
Where is Jesus in your spending?
This is a new question for me too. Let's look at it together.
We’ll start with how I’ve traditionally looked at money, and spending. Money is a thing I want, and spending is a thing I like to do. You and I likely have this in common. I have mostly thought of money as that which helps provide me with the things I want. And however much money I’ve ever had, I’ve always wanted more, and I’ve always had a long, detailed list of what I’d do with that money if in fact I ever did get it. This isn’t entirely about greed, by the way. When I was a kid, more money may have meant more toys. But as I got older, more money meant I would be able to afford a home, and maybe even one I liked. That I would be able to buy food and if I got enough money, that I’d be able to take care of the family I wanted to have.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things at all. At all! But when I look back unflinchingly at my attitude on money and spending, I see a thought process that is centered on myself and what I want. I also see scarcity: Always the wanting of more, always the understanding that more would make things better. And as I think of all of this, I realize I wasn’t looking for Jesus.
I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t there: Of course Jesus was there! In my desire to build a life, in my desire to appreciate and enjoy that life, and in my desire to provide and care for others out of love – Jesus was working in my life and spending even when I wasn’t paying attention to his presence. And this is another important part of Jesus’ presence: Jesus is not like Tinkerbell where you have to believe in him or he disappears. The stories of Jesus all point to the powerful fact of Jesus’ presence and work for salvation in people’s lives even when they didn’t see it or recognize it or know what to do with it.
I didn't see Jesus, but Jesus was there.
Where is Jesus in my spending? Where is Jesus using my resources for healing and reconciliation, for love and mercy, for justice and peace? Where is Jesus in my mortgage? Where is Jesus in my saving and in my giving? I sought to answer this question last week: In my personal life, I realized I needed to make some changes, to have a smaller mortgage and to save and give more away. This transformation is occurring to me as I realize every aspect of my relationship to money had the capacity to bless and be a vehicle of God’s work in Jesus – and not just the money I set aside for church and charity.
I am seeking to be more conscious of Jesus’ presence in my spending, and it is changing the way I budget. Because a budget is a moral document. My budget reflects my real priorities. My budget tells me what I really care about. And as a Christian, I want my priorities to reflect my participation with God in the reconciliation of this world in Jesus’ name. This acknowledgment is shifting me from scarcity to abundance. It is giving me peace. It’s moving me from the idealized past and hypothetical future into the real and powerful now of my life with God. It’s helping me see that whatever I have can be used for building life and spreading love.
Where is Jesus in your spending?
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