Your Father Who Sees in Private

When I was a college professor one of my regular classes was research methods. In that course we spent considerable time on survey design and consideration of what methods worked best for highly sensitive topics. One might wonder what topics fall within the category of highly sensitive. If you guessed money, you guessed correctly. People would rather tell you about a host of personal beliefs and practices than disclose how much money they earn and how much they are worth. You have likely seen the outcome of this where surveyed income is reported in broad income categories. In another course on inequality we would consider the social conditions that led wealthy people to conspicuously consume their wealth and the non-wealthy to engage in practices where they tried to pass as a member of the leisure class. My students were going to have to swim in our collective cultural pool, but I wanted them to do so as somewhat informed participants. A few, perhaps, were able to find their way in life less stressed by norms of material accumulation.

You have likely heard many times that Jesus had much to say about money. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to give alms, to pray, and to fast without making a show of it all. These three acts of piety - of ways of honoring God and coming closer to God - are of one body of a lived faith. Giving alms, for example, is a faithful response to prayer and prayers answered. Fasting supports alms giving by redirecting resources from personal use to the needs of others and prayer supports fasting. We should, of course, pray about our giving. Note that Jesus does not say, “if you decide to do these” but he assumes that all will and that there is a right and wrong way for doing so. In all three acts, we are to do so in private, and God will see because God knows all. Jesus understood that people used their wealth conspicuously to gain the admiration of others. He understood that money could take the heart captive and that it could come to be ones master. So he said this like, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” And, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. ... But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Christians, including church leaders, are probably not so different from others. They also do not like to talk about money, certainly not their own. I doubt many would volunteer to report their income to their church, though some do, and I doubt many would want their priest or pastor to look at the financials and see how much they give to the church. Be assured that that does not happen at Good Shepherd. Later this month you will receive your 2018 pledge card. What I ask is that all of us take Jesus at his word and pray about our giving. I ask that you consider where you might fast in order to increase your gift. What you decide to give to the church is what you and God have come to in prayer. That is a sacred vow that you will make with God in private, trusting that God will help you fulfill that vow.

Grace and peace be yours,

Fr Bill+