“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
I agree. That is what “amen” means. At the end of our prayer called the Great Thanksgiving, we say amen. God has saved the world and our future is secure. Amen, I agree. Christ is with us in the sharing of the bread and wine. Amen, I agree. In receiving that gift, we are given forgiveness and renewal, solace and strengthening. Amen, I agree.
Likewise, we end the Lord’s Prayer with amen. Life where God’s will is being done on Earth, where daily bread is available for all who are hungry, where forgiveness of sin leads to amendment of life, and where salvation from evil produces grateful saints - amen to all that. We end all prayer with that amen, or at least we should if we are serious about what we say, and believe, and hope. Amen is a statement of truth, a statement of faith, and a proclamation of our trust in God. By saying amen to all that God has shown us through the law and the prophets, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the coming of the Holy Spirit and the ongoing life of the Church, we are fundamentally saying that we trust the story of God who created us, cares for us, redeemed us, and remains with and for us.
In the quote above, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us of a fundamental truth about all our material possessions. It is an amen truth. It is a truth revealed in scripture and applied to real life. God gives us what we need and so we need not worry and seek permanent possession of material goods. God provided daily bread for the Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus reminds us of that in Matthew chapter 6.
But an important part of the story can be overlooked. Anything kept in excess went bad, and not just the gift itself but also the hearts of God’s people. As Bonhoeffer put it, a heart set on accumulated wealth is a barrier to God. “Hoarding is idolatry.” For that reason we may realize that giving away excess, rather than storing up possessions, is a preventive to and remedy for idolatry. Giving away excess is a blessing to us and to those who might benefit from our sharing. It is also our witness to the truth of God’s caring provision and our trust in that truth. It is an amen truth.
Next month, pledge cards will be mailed and you will be asked to make a generous financial gift to the work of this parish. In many ways, you are being asked to trust - in God’s care for you, in God’s care for those you love, in the mission and ministry of the church, and in the wise use of your gift by those in authority. I bid you pray and trust. Amen.