(For the sake of this question, I don’t know exactly how you got this million dollars, but you got it legally and ethically. Let’s say it was an inheritance from a relative you didn’t know you had, so you’re not really sad about it. It’s just $1 million that fell into your lap!)
So you pay taxes on it. Now, what would you do with $600,000?
Would you take an amazing trip? Would you pay off your house? Pay off your student loans?
Maybe you’d something really good with it?! Maybe you’d tithe on it, or go above and beyond the tithe on it!
But the real, most-likely possibility of coming into a million dollars is that it would ruin your life. You would probably have no idea what to do with it, and it would hurt your relationships and cause a whole lot of resentment, and you’d end up wishing that you never got to begin with.
But guess what?
You will see a million dollars in your life, just not all at once probably, and it holds the same risk that it will ruin your life.
It’s a risk that is commensurate with how much money you make, or receive.
And the real problem for Christians is that the more money you get, the more likely you are to rely on it, and to let it pull you away from your relationship with God.
In fact, most of Jesus’ teachings about money are precisely about that.
But it’s not all bad news. It never is with Jesus.
Taxes is not something we usually talk about in church. But it’s something that Jesus taught about more than once.
Well, once more than once. What I’m trying to say is that he taught about it twice.
But what he had to say was pretty deep, and it goes further than just what gets deducted from our paychecks.
We find Jesus today in the middle of a very hot political situation. Jesus was a very popular teacher and leader, at the head of a new movement in Israel, which at the time was occupied by Rome.
People were listening to him and liking what he was saying. So of course, the people who used to get listened to hated him. They wanted to make sure that no one was a popular or as powerful as they were.
But they had a tool in their tool box that was a little more deadly…They were happy to try and get their rivals killed by their Roman overlords. So that’s the situation that our teaching today comes out of. Sound good? Let’s get into it.
So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth.
Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Luke 20:20-22
This means we have never dealt with the real difficulties people face when they are in true poverty. We haven’t had to fight to take care of our family while working minimum wage full time and still struggling to pay rent. We haven’t had to choose between feeding our kids or eating dinner ourselves. We haven’t experienced true poverty. But there was a period of time where we didn’t have quite enough.
We were both full time seminary students when we got pregnant with our first child. What we soon discovered was that being full time students and paying for prenatal care and baby supplies was expensive. We learned how to cover the basics. We qualified for the WIC program, which is a government program that provided peanut butter and cheese and cheerios. We ate lots of toast at the free bread bar on campus. We brought popcorn to the neighborhood potlucks. For our parents sake, I want to clarify that we probably could have called home and asked for help but we were young and stubborn and determined to make it on our own.
But when it came time to furnish the nursery, we had met our match. How would we afford nursery furniture? We were talking about that one afternoon when we were out walking. Then we saw it. Right next to the dumpster at our apartment building. A glider rocking chair. The wood was pretty chipped, it had seen better days, but it was in one piece. So we grabbed it and painted it and hauled it up stairs. We were so excited.
Had we just pulled a rocking chair out of the trash? Yes.
Did it make a loud screeching sound if you rocked too far in either direction? Yes.
Did we have to learn how to stay in just the right spot so the screeching sound wouldn’t wake up our baby? Yes.
It wasn’t great. But it was our screechy dumpster chair.
When we think about investing, we think about investing in things. We invest in stocks and companies. We invest in things we think will be worth something someday, or that will change our lives.
There was a period in the 90s when we were all encouraged to invest in beanie babies, these small stuffed animals that we were told might be really worth something someday.
Some people invest in commemorative plates, or coins. Or we invest in things that promise to change who we are for the better. Things like a $2000 home gym system that will definitely make us into athletes, not gather dust and be where we dry the laundry.
And do you ever notice how some people describe all purchases they make as an investment? I wonder how that started? It’s a good sales pitch. Don’t think of this car as an expense, think of it as an investment in your future. This watch might seem expensive, but it’s really an investment in your success.
No, what it is, is a depreciating asset. Investments are supposed to become more valuable over time. That’s really the only mark of an investment.
But really, we’ll run with just about any excuse to buy stuff. It’s pathological. “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” That’s America.
And we end up with houses full of things that our kids will have to get rid of, and still we don’t feel satisfied. We feel empty, so we keep chasing it, until we get wise to the fact that it’s just a game we don’t have to play.
But sometimes, we’re forced to see the truth about money and things sooner than we’d like to, like when we lose a job, or go through a crisis.
That’s what happens in our teaching from Jesus today.
Here is Megan and Dave’s 26th episode of the Everything Jesus Taught Podcast!
In this 17 minute long podcast episode, we start talking about Money! We are going to spend the next five weeks on Everything Jesus Taught about Money, and so we started with this one. We also chat about:
How preachers are known for talking about money, and how we want to be different