REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 25: Money rules: OK?
I was tempted to call this, money: the good, bad and the ugly! Crises always bring out the best and the worst in us, not least when it comes to money. I must be careful to portray the correct Biblical balance as I reflect upon money in the light of the pandemic. I well remember, as a very new 18yo Christian, suggesting at work that “money is the root of all evils”. John, who was in his 30’s helpfully and gently corrected me, reminding me that it was the “love” of money that was the problem (1 Tim 6:10). He was right and the pandemic has helped me see some great uses of money, and sadly some ugly ones as well. I have since realised that money, with Paul following our Lord, is a marvellous instrument for good, in the hands of disciples (Matt 6:19-21; Acts 20:35; 1 Tim 6:17-19; Gal.6:10).
I have been encouraged to hear of churches not only meeting budget through members giving online but showing generosity through appeals from well-known groups delivering food to persecuted fellows like Barnabas Fund, Open Doors, Missionary Aviation Fellowship and the like. One small drought affected rural Diocese raised over $50,000 in just two weeks for its partner Diocese in Africa to help feed those no longer able to earn money from daily labour.
Contrasted to this are the clear financial aspirations of governments which are putting the health and life of many at risk. This is seen in the political aspirations of some world leaders, and the (mostly) understandable desires of groups keen to have an income to support their businesses and keep employees in work. Pressure has been put on the PM and Premiers to open boarders, sporting crowds and meeting places. All this makes economic sense but is it good health sense? I remember my dad commenting that people often got more jail time for crimes against property, than for crimes against persons. I wonder if the desire for the welfare of our economies, very likely to have serious health risks, is a result of love for money and the influence it can buy. One interviewed person in the USA was heard to comment that they should be able to get back to work and if some were to die as a consequence that was necessary.
Since none of us, rich or poor, are free from greed and covetousness (and it this that our Lord targets, even above justice, in Lk.12:13-15), I must make sure that if I criticise others for loving money, I must be generous in the areas where I now have opportunity to show love by giving. The pandemic has brought this opportunity for generosity front and centre, into lounge rooms, and more importantly into our minds and hearts. Our understanding of these needs has been easily masked by the quick and generous (I hope) response by our government’s support for those businesses and workers who have been severely affected financially by the pandemic. This I think, and I am cautious because of the debt which will have to be serviced by future generations of workers, is a gift that money well managed has enabled the common-wealth, to be used to keep us from the ravages of crippling poverty.
Three thoughts keep coming together for me:
- As with the quip concerning marriage: “love may be blind but marriage is a great eye-opener!” so too the deep needs of our unseen brothers and sisters in developing, and in many cases, places of persecution, can be a great eye-opener to the reality of their lives and the risk of our happy circumstances. As in marriage when these needs are thoughtfully and prayerfully addressed, growth in love and commitment follows, so too can love expressed in giving, grow us and keep us from trusting in the security given most of us through frugal habits, honest dealings and hard work. Giving generously builds our reliance on our Heavenly Father.
- The wonderful conversion expressed in Eph. 4:28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Here we are reminded that we must not be content to be only 1/3 or 2/3 converted! It is good not to steal. It is better to be not stealing and working. But we are only fully converted when we are not stealing, working and Indeed it is so easy to be proud that we do not steal while we are robbing Christ through an unwillingness to feed and clothe Him (Matt. 25:34-39). The pandemic has alerted us to the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ are at the bottom of the pile, missing out on relief because they are Christians.
- This being the case it behoves us not to miss out on the opportunity afforded us to be at least part of the answer to our prayer give us today our daily bread and keep the command to love our neighbours as our self (Matt.19:19). It would not be too far from the mark to suggest, as Mordecai reminded Esther (in 4:14) that this may be the time for us to be in our privileged position, to show grace to our impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ. If we rule the money entrusted to us in this way: God will be glorified, we will be enriched, many will give thanks to God, including those who are encouraged by our love and even persecutors given a glimpse of Christ and Father like love (Matt 5:43-48; 2 Cor.8:9 and 9:6-15).
Peter Brain 22nd June, 2020