The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
November 5, 2017
God seeks out conversation with us, not so much to tell us things, as to make something happen: A person-to-person relationship between Him and us, a deep and interactive friendship with us, a communion of hearts of which the Sacrament of Communion is but a suggestion. God aches for that something with each of us no matter how much we’ve made a mess of our world or ourselves.
God strives to make that something happen. For the sake of that something, He has to tell us some things. He has to assure us that He loves us and will welcome us with kind acceptance and extravagant generosity. He also has to instruct us how to invest in the friendship to make the most of it – as this scripture does, telling us to quit relying on our own insight and to trust God with all our heart, to fear Him and to acknowledge Him in all our ways, to turn away from evil and to honor Him with our “substance” (that is, our wealth).
While the promised reward of doing these things is conveyed in the language of poetry – with talk of barns being filled and vats bursting with wine – the desired end is not so much something that we grasp as something that grasps us: a divine-human relationship of mystery, stunning grace and supernatural power that captures our heart and takes us where it will.
Augustine once described God as “like a circle whose circumference is nowhere but whose center is everywhere”. In other words, God is so big that no place can contain Him – and no place can exclude Him. Therefore, for all we know, any place might be the place where, for the first time, or for the next time, we encounter Him, and experience the wonder of Him. It happened for Moses in a wilderness while tending some flea-bitten sheep; for Paul in a Syrian desert while riding a plodding donkey on his way to kill Christians; and for the most God-filled person I’ve ever known, in her bathroom while scrubbing the toilet bowl. The God who is invisible, and thus always ignorable, is also a God who is omnipresent, and thus always accessible.
The upshot of this is there are no God-ignored or God-abandoned places – and thus God might engage with us in the most surprising places – say, at the desk where we budget our money and write our checks.
I believe that God pays us a visit far more often than we realize, but that we miss many of His overtures of friendship because we are not expecting Him where He chooses to reach out to us and thus not keeping an eye peeled for His approach.
According to the Bible, God is the giver of every moment of our life and every good gift we have – whether it be our abilities, opportunities or wealth. One very good gift we have from God poses a particular challenge for our seeking Him and maintaining a friendship with Him: our complete freedom to decide how much to invest ourselves in pursuing contact with Him and a deep and growing friendship.
I believe that we have such a friendship with God just to the extent we invest ourselves in developing one, that we invest ourselves in developing one just to the extent that we want one, and that we want one just to the extent that God ranks high in our freely chosen hierarchy of priority concerns.
That means that, while God went to great lengths to make it possible, we determine how close a friendship we have with Him. We come to know God and to walk with Him as a return on our investment in seeking Him.
We can invest in seeking God by praying, studying and the like. We can also invest in seeking by using our money in certain ways. We can pursue the God who is love by using our money a) to love Him, by bringing him honor by our “first fruits” (and granting Him the right of first refusal on the rest of our wealth), and b) to love other people, by giving to answer their need and bring them justice and compassion.
To give God money in these ways is to give God our heart in the end. For our heart follows our money; we love what we invest ourselves in. That’s why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What we give our money to eventually gets to us.
So how I invest my treasure, time and talent not only shows my values but embeds those values in me. My giving not only reveals my soul but shapes my soul.
I decide how close a friendship I have with the God who is all about loving. And I decide how much a person of love I become. Maybe my giving is not just doing God justice, but myself a favor. Let us pray.