First: Enough Is Enough?
So probably by now many of you realize that I love memes. I love all kinds of memes. I am even a member of a Facebook group named “Methodist Memes.” They have tons of Methodist memes and they are so funny. Whenever I feel down, I google memes to make me feel better. See, I love memes. This week I found some memes that explain our attitude toward work. I think many of you have already seen at least some of the memes that I will show you, but anyway, you will enjoy them. These memes really show what attitude we have toward work. (sd) From Monday Sunday, all week! We hate it! We just hate to work! I love the Saturday meme the most. Right? We just hate to work. On a Sunday morning. A husband told his wife that, “I don’t want to go to church today.” So the wife said, “No, you should go. If you are not going, who’s going to preach today?” Same here! Sometimes I don’t like to work. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, but sometimes, I feel like that. So it is kind of common for people that we don’t like to go to work.
From last Sunday, we are now studying how to put God first in our lives. Through our baptism we made a covenant with God that God promises to love us, protect us, guide us and we promise to love God and make God happy with our lives. Today we continue to talk about how we can make God first in our lives, especially how we can make God happy with our financial lives. (sd) “What should we do to make God happy in our financial lives?”
Let’s read the number 1. (sd) “1. Trust work is a means of God’s provision!” We need to trust that work is a means of God’s provision. In the Book of Genesis, during creation, God worked six days and rested on the seventh day. God is also working still today. Let’s read Genesis 2:15 in one voice. (sd) “15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” (Genesis 2:15, NLT) God created humans and placed them in the garden of Eden to farm it and take care of it. We have been created to till God’s soil and to work God’s creation. So it means we don’t work only to make money. We don’t work for the income. We work for the outcome. Right? We work to find meaning through serving God’s creation. We work for the glory of God, not just to earn a salary. Work is a gift from God.
Furthermore, the Bible says we need to work for God. Let’s read Colossians 3:23. It is not in your Soul Feast but on the screen. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” All we do are for God, not for us or for others. Amen? When we talk about work, of course, it also includes household affairs, too. Doing the laundry, washing the dishes, cooking, all the house chores are also very valuable work for God. Recently my friend gave me a gift of a robot vacuum cleaner. This little thing is so good. I was very doubtful at first because I heard many people say that robot vacuum cleaner is so dumb. It easily gets stuck at the corner or moves so slow so it doesn’t do a good job. Yes, I heard a lot of those kinds of reviews. But it was good. It moves slowly, but it really does its own. So I named this robot vacuum cleaner Alexa. I like it. It works like Alexa. Anyway, when we talk about working for God, it also includes parenting. Studies show that we need $113,000 to cover one parent’s parenting. It is a lot of money to cover, right? Everything we do is for God, and the reason we work is not for the income, but for the outcome. And it is applied to parenting, too. Parenting is hard, but the outcome out of our parenting is priceless. We are raising God’s child. What we invent for our children is huge, but the payoff is tremendous. Yes, our work is a means of God’s provision, so we need to work hard with gratefulness. But there is one thing that we really need to keep in mind. That is that our work is not the source. God is the only source that blesses the work of our hands. We don’t serve the blessing. We serve the source. We don’t worship the gift. We worship the giver. We work for God.
Let’s read number 2 together. (sd) “2. Experience freedom in God!” We need to experience freedom in God. Especially let’s talk about financial freedom. Dixon First UMC has a program named “Financial Peace Program.” I heard the program when I was studying in seminary, but I didn’t exactly know what the program was about. All I knew was that the program talks about money, debt, and retirement plant. The associate pastor at First Dixon UMC, Heewon, took the financial peace university with his wife, Jay, and they followed what the program taught. They set up a plan to pay off their debts in three years. When they started their payoff plan, they had Heewon’s student loans, $30,000 for their new SUV, and $2,000 credit card debt. They decided not to use their credit card and lived with a tight budget. As I was looking at them living frugally, I was amazed at their determination. But at the same time, I also had reservations about whether they could really pay off their debts in three years. Pastors don’t make a lot of money and they also had two boys who eat a lot. And recently Jay told me they had paid off all the debts they had. They really made it in two and a half years. Now Jay started her school this fall and they were able to pay the tuition with cash. It was amazing. What makes it more amazing is they have also given the full tithe during all the years. Listening to their story, I was really impressed and also challenged.
In the Bible, there are many verses that talk about money. And also we need to remember that Jesus talked about money more than any other single topic except faith. Jesus told us 38 parables in total, but 16 of them are about money. In today’s world, debt is necessary. We have to have debts to buy a new car or a house, but according to the Bible, debt should be avoided.
Let’s read Deuteronomy 28:12 out loud. (sd) “12 The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.” (Deuteronomy 28:12 NLT)
Also, let’s read another Bible verse. It is from Deuteronomy 15:1. It is not in your Soul Feast. (sd) “Every seventh year you must cancel all debts.” (Deuteronomy 15:1) The cultural context is different from ours today, but the logic of this verse still makes a lot of sense. A long-term debt can be a huge burden in our mind that can occupy God’s place. So God is asking us to be freed from the bondage of debt. Maybe it is time for us to make a plan to get out of debt. We need to experience the freedom in God!
Let’s read number 3. (sd) “3. Trust God in our giving!” Let’s read Deuteronomy 28:13-14 together. (sd) “13 If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. 14 You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (Deuteronomy 28:13-14 NLT) God promises us that if we obey God’s commandments, we will be the head and not the tail. We will be on top and never at the bottom.
This week Alexa and I were talking about money. Alexa told me, “Sis, I always liked to spend money on buying clothes or things just for myself. But for the past couple of years, I learned that giving money to someone who needs it also makes me so happy and joyful. I would never imagine it before” What she said to me made my heart filled with joy. What she said just made my day. She and I are the partners in crime. We both struggle with materialism and consumerism. I love Starbucks and she loves it, too. We need to be more disciplined in many ways, and especially in the way of handling financial resources. We are terrible at that. But hearing what she said, I was able to see that God’s grace was working in her and me to make us better disciples. Alexa was learning the joy of giving and growing to be a better Christian.
Let’s read 2 Corinthians 9:7. (sd) “7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In order to get out of debt, we also need a plan to give our full tithes to God. Maybe we can start by giving 2% or 3% of giving to God. And next year maybe we can raise it up to 4% or 5%.
We are created to give. Actually, God doesn’t need the money from us. God created the world and us by words. God doesn’t need money to do God’s work. It is God’s invitation for us to be part of God’s work for the world today. By giving, we are able to take a part of God’s work.
And I don’t think giving has to be done by money only. David Livingston, the father of Africa mission. When he was 12 years old, he attended a worship service. He was so touched by the preacher’s message that night, but he had no money in his pocket. He was a son of a poor salesman and at his age ten, David started working in a cotton mill. He was a poor boy, didn’t even have money for his school. But young Livingstone really wanted to give something to God, so he ran up to the chancel and sat on the altar. People in the sanctuary were startled to see that. The preacher came to David Livingstone and asked why he came to the altar and sit on there. Young Livingstone said, “I have nothing to give to God, so I want to give myself to God.” Later, he went to Africa as a missionary, worked in Africa for 30 years, and later became the father of Africa.
Give what you can give to God. God loves the cheerful givers who love to give their valuable things to God. When we give, it helps us to keep us on track with our lives. You know, keep things in perspective so that we understand what’s most important in life, carrying out the work of God. And you know what? When we carry out the work of God, when we work for the glory of God, in the process, we are too blessed!
There were two brothers who were farmers. They shared the work equally and they shared the fruit of their labor equally. One of the brothers had a large family, wife and many children. The other one was single.
One night, the single brother was thinking to himself, “You know, it’s not right that I share the resources, the fruit of our labor equally with my brother. He’s got a large family. He needs more. So he developed a plan. And his plan was each night he would go out to his barn and he takes a sack of grain. And then he quietly carries it over to his brother’s barn and leaves it there. And that way his brother would have more than he. And so that’s what he did.
Well at the same time, the other brother was thinking to himself, “You know, it’s not right that my brother and I share the fruit of our labor equally. I have children who will care for me in my old days, but he has no one. He needs more than me! And so he came up with a plan that each night he would go out to his barn and he would take a sack of grain and he carries it over to his brother’s barn. And he would leave it there. That way his brother would have more than he. That’s what he did.
Each morning each of the brothers woke up to find that they had just as much as they started off even though they’d given a bag away. And then one night, they happen to meet in the middle between the two barns. And then they understood. They dropped their sacks of grain and they hugged.
And then God looked down upon these two brothers and said, “Never had I seen such love and it was on that spot that Solomon later built the first temple because we all know that the church is always built on sacrificial love, the self-giving love of the people of God. May be so among us. Thanks be to God, Amen.
Let’s pray. Dear God, you are the first priority in our lives, but sometimes we forgot to practice it because of the busyness of our lives. God, let us have the courage to put you first in every aspect of our lives. In Jesus’ name, we prayed, and everybody agreeing said, Amen.