This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany. We’re in the midst of our Stewardship Campaign, and today’s theme was “Giving to God of our Income Changes Everything.” The theme scripture reading was 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
There was once a couple, Alex and Morgan. In their early 20s, Alex and Morgan had been together for two years, and were now engaged. They were getting married in their church, and so they met a few times with their pastor to plan the service. This was their second meeting with Pastor Jones.
After exchanging pleasantries, Pastor Jones asked them, “Have you decided on the scripture readings for the wedding, as we discussed last time?”
Alex said, “Yes. We decided to have 1 Corinthians 13 as the second reading.”
Pastor Jones said, “Ah, yes. The ‘Love is patient, love is kind’ passage. A very popular choice.”
Morgan asked, “Do you think it’s a bad choice?”
The pastor responded, “Oh, no. It’s good. In fact, there is an exercise I like to do with couples who choose it.” He reached behind his desk for two Bibles, and handed them to the couple. He said, “I’d like you to open up to that passage now, and read it out loud. But wherever the word love appears, I’d like you to replace it with your partner’s name. Alex, you can go first. You can start at verse 4.”
Alex looked a little surprised, but said, “Okay.” After finding the passage, Alex continued, “Morgan is patient. Morgan is kind. Morgan is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.” Both Alex and Morgan started laughing.
Pastor Jones smiled. “What’s so funny?” he asked.
Alex looked at Morgan, and said, “Well, you’re not exactly patient. And you do have an arrogant streak in you.”
Morgan pretended to be shocked. “How dare you!”
Pastor Jones said, “How about you continue, Morgan? We’re at verse 5.”
“Gladly!” Morgan said, and then read: “Alex does not insist on their own way. Alex is not irritable or resentful.”
Alex interrupted: “I resent that remark!”
Pastor Jones laughed at this and said, “I think you’re getting the point.”
Morgan looked down for a moment, deep in thought, and then said, “This isn’t really about romantic love, is it, Pastor?”
“That’s a good question,” Pastor Jones responded. “Tell me more.”
Morgan continued, “I mean, nobody could ever fulfill all these things. Verse 7 says, ‘Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.’ That doesn’t describe Alex, and it certainly doesn’t describe me.”
Alex added, “It sounds like someone amazing. Someone you can trust with anything. Someone you can rely on, who will always be there, and will always help.”
Morgan said, “You know what it sounds like? It sounds like money.”
Pastor Jones leaned forward. “Really?” he said. “How is this like money?”
Alex looked at Morgan as well, very curious. “Yeah. How is this like money?”
Morgan said, “Well, think about it. What do we always rely on? What are we always struggling to get more of? What do we always fight about? It’s always on our minds, and we always seem to think that if we just had more, than everything will be okay.”
Alex nodded, “Yeah. Sometimes it feels like money is more important to us than each other.” Alex turned to Pastor Jones and said, “I know we’re not supposed to be like that, but honestly” – looking back at Morgan – “honestly, it’s how we act sometimes.”
There was silence for a moment. Then Morgan said, “Pastor, is everybody like this?”
Pastor Jones thought for a second. “Well, I don’t know about everybody, but I do think that this is a very common concern. Money has a control over many of us that we just can’t seem to let go of. But I really find it interesting that you thought of this while we were reading 1 Corinthians. Let’s try reading it with the word money in place of love, and see how it sounds. I’ll read it this time.” He cleared his throat.
Money is patient. Money is kind. Money is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. Money bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Money never ends. And now faith, hope, and money abide; and the greatest of these is money.
“Wow,” Pastor Jones said after he finished.
Alex said, “And I though it was bad putting our names in there. That’s just wrong. Money isn’t any of those things!”
Morgan added, “I think maybe we’ve been missing the point for a while. Maybe we can’t rely on money the way we’ve been thinking we could. Maybe that’s not what money is all about.”
Pastor Jones nodded, and said, “I think you might be onto something, Morgan. Martin Luther once wrote this: A ‘god’ is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need.”
Alex said, “I think we make money into a god sometimes.”
Pastor Jones smiled kindly. “You wouldn’t be the first people to do that.”
Morgan took Alex’s hand, and said, “I think we need to do some thinking and talking about how we use money, and how we can stop money from using us.”
Alex smiled. “Yes, maybe if we try to focus on our relationship with each other and with God, we can find how God wants us to use the money we have. We might even find we have enough!”
Morgan turned to Pastor Jones and said, “Thank you, Pastor. I think this was a really important conversation.”
Pastor Jones chuckled. “I didn’t do it, Morgan. I just asked you to read the scripture you chose. But it seems like maybe you were ready for a deeper conversation about money. Good luck on that. Money is a hard topic to discuss. But I think you’ll find some good answers. Rely on each other, and rely even more on God. You’ll work it out.”
And so Pastor Jones and I invite you today to think about the way you use money. Take a few minutes, and think about this question: “How will you change the way you share your income?” Talk with your family about it tonight or this week.
God has blessed you with money. May you be blessed to see your money for the gift it is, and be blessed to use it wisely and generously, and be blessed to trust not in money but in God.