But I Do

This sermon was originally preached by Rev. James Morasco on July 29, 2018.

Speak evil of no one. If you can say no good then be silent. Let not your tongues betray you into evil. For these are the words of our creator. Let all strive to cultivate friendship with those who surround them.
— Handsome Lake, Iroquois Prophet
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
— Isaiah 58:7
John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
— Luke 3:11

This past week one winning ticket was sold for the whopping $522 million Mega Millions jackpot, with a one-time cash option of $308 million, Mega Millions officials said. Now I don’t know about you but, although I don’t donate my money to the lottery, I’ve often had the discussion with people about what I would do if I ever won big. It’s only human nature to dream about the “what if’s” in our lives.

So I decided to do a search regarding people that have won the lottery but it ended up destroying their lives.  Most were common everyday people that dreamt, won, and somehow managed to ruin their lives in the end. Here are a few examples:

One woman was murdered by her husband after she spent the entire five million and had nothing left. 

Another couple, who won over two million, ended their marriage after a fire destroyed their underinsured property and she found emails indicating he was having an affair.

Another man, who won over sixteen million, found out his brother had hired someone to kill him, hoping that he would inherit some of the money.

One woman, who was working part time, barely getting by, won ten million.  She spent all her money on a lavish lifestyle.  She is now broke and working part time and barely getting by.

But I think it isn’t the money itself, but the false expectations that it’s the answer to everything that causes people to act the way they do.  

Not too long ago I counseled a young man named “Bill” who was new in his recovery from a heroin addiction.  He was also very dedicated to his family.  He obviously loved them as he shared stories about how quickly his son was growing and his daughter’s latest accomplishment in school.  At one point he was hired as an automobile mechanic by one of those chain store automotive companies, a job he loved to do. Often other mechanics would fail to show up so Bill would fill in for them.  He was motivated and was being rewarded with more responsibility and more in his paycheck. Bill quickly moved up in the company and in less than a year became co - manager of the shop.  Six months later he was promoted again and he became manager of his own store.  One day he came into my office and I noticed he looked a little depressed.  He told me that the night before; his son had approached him about his upcoming birthday.  During the conversation the son asked him for his work address.  Bill said he asked the boy why he wanted the address, and he answered, “So I can send you a birthday card”.  It was then that he realized how much time he was spending at work.  In his son’s eyes, he was living there. 

So what’s the tradeoff between time and money?  We have to pay our bills, but we also have to spend as much time as we can with the ones we love. How much time spent on gaining money to support our lifestyle do we really need?  How many times do we avoid our responsibilities at home because we spend too much time paying for it?  Think about this -

If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day, allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.

Source Unknown.

So what if we looked at it differently?  Here are some examples: 

Blaise Pascal was an influential French scientist who lived in the 1600’s. He was something of a genius. For example, at the age of twelve, even before he had received any formal training in geomoetry, Pascal independently discovered and demonstrated Euclid’s thirty-two propositions. I don’t even know what Euclid’s thirty two propositions are, let alone demonstrating them! It’s no surprise then that as an adult Pascal completed important works on mathematics and experimental physics. He even gave us buses. Noticing a crowd of people all headed in the same direction to work he came up with the idea of the bus and in 1662 helped form the very first bus company.

Pascal was also a devoted Christian. He wrote books on grace and the life of Christ as well as other Christian works.

Through all this Pascal realized that his faith, though intensely personal, could not be merely individualistic. His love for God drove him to love for the poor. “I love poverty” he said, “because he (Christ) loved it. I like wealth because it gives a means to assist the needy.” Increasingly Pascal deprived himself so that he could give more. He sold his coach and horses, his fine furniture and silverware and even his library in order to give to the poor. When he received an advance of 1000 francs for his bus he sent the money to the poor in Blois, who had suffered from a bitter winter. He then signed over his interest in the company to the hospitals of Paris and Clermont.

When Pascal died at the age of 39 on August 19, 1662 his funeral was attended by family, friends, scientific colleagues, worldly companions, converts, writers, and the back of the church was filled with the poor, each and every person there someone Pascal had helped during his life.

 Source: reported in Charles Kummel, The Galileo Connection (IVP, 1986)

Alan Barnhart is an American businessman who owns and runs a business valued at $250 million. When he was at University, he poured over the teaching of Jesus and was struck by Jesus call to generosity and his warnings about wealth. He was determined that when he went into business he would not allow any financial success he might enjoy to become a source of spiritual failure.

When he and his brother took over their small family business, Barnhart Crane and Rigging, they set incomes for themselves that would enable them to support their families in a modest middle class lifestyle and agreed that anything the company made beyond that would be given to ministry, particularly ministries in the developing world.

In their first year they were able to give away $50,000; in the second year $150,000; and by 2005 they were giving away $1 million a month. They have also placed 99% ownership of the company into a trust that will ensure that when they have departed, all proceeds from the firm will continue to be invested in ministry.

Alan doesn’t regret the decision to limit his income. He, his wife and his children have been able to visit the projects they support and see the impact in people’s lives. Alan says that giving is fun!

Inspired by the teaching of Jesus on wealth, Alan Barnhart took a simple decision that revolutionized his life and enabled him to practice generosity.

Source: generosity.com and Barnhart, “Profit with a Purpose” in The Generous Business. A Guide for Incorporating Giving at Work. 

Oswald Golter was a missionary in northern China during the 1940’s. After ten years service he was returning home. His ship stopped in India, and while waiting for a boat home he found a group of refugees living in a warehouse on the pier. Unwanted by anyone else the refugees were stranded there. Golter went to visit them. As it was Christmastime wished them a merry Christmas and asked them what they would like for Christmas.

“We’re not Christians,” they said. “We don’t believe in Christmas.”

“I know,” said the missionary, “but what do you want for Christmas?” They described some German pastries they were particularly fond of, and so Oswald Golter cashed in his ticket, used the money to buy baskets and baskets of the pastries, took them to the refugees, and wished them a "Merry Christmas".

When he later repeated the incident to a class, a student said, “But sir, why did you do that for them? They weren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus.”

“I know,” he replied, “but I do!”

Author unknown

I had a good friend who I credit with saving my life.  He was a very spiritual man who saw in me something I couldn’t see myself.  We spent countless hours together over the years, as he supported my sobriety and introduced me to others who were doing the same.  Every five years on his birthday he would invite everyone he had met since his own recovery started to a big party at his house.  He would rent a big tent and his son, who is a musician, would bring his band.  I met people from all over the United States and Canada whom he had touched in one way or another, walking together and sharing each other’s journey in life.  Here was a man of very limited means, who learned to live his life for others, and in turn, received more support collectively than he was able to give individually.  He exemplified the notion that “in giving we receive”.   

Spending not necessarily your money, but the precious time you are given here on earth.  The average American lifespan is 78 years.  That’s 28,470 days we get to draw out of our account.  936 months we are given to demonstrate our love for one another.  Remember Oswald Golter, “but I do”.  

In other words, it doesn’t matter. In my belief it’s not about comparing myself to others, seeing if they agree with me or not.  No, it’s about finding God in everything and everybody regardless of their understanding of God.  In fact, it has always been my experience that being exposed to different cultures and belief systems enriches my own spirituality.  There was a book I read years ago titled “Arrogant Christianity”.  The author described all the wrongs that had been done throughout history in the name of Christianity.  It taught me a lot about myself and about how my faith can be easily twisted to manipulate and take advantage of others.  It’s one of the reasons I feel I have evolved so that, to me, spirituality is more important than religion. For me, it’s not what you profess to believe that’s important, but how you demonstrate that in your life.  Remember Oswald Golter, who when asked why he bought Christmas gifts for a group of people that didn’t even believe in Jesus, answered “but I do!”