American Baptists of the Central region gathered this past weekend for our annual meeting. Budgetary discussions were front and center as we reflected on the giving patterns needed to sustain our common mission and ministry.
In Christian circles we hear a great deal about “abundance” and “scarcity,” especially as we consider the new horizons of missional work. Of course, it takes resources—our hearts, our hands, and our funds to engage these open doors. Disciples of Jesus are learning to be more creative and entrepreneurial as they find ways to provide funding for their calling.
One of the sharpest exchanges about money is between Jesus and “the rich young ruler,” as he is called. Mark 10:17-31 narrates an encounter that could have reoriented his whole life, but his wealth proved to be a stumbling block rather than the means of abundant life.
Faithful to the law and keeping all the commandments, he lacked the willingness to alter his life for the sake of the poor. Shocked at Jesus’ forthright statement about where he located his treasure, “he went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (v. 22).
Jesus then warned his followers about the hindrance of wealth to full participation in the Reign of God. Seemingly never far from his mind and regularly a topic for parables, Jesus focused on money and possessions as a key factor in discipleship. It is a key factor for present day disciples, also. If we think wealth can secure our lives—rather than trust in the living God—we have no “treasure in heaven.”
Where we locate our treasure makes all the difference. Luther warned his parishioners, “Possessions belong in your hands, not in your heart.” He advised that setting our hearts on wealth could be like the “life of swine”; the strongest hog naturally gets his way at the trough, trampling over all others. Until the 16th century, the accumulation of private wealth was considered, for Christians, dangerous to the soul.
Our school is grateful for persons of wealth who are generous in funding our mission; their treasure is a living legacy of investing in ministry preparation. We know that in a time when denominational resources are growing scarcer, individuals and foundations sustain our work in theological education. Generosity evokes generosity, and these who are sowing their resources into the seminary (“seed bed”) called Central are allocating their treasure now—and eternally.
Molly T. Marshall
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