Do you equate wealth and health to God’s good favor for your righteousness? Purveyors of “The Prosperity Gospel” certainly do. You don’t have to look too far to find many well-meaning ministers who will tell you that if you are just faithful enough, righteous enough, sinless enough, God will bless you with such favor, and they can easily back that up with cherry-picked scriptures. Publicly we shake our heads as Lutherans, but if you’re like me there are times we fall victim to this way of thinking ourselves.
Sunday’s scriptures center around issues of wealth, but before you make other plans for Sunday morning, perhaps we should truly hear what God is saying. The prophet Amos announces that Israel’s great wealth is a cause not for rejoicing but rather sorrow, because God’s people have forgotten how to share their wealth with the poor. The letter to Timothy reminds us to eagerly pursue richness of God’s justice than mere riches. In the Gospel, Jesus uses a parable to emphasize that consideration of and care for those in need (especially those “at our gate,” visible to us, of whom we are aware) is an essential component of good stewardship. It is in the sharing of wealth that we actually avoid the snare of wealth. After all, the greatest treasure — our eternal salvation — has already been procured for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is the one whom death could not hold—who comes to us risen from the dead — who can free us from the death grip of greed. Knowing this, we can share all we have with our neighbors, even our very place and salvation, confident that God will continue to provide for our needs. Perhaps even more we realize that good stewardship doesn’t just mean our relationship to our wealth but also our relationships with our neighbors “at our gate.” Join us on Sunday as we grapple with our call to stewardship of both!
Image: The Rich Man and Lazarus by John Everett Millais. Copyright © Painters/Alamy Stock Photo. Used by permission.