• Steven Marsh

Giving–Working to Live: a Reflection on Psalm 34:1-8, Mark 10:46-52, and Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Humans are made to be in relationship with God and one another. It is no surprise, then, that work, is central to life. From the very beginning, human was created good and designed to work. God purposed us for “…laboring and producing fruits from what God has provided via creation.”[1]  Yes, we work in order to live. And the work we do is not only about an income stream, but even more importantly the work we do loving God and loving others.

This is Reformation Sunday. Those who worked for the cause of Christ in the 16th– 17th centuries have set the course for Christians in the 21st century in how we are to work to live. From Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, John Calvin’s ministry in Geneva, John Knox’s ministry in Scotland, and the Peace of Westphalia bringing a new system of political order in central Europe, the most significant contribution of the Reformation is the five solas: Sola Scriptura, Solo Christo, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria (Scripture alone; Christ alone; Grace alone; Faith alone; and Glory to God alone). Working these five solas is essential for living effective lives as followers of JesusChrist. I will highlight three solas. I challenge you to examine how these three can make you think differently about giving financially from the wallet of your life.

Sola Scriptura…only Scripture. What do the Scriptures have to say about giving financially? In Psalm 34 the psalmist recognizes that he was delivered, that is saved, from his selfish ways of living. Blessing the Lord, boasting in the Lord, and magnifying, seeking, and crying out to the Lord are essential daily practices or works for demonstrating dependence on God, not things or money. The psalmist prayed to be delivered from materialism.

Solo Christo…only Christ. What does Jesus have to say about giving financially? In Mark 10, we see Jesus asking Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the same question he had asked James and John earlier: “What can I do for you?”Whereas James and John were selfish about who could sit closest to Jesus, the blind beggar asked to see again. Salvation is not accomplished through financial security. Only belief in Jesus Christ, the One who knows us the best and loves us the most, can save us from the false savior of materialism. When our lives are marked by “encounters with the blind who want to see, the lame who want to walk, the leper who wants to be cleansed, we catch a glimpse of what it must be like to come close to Jesus.”[2]

Sola Gratia…only grace. What does grace have to say about giving financially? Job 42 indicates that our assurance of salvation is not based on merit. We cannot take any credit for our salvation. Our salvation is based on the unmerited favor we receive from the One who created us, redeems us, and sustains us.None of us, other than putting one foot before the other each day, can control the number of our days, the affection of our relationships, or anything for that matter. Being enslaved to our monthly income streams for a sense of security is rooted in a “works”salvation, not one of grace.

What, then, is the significance of the Reformation for our existence in and through the solas of Scripture, Christ, and Grace for giving financially? Our money is not our own. Mike Slaughter inn The Christian Wallet writes,

Almost all of us who work do so in part because we need to have an income, some method for filling our Christian wallets so that we can spend, save, give, and invest with a conscience…But work is for a much larger purpose than simply bringing home a paycheck, whether it’s the work we produce for our employment or the additional labor we invest simply for the kingdom. We ultimately work for the outcomes, not simply the incomes.”[3]

The purpose of working to live is to advance the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Christians live their lives rooted in the Bible’s authoritative and infallible message of salvation in Christ by grace.

We, as a congregation at Geneva Presbyterian Church, exist to show others salvation. Your intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and time capital are your tools for working to live. Financially, 40% of our members and regular attenders have pledged $512,868 to date. We’re making great progress in working to God’s purposed ends for living. In 2019, your Session is challenging everyone who calls Geneva their church home to give of their financial resources in gratitude for all that God has done for us. That’s right, we are called to the mission of “Loving and Living God’s Way. ”In anticipation of your generosity, here are a few things in store for Geneva in 2019: 10% of all giving will continue to go toward global and community ministry; revitalization of Small Group Ministry; Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian and the Executive Director of The Reformation Project, will be on our campus the weekend of February2-4; Marriage Retreat, Men’s and Women’s Retreats; Financial Peace University is coming in February; and Squad 51—Adult Genevans in the life of every child at Geneva.

It is my prayer that those who have no record of financial giving to Geneva Presbyterian Church, yet call Geneva their church home, will repent. Let’s complete the 2018 Generosity Campaign with 60% participation of our members and regular attenders, a ten percent increase over the 2017 Generosity Campaign participation level. Let’s grow as the Church, church! Sola Scriptura, solo Christo, and sola Gratia.

[1]Mike Slaughter, TheChristian Wallet(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 155-156.

[2]Cynthia A. Jarvis in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 216.

[3]Mike Slaughter, The Christian Wallet, 156.

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