"Many years ago, during a wreck of a Californian ship, one of the passengers strapped a belt on himself with 200 pounds of gold on it. He was later found at the bottom of the sea. As he was sinking: Did the man own the gold? Or did the gold own him?"
So it all started with me fighting with Bret and Betsy about money. I felt that they were asking for too much money for the urban project. Why we should need $1200 for a five week period was just baffling to me! That’s a lot of money. I kept telling them that it’s not that I don’t trust them, but I just use money very conservatively (and by conservatively, I mean conservatively in areas where it’s convenient), and I don’t like other people being in control of the money, especially if I’m asking people at my church for this money. But by the end of that long sentence, don’t you get the sense that I actually don’t trust Bret and Betsy? And if I don’t trust Bret and Betsy with the IV urban project funds, doesn’t that extend further to say that I don’t really trust God with those funds? Since God has given them the authority over the project, shouldn’t I trust Bret and Betsy as a representation of my trust for God? No, I didn't ask myself those questions then. I've only recently begun to consider this concept of submission and trust a little more since Ryan has read a book about authority recently, which forces the topic that I like to avoid. But more on that some other time; this entry is about money.
During the project, we talked a lot about poverty and how we use our money. Of course I’ve thought about these issues and cared about these issues, but my view of money and materialism was really challenged at the project. One night while we had reflection time, God was really prompting me to gather some of my clothes and ask the others at the project to do the same so that we could donate a bunch of stuff to Water Street Mission together. As I was going through my stuff, I was listening to a song called “Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb. The song lyrics say, “I want the things you just can’t give me.” And there I was, holding a sweatshirt that I really love, and I felt myself saying, “No, I can’t give this one away. I love it.” Then my next thought was, “Oh crap, that means it’s exactly the one I have to give away.” So I did. Later that night as I lay in bed, it kind of haunted me; I kept wondering if I could just have my sweatshirt back. But that felt like stealing from God. I thought of another line from the song where Derek Webb describes Jesus digging through our trash can, and that’s when I said, “No Jesus, I will not let you dig through my trash can. My sweatshirt is yours.” Why does my stuff have such a hold on me? Praise God that He’s changing my heart. I gave away a bunch of stuff that night and a bunch of stuff when I got home. At the project, we really explored how God might want us to use our resources.
Here are some quotes that really stuck out to me:
--"According to scripture, we are no more free to do whatever we want with our money than we are to use our bodies to sleep around." - Kevin Blue
--"If we are determined to waste God's money, it would be better to throw it into the sea than to spend it extravagantly. At least throwing money into the sea hurts no one, while spending it needlessly on ourselves poisons all who see it with pride, vanity, anger, lust, love of the world, and a thousand foolish and hurtful desires."- John Wesley
Well now I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA. (I didn’t think I’d identify myself as such, but it really is becoming something significant in my life.) I make $385 every other week. We are just above the poverty line. VISTA is a program that deals with poverty, and by paying us at that line, they are forcing us to live at the level of those that we are helping, which is a really incredible opportunity. But it’s hard. My rent right now is $400. (Praise God that it will be going down with the addition of other roommates.) I have been studying these types of things, and households whose rent is 30% or more of their income per month are considered severely cost-burdened. I pay over 50% at the moment for rent. So yeah, how I spend my money is even more of a pressing topic now. It would be easy to stop giving away so much because of my tight financial situation. I mean I have to take care of myself, right? But God has really prompted me to start tithing my income, which means that I am giving away $80 out of my $770 per month. I’ve really gotten so much joy out of tithing. I give $30 per month to church offering and $50 to different non-profits. I give $25 every two weeks to a different organization, which I have been enjoying so much. God promises that He will provide for me. If I'm willing to spend myself on behalf of the poor and oppressed, He is going to take care of me.