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Bulletin #2 : November, 2016

Consider This:

What does “enough” mean to you? Sometimes the idea of enough seems out of reach. We imagine that if we could only afford that better car, that larger house, or even that more effective shampoo or more comfortable pair of sneakers, we would be happy. This thought brings us to two truths. The first is that many of us in the United States have much more than enough to live comfortably. Our culture—through our friends and neighbors, social media, and television—continually tells us we need more than we have. But if we stop the barrage of consumer messages for a minute and ask ourselves what we actually need, many of us will find that the answer is “very little.” The second truth is that many, many people across the globe do not, in fact, have enough. Families are starving, children must work instead of going to school, and refugees fleeing violence and war do not have shelter. Almost one billion people live in extreme poverty, and at least another billion human beings are only a little bit above that line. As followers of Jesus Christ, what is our responsibility in the face of suffering? God asks us to live generously out of love for our local and global neighbors. We play a part in fulfilling God’s promises of care and abundance for others.

Here’s An Applicable Scripture:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  Matthew 6:19-24

Jesus’s words make clear that how we treat our money is a key part of discipleship—the process of transforming our lives to become more like him. In these verses, within the context of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus attaches the same importance to our relationship with money as he does to other spiritual practices like prayer and fasting. Here we are called to be content with what we have and spend our time and money on the things that God prioritizes: seeking justice, caring for suffering people, protecting the dignity of human beings, and sharing the hope we have in Christ. That work does not leave much time for accumulating things. In fact, Jesus suggests that materialism and thoughtless consumption can blind us and prevent us from seeing clearly what God wants to do through us. We have to intentionally make choices about money that reflect our love for and service to God.

What would happen if we took Jesus’ words seriously?

What if we thought deeply and often about our financial choices, small and large, and made a commitment to stop storing up treasures on earth? These decisions would free up a tremendous store of financial resources to be used to transform neighborhoods, fight hunger, provide families with access to clean water, improve educational opportunities, create affordable housing and dismantle oppressive systems. The possibilities are almost limitless.

How we can create change:

Christmas is around the corner! In 2015, the U.S. residents spent $626 billion on holiday-related items and services.  To put this amount in perspective, the World Health Organization estimated that it would take about $535 billion to provide access to clean water and sanitation across the globe.  One year of holiday spending more than covers this amount. What could happen if followers of Christ spent less on Christmas presents? Specifically, what if we each bought one less gift? More than 173 million adults in the U.S. identify as Christian.  If each of these adults decided to forego one $25 gift and give that money to the same cause, we could raise $4.3 billion.

Personal Meditation:

Take one aspect of your spending life, like eating out, shopping, going to the movies or buying clothes.  Arbitrarily decide spend 10% less in that budget area for a week by taking out a set amount of cash for that line item and not spending any more than the cash you actually have on hand. Track your progress.

Esther Circle Activity:

Take some time to come up with different categories of your budget—the major ways you spend your money. Check here for some simple budget categories, but feel free to create your own.  Write them down, either for yourself on a piece of paper, or as a group on a whiteboard. Think carefully together about these categories. What are some concrete ways you can spend less? Consider relatively small lifestyle changes, like bringing lunch to work, and large shifts, like going without a car. Now think about actual amounts. If you made these changes in your spending, how much money would you be able to give away in one month? How much in one year?

Extended Activities You Can Do:

Think about an issue of injustice in the world that breaks your heart. In this bulletin we are addressing issues of worker exploitation and human trafficking but there are many other important issues. There are places where we can shine the light of the Lord, so pick one or two that really move you. Do some research to learn more about the issue itself and about some people and organizations doing good work in that area. Perhaps reach out to someone to meet and find out more. Then begin to plan a giving strategy for the money you save from making the lifestyle changes you chose in the previous activity. Decide how much money you would like to give, and consider the issues and organizations you have researched to determine where that money should go.

Useful Links:

Boston Faith and Justice Network

Digital Narratives on living simply and giving generously

Tom and Bree Hsieh’s story on giving in their neighborhood