"I thought that spending my check from the government was supposed to be the patriotic thing to do, but I'm not sure it's the Kingdom thing to do." That is how my friend Chuck began explaining his idea about what our congregation could do with the economic stimulus payments that begin arriving in the mail this week. After hearing so much about the sluggish economy and our responsibility to jumpstart it through consumption, he was wondering if there might be a better way to invest Uncle Sam's rebate.
On Sunday, I invited Chuck to join me in front of our church. I asked him to explain why spending the money on himself was not the best thing he could do with it. "As I read about the government's plan in the news, the more the idea of spending money on myself seemed to be at odds with the values of God's kingdom," he said. He told us he'd been reading Jesus' words in Luke 12 and it appeared to be opposed to the message that we can spend our way to prosperity, security, and happiness.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear? Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted.
Chuck said that Kingdom investment doesn't necessarily mean giving money to the church.
Maybe there is a neighbor who needs some help. Maybe there is a ministry that could use some financial generosity. "The important thing," Chuck told the congregation, "is to ask God what his plans are for this money."
Next Sunday our church will use more time talking about this. The congregation will be encouraged to pray about the best way to invest their rebate. It's exciting to consider how the thousands of dollars represented in our local congregation could be creatively invested in ways that reflect and advance God's Kingdom.
Is your church talking about the Economic Stimulus Package? Has your congregation spent time imagining how our government's plan to stimulate the economy might be an opportunity to demonstrate God's alternative economy? Or, are you staying clear of anything that smacks of government and politics?
What about churches in urban or poorer rural communities - are these checks a small taste of justice for those left behind by our full-speed economy? Will people in your church spend the money on themselves, or will you also encourage them to invest it in God's kingdom?
Share what your church is doing with the stimulus package checks - the editors would love to hear.