Why is that man holding a sign, Daddy?” “He wants us to give him some money.” “Why does he want money, Daddy?” “Because he doesn’t have any and he’s hungry.” “Why aren’t you giving him any money, Daddy?” “Because I’m not sure he’s really going to spend it on food . . . errr . . .
This parable in Matthew is a sister to the song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5. In both cases, God is the farmer who has provided generously so that the vineyard will be very fruitful. In Isaiah, the distress is over a lack of good fruit despite fine care of the vineyards. In Jesus’ story, the fruit is good, but the trusted stewards are corrupt and self-serving.
Former Colorado senator Gary Hart has drafted a policy blueprint for the next U.S. president. Hart, a Democrat who began his political career in 1971 as national campaign manager for George McGovern, is politically well prepared to make this proposal. Even more important, his proposal is theologically grounded.
"Pay attention: These are our values." That’s what we’re saying when we make decisions about spending money or ask others to spend money on our behalf. For an engaged couple, it all starts with the wedding. Brides magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding today exceeds $19,000.
In the mid-1980s I attended a church that still honored “Money Sunday,” a practice begun in the 1950s. Once a year members of the congregation gathered to make financial pledges to support missions efforts. As the pledges were collected, the minister would read the amounts aloud from the pulpit: “Here’s one for $50. . . . Here’s another for $100 and one for $1,000!” Occasionally a pledge came in for, say, $10,000, eliciting all sorts of approving oohs and aahs from the congregation.
I want to propose Smokey Bear, who turned 60 in August, as a new symbol for proper stewardship. We Martys became Smokeyites during our years of camping. The image and message of Bear traveled with us as mentor, judge and conscience, as our sons learned to drench all embers and tattle on all smokers. Only we could prevent forest (now “wild”) fires.
No one knows more clearly or more uncomfortably the tensions of life lived between the gospel and economic necessity than a parish clergyperson whose text for the day is “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . look at the birds of the air . . .