According to Paul, that's the point of economic gain. According to most of us when we are honest, it's more like "That they may get ahead." or "That they may buy more stuff." or "That they may save up for a vacation." And I say this in all humility because I am literally saving up some scant extra income coming our way for a modest vacation.
But Paul says "That they may have something to share with those in need."
A week ago, it was Luke's and my day off. And after a long chain of work travel followed by illness where I got nothing done but was absolutely exhausted, I needed Sabbath. I needed that day where I can rest not because my body is requiring me to and not because I worked hard the week leading up to it (because since Friday I had mostly been lying down, watching 30 Rock and whining about feeling sick), but simply because it's a day to rest in God's abundance that provides more than enough for all of us. Traveling or at home. Sick or getting sh%t done.
God provides more than enough for all of us, so I can rest in reception, celebration, and worship of all I have that is all gift.
And early on my day off, I got a phone call from an out of state number. There is something satisfying for those of us in helping professions when we get to hit "decline" on a phone call on our day off. I've thought about having someone call me every Sabbath morning so I can decline the call as a ritual way of beginning my Sabbath. It felt like a holy way of putting my demanding iPhone in it's place for a day.
But then I listened to the message. It was a brand new neighbor who was out of funds for the rest of the week and running short on food and diapers for her and her son. She called me hoping our church might be able to help.
It was Sabbath. But a neighbor wasn't experiencing the abundance I was celebrating. A neighbor was in need. When we follow a man who healed on the Sabbath, our Sabbath practice can't be about ignoring how the abundance scale is tipped in our direction.
I called her back. Holding the importance of my Sabbath practice, she and I discerned if she was good for the day and if supplies could wait for the next morning. She said she was good. And we could meet in the morning.
She also said something that I wish was surprising: "I didn't expect a church to call back."
From the deepest pit of my soul, I wish that statement surprised me. And from the deepest churning pit in my stomach, I understood exactly what she was saying. I've worked for too many churches living in our own sense of scarcity that causes us to send folks in need to various social services or ask them to come back the one day a week that we offer a meal but that express, "We just don't have the funding to help you out." Or possibly we have a benevolence fund but it comes along with this caveat: "This is a one time gift of $15."
I wasn't surprise that she was surprised that I called her. But Luke and I had decided, wherever it came from, we were going to make sure her needs for the week were met. Otherwise what is this abundance we're enjoying on Sabbath about? We are a new church with a tight budget and new church planters with our own even tighter budget. But even in that, there has to be room for a neighbor to have some basic food and diapers.
Before returning to Sabbath rest, I put a call out on a facebook page of neighbors who give and receive to and from each other. Mainly it's a way of recycling furniture and baby clothes. But I thought I'd put it out there that a new neighbor needed some basic food items and some diapers to get her through the week, and see what happens. It's important to note: this is not a religious group. This is not a Christian group. These are strangers who live in the neighborhood. Though, sometimes they look more like a healthy church than many churches do.
And I went about Sabbathing.
At the end of the day, the thread, like manna on a Friday or a feast of loaves and fish, was full with enough and then some. I traveled all around North Everett the next morning picking up items neighbors wanted to share with this new neighbor in need. Humbled by the generosity of my neighbors, I gathered the gifts and shared them with her. I told her, "These are all from neighbors who wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood even though they don't know you. Welcome. And please don't hesitate to reach out any time."
One of the gifts a neighbor gave was a gift card to a grocery store. He said he has some on hand for situations like this. He said there was a circumstance where he came into some extra money and he knew that this is what it's for: That he may share with those in need.
He knows what the point of financial gain is: "That you may share with those in need." And I have a Bible verse for that but am saving up for a vacation. And Churches have this verse in our lectionary so we hear it at least once every three years and our pastors study it at least once every three years. But those in need are surprised when we call back wanting to share with them.
The church is being out-churched.
There's a worship song from 2002 (that I don't really recommend) that asks "Who will be the salt if the salt should lose it's flavor?" I saw the answer last Tuesday. If the church forgets how to be church, neighbors will remember. God is not locked up in our walls and organizations. God is living abundantly in our neighbors and neighborhoods, constantly inviting the church to be the church - through little phone calls on our days off and the like - but if we miss the call and don't call back, God finds others to be church and spread abundance and to know what money is for: that we may share with those in need.
My prayer today is that we listen for those calls to be church and that we don't miss out on them. May we not be out-churched today. May we start writing a new story where, chapters down the road, neighbors will no longer be surprised that a church responds to their needs. May we live like we've read Ephesians 4:28 so that, when a neighbor (who is not intentionally following Jesus) speaks it to us, it resonates with what we already know and does not stun us with what we've forgotten.
And the selfishly best part of all of this: my Sabbath rest is all the richer and more restful for this story. I've seen God's abundance system that continues to churn out gifts when we rest and that always provides more than enough. I can share with those in need because that's the playful work God is about. I'm just joining in God's favorite passtime - and blessed by the invitation to play along.