Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Eucharist as a Model for Money Management

Yesterday, I posed a question on facebook: "What would it look like to use the Last Supper as a model for money management?" This question was inspired by Walter Brueggemann, who says that Christ's "narrative of abundance" is captured by Eucharist, in which all are undeserving, equal partakers of God's gift. What would it look like if we applied the logic of this sacrament to our budgeting?

Eucharist budgeting begins with thankfulness

If one models one's budget off of the last supper, one will begin by establishing that all wealth is a gift from God, for which we should be thankful. In all accounts, Jesus began the last supper by giving thanks (Mk. 14:22; Matt. 26:26; Lk. 22:17), so we should begin our budget by recognizing the nature of our wealth as the abundance of God and then we should practice gratitude, thanking God for every dollar (for more on thankfulness, see my blog on the subject, here).

Jesus modeled Eucharist resource management in the miracles in which he fed thousands. In the last supper, Jesus blessed, broke and gave the bread. In the miracle stories, he blessed, broke and gave the food (Matt. 14:19; Mk. 6:41; Lk. 9:16; Mk. 8:6; Matt. 15:36). I think in those miracle stories, Jesus was conducting the Eucharist on a grand scale; thus, it benefits us to talk about these miracles.

Acknowledgement of the abundance of God counters the natural way one approaches budgeting. One would usually approach a budget the way Phillip approached feeding the 5,000: "It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" (Jn. 6:7; Mk. 6:37). Or how the disciples responded to Jesus: "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish" (Matt. 14:17; Lk. 9:13).

Jesus, on the other hand, saw the abundance, amid what seemed like scarcity. With only a few loaves and a few fish prepared for thousands of people, several baskets were left over.

After Jesus fed thousands for the second time, he got in a boat with his disciples. They realized that they had forgotten to bring bread. How disappointing. Jesus then asked them, "Do you still not understand?" (Mk. 8:21). Are you really still living in scarcity? Do you still not see the abundance?

Eucharist budgeting receives wealth as the abundance of God


The last supper was made up of disciples receiving the sacrifice that Jesus made for them. We received God's gift to us. Likewise, we should receive God's gift to us as we design our budgets.

"Take and eat," said Jesus to his disciples in the last supper (Matt. 26:26). Similarly, in the miracle stories, "they all ate and were satisfied" (Mk. 6:42; Matt. 14:20; Lk. 9:17; Mk. 8:8; Matt. 15:37). We all have needs, desires and interests. God wants to satisfy them. He wants to bless us. He wants us to experience abundance; he wants us to realize the abundance that we are already subjected to. So we must receive it. We must take and eat.

In the process of distributing your wealth to the various needs and desires reflected in your budget, think of it as taking and eating what God has abundantly given. Receive it with thankfulness.

Eucharist budgeting gives selflessly

In the Eucharist, Jesus is not simply giving the disciples food to eat, he is pointing to the Cross, in which he would give himself up for them completely. Likewise, our actions should point to the Cross. As Jesus' blood was "poured out for many" (Mk. 14:24; Matt. 26:28; Lk. 22:20), so our lives should be poured out for many; and this most definitely includes our money management. 

In the miracle story, Jesus told his disciples, "You give them something to eat" (Matt. 14:16; Mk. 6:37; Lk. 9:13). I think Christ has this message to all people: You give them something to eat.

Jesus told his disciples in the last supper, "do this in remembrance of me" (Lk. 22:19). Jesus gave himself to the disciples, and they received. Now, they are to give themselves to others for them to receive. 

In Luke's record of the last supper, Jesus says something quite profound:
The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. (22:25-30a)
It is amazing that this passage, one that completely runs counter to the capitalist society we live in, is said immediately following the Eucharist sacrament. The Eucharist calls us to an alternative Kingdom, in which the goal is to be emptied and lowly (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). With the last supper, Jesus placed on his disciples the responsibility of embodying the Kingdom of God, which belongs to the poor (Lk. 6:20). Our budgets should reflect that Kingdom, and not the capitalist society that surrounds us.

Next time you work on your budget, consider following the last supper: give thanks, bless your wealth, receive it as the abundance of God, let is satisfy you, and then give.

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