God Is Bad With Money
There was once a wealthy banker who was so intrigued by what he heard about Jesus of Nazareth that he decided to go hear him preach. The banker listened intently to Jesus’ teachings. Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd who leaves 99 sheep just to save one. He told a parable about an important, honorable man who nonetheless lavishly celebrated the return of his disgraceful, disreputable son. And Jesus responded to questions with opaque riddles about the Kingdom of God. After hearing Jesus, the banker felt a mixture of confusion, curiosity, and inspiration.
But while the banker was often unsure about what Jesus was saying, he could see that Jesus radiated a unique and compelling love. The banker was so moved by this mysterious rabbi that he gave Jesus a large sum of money. He told Jesus, “With this money, you and your disciples will not need to worry about food or shelter for months. Perhaps you can purchase new sandals and clothes. Please use this money in whatever way you see fit.” Jesus was moved by the banker’s generosity and thanked him.
Later that evening, the banker heard a great commotion in the town’s most prestigious dining hall. Perhaps an important dignitary was passing through? But if that was the case, why wasn’t the banker notified or invited? After all, a man of his status was always invited to events important enough to be hosted at such a dignified location. Unable to resist his curiosity, the banker approached the dining hall.
As he came closer, he noticed that the usual patrons were not walking in or out of the hall. In fact, it appeared that there were no important people present at the party. He saw beggars, prostitutes, tax collectors, widows, and people with disabilities. The banker looked around the street to see that the street was indeed empty: the homeless were not in their usual spots. Were they all inside?
Finally, the banker asked one of the town beggars, who was walking outside for air, what was going on: “Haven’t you heard?”, replied the beggar, “Jesus is throwing a party. Everyone is invited.” The banker felt shock, then anger. He went inside to confront Jesus.
The banker found Jesus sitting at a table, laughing at jokes while refilling everyone’s wine. The banker did not wait for any jokes to finish before he started in, “Did you use my money to pay for all of this?!” Jesus replied, “You requested that I spend the money as I saw fit. So I have.” The banker retorted, “But you could have used this money in so many other ways. You could have paid for lodging or food. You could have at least saved or invested it.”
Jesus shook his head, “There are no storehouses in the kingdom of God. There is no calculation or hoarding. Haven’t you heard my teaching? I leave the 99 for one. I celebrate the return of the prodigal, sparing no expense. What you hoard for yourself is what you will lose, but what you freely give, you will have in abundance.”
The banker was caught off guard by this response. The picture was becoming more clear, but he was still bewildered. Exhausted, he asked, “But isn’t all of this just… a little excessive?” For the first time in the conversation, Jesus began to smile, “Love is nothing if not excessive.”
After saying this, Jesus went back to laughing with others at the party, and the banker returned home, harboring those now-familiar feelings of confusion, curiosity, and inspiration.