Recently, I spent a morning researching 403(b) retirement investing plans.
A lot of my daily tasks in the Underground Finance Department are the sorts of things that make people’s eyes glaze over. Financial reports and quarterly taxes and a variety of state and federal forms… I think these things can make finances feel daunting. That, and maybe our perpetual anxiety about money.
The relationship between anxiety and money feels like a hallmark of American culture, but I guess it was a problem in Jesus’s context, too. “‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?’” Matthew 6:25. He says this just after He tells His disciples, “‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’” Matthew 6:24.
For me, I have found that my idols have the propensity to inflame the anxiety in me. They demand my everything, and they are not worthy of my trust. The image of idols as heavy burdens described in Isaiah 46 has stuck with me throughout my life. Over the years, the idolatry of my perfectionism and people-pleasing has weighed me down until I could barely stand at times. I am continually laying these burdens at the feet of Jesus.
Given my propensity to anxiety, I think it’s amusing that God has called me to work in the Underground’s Finance Department, the department that has the potential to be the center of so much worry. I see this as an opportunity for personal growth, and a chance for me to strive for the prophetic beauty of the kingdom Jesus speaks about in Matthew 6. The kingdom that we’re supposed to be seeking first.
When anxiety grips me, I have to break my gaze away from the idol so that I can run back to the arm’s of my Father, the only place I find true peace and joy. Turning outward in vulnerability feels like the greatest risk in these moments of high anxiety. All I want to do, on a visceral, gut level, is drive home, lock myself in my room, and dive under my covers. What I need to do is the opposite. I need to share with someone how I’m feeling, and let go of the lie that I’ve been worshipping and serving, that I can be perfect. I have to rest in the strangely relieving truth that, in my own strength, I am not enough.
After I’ve fallen into this truth, I need to rise into the reality that God, who is in me and with me, is more than enough. Serving Him doesn’t lead to a scarcity mentality- even when I’m walking through trials, even when I’m suffering, even when everything I have and am does not seem like enough. I have to remember that, although my idols always fail me, God never has. I’m struck by how often in scriptures we are called to remember things- because we can be so forgetful. I can be so forgetful. When I need to break the hold of my idols, I need intentional reminders of God’s faithfulness and goodness. I need to write these things down, hear my community say them, read them in scriptures, and cling to them, against the pummeling of the lie that wants me to serve it as master.
Sometimes, I have to repeat this process daily. Sometimes, hourly. Because I am forgetful.
This is a time of year when it is especially easy to forget. At the end of one season and the beginning of another, it’s easy to serve our plans, our budgets, our fundraisers, and our reports as master. There is a definite temptation for me to take on a burden of anxiety for the Underground as we prepare for a new year of ministry. I know, though, that God has not called me here to operate in fear and scarcity. He has called me to labor bravely to help steward the resources He has given us. He has called me to remember that He has always been faithful to give us what we need to serve microchurches in Tampa, and to be generous around the world. I want every donation, every deposit, and every report to turn my gaze toward Him and break my focus on my idol of perfection, that demands control and careful planning. These things can never replace the power of Jesus.
The Underground’s values of sharing and giving stand in direct opposition to the lies that I would serve. Alone, we do not have enough, but we are not alone. We stand together, and we stand under the leadership of Jesus, who is always more than enough. From the time I started coming to the Underground eight years ago to now, one of my favorite things about this network has been the way we do our budget. The way the leadership shares the budget with the entire community before asking us all to opt in with a giving commitment. The way 50% of our money is disbursed to the brave missionaries we are privileged to partner with in Tampa and around the world. This way of doing things stands in direct opposition to my idol of perfectionism, that carries with it isolation and posturing. I cannot serve two masters, and I am grateful for the way that Jesus is using my work with the Underground Finance Department to purge my heart and life of idols.