Why go to Church when my finances are shaky?

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A lot of people are under the impression that the Church is all about money. They will say that the Church only preaches about money, an idea born from the TV preachers. This is a valid charge, since many TV evangelists lay on some pretty thick guilt trips if you don’t send in your check. Some other Churches do make taking up the offering the centerpiece of the service, even to go so far as to check up on your finances to make sure you are giving your full 10% or “tithe”. Frankly, these are both abuses of Church power, and have no place in the Church.

Some use this reason so that the Church won’t ask them for money. People get hit up for money all the time, from the Fraternal Order of Police to the local charity drive. People are standing in the median at the four-way stop, or kids are coming to door asking for donations to this cause or that. Add to this the fact that the Government is always dipping into your check and taking out taxes so they can do their important social programs. Money is a sensitive issue, and everyone needs it.

But we would certainly be justified in talking about you and your money, since many parables and passages of Scripture deal specifically with finances. “Don’t gather up treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19), the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), “go sell all that you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21), there were no needy among them since anyone with property would sell it and lay the sum at the feet of the Apostles (Acts 4:34-35) and “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Someone who objects to the Church because it has something to say about their money have to reckon with God, not the Church.

Aside from reassurance that our Church isn’t like that, repeated assurances that we are not after money, some people will still believe that the Church is all about money. And there will still be occasions that we will ask for money. We must remember that some folks have had bad experiences with Churches and money. We need to be sensitive to this, because someone’s grandmother may have been conned by a money-hungry preacher at some point, and now that family is destitute.

But instead of becoming defensive, our first reaction to this objection might be, “how can I help you?” Perhaps there is a person who needs generosity and hospitality before they can respond to God’s grace.

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Giving

Lavish Expressions of Love

In light of the recent stories about churches removing people from membership for lack of attendance and lack of tithing, I am reminded of this passage in 2 Corinthians 8 about “God loves a cheerful giver”. A person should not give reluctantly or under compulsion, which is exactly what a church puts in place if they say you have to tithe to them to continue to be a member. There is some thing to be said for being an active attender of a church. A person ought not to neglect the fellowship. But church cannot demand a tithe, or make it a condition of membership. Rather, giving should be an expression of love and dependence on the Father who gives His own love lavishly in the atoning blood of his Son, i addition to the grace and blessings we receive every day.

God bless you on this Friday!

Money Matters

When it’s tax time, that means its time to focus on the one thing that comes third in our lives, after God and family, and that’s money. Did you know that the Bible has more to say about money and money management than any other single topic? It’s no wonder, since many of our decisions often factor in 1) how much will this cost? 2) will I be able to pay this off, and 3) does my insurance cover this? Whether we are thinking about a house, a car, a new job, or surgery, money often becomes a deciding factor in our decision. Thankfully the Bible gives us solid guidelines on the use and saving of money, because money often represents time, as often as it represents assets.

Converting time and assets into money is nothing new. Ancient Israelites would convert their livestock into money, making it easier for them to travel to Jerusalem and there buy the proper sacrifices for the Temple. A person’s time working in another man’s field was considered a “day’s wage”. When you collect a paycheck, you are agreeing to the exchange of time (and skill), your invaluable, irreplaceable commodity, for the benefit of someone else’s profit margin. But this is a willing surrender, since compensation means a house payment, a car payment, and food on the table.

The Bible also speaks to the ownership of private property when it commands “thou shalt not steal”. God is very concerned about fairness, but not income inequality. Though the idea of equal pay for equal work is to be commended, income inequality is about envy, contrary to another commandment, “thou shalt not covet . . .”.

The Bible gives us rules and ethics for honest work, and what it means to provide for our families, but it also teaches about the proper use of debt, the payment of taxes, giving back to God, and saving for retirement. Just a cursory glance at the Bible’s principles of spending and saving money is enough to make me wonder if I’m honoring God with my money.

Principle of Work

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
(2Th 3:10)
Paul reminds the Thessalonians that even though he was apostle, he did not ignore the fact that he needed to work, with his own hands, to take care of his own needs. He argues that he had the right to expect compensation, but their sake, did not demand it. As long as we are able, we should be willing to work with our hands hands to care for our daily needs.

Principles of Debt and Repayment

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
(Rom 13:7)

In this section on respecting and honoring government (even when its hostile), Paul also reminds them that just because you are now a new man in Christ doesn’t erase financial and legal obligations to the state and others whose privileges you enjoy.

Principles of Giving

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2Co 9:7)
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about giving go far beyond tithing to the idea that we give as as we believe, according to our dependence on God. God lays no strict tithing program upon the Christian, but to give as he is cheerfully able.

Warning about Retirement and Planning for the Future

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
(Luk 12:19-20)

Jesus’ warning to the Jews of his day include this short story about  a man whose barns weren’t big enough to store his crop. It is a this point that the man decides to retire. This is exactly when God warns him that his life has come to an end, and what does he have to show for it? When it comes to retirement planning, Jesus is is calling us to give greater thought to how we plan for ourselves and our families.