I don’t know about you, but growing up in the church I have heard plenty of messages from the pulpit on money, giving, and yes- building campaigns. However, the older I become, and the better I know my bible, the more concerned I get about how messages on money are communicated to the church. When church members are already drowning in debt and their response to a giving campaign is to take out a second mortgage on their home, we’ve got a problem church.
God has a lot to say about the topic of money. In our own experiences, we (my husband and I) have gone from doing it all wrong, to what we believe is how God desires us to do it. And, while we haven’t “arrived,” there are truths we can stand on as we take each new step in the right direction.
My intent with the blog series to be real about a topic we don’t talk enough about. I equate it to the same way we handle sex in the church. We don’t talk about it unless we have to, and we tip toe around it not wanting to offend anyone.
I did a quick search of money and money related terms in the NIV version of the Bible at Youversion.com. Here is a list of the terms and the amount of verses they yielded: money(113), gold (414), silver(304), borrow(11), debt(19), lend(16), buy(59), sell(58), tithe(28), first fruit(31), wage(61), wealth(117), riches(151), greed(13), poor(170), and talent(35). Altogether that’s 1600 verses. This doesn’t take into account all the various suffixes of these terms. However, to be conservative, let’s consider the idea that more than one term may be mentioned in each verse or that the key term may not be used in the context of money. If we round down to 1000 verses, that’s still a lot of time spent on this idea of money. It’s safe to say Jesus talked about it a lot. And, I have heard pastors say that Jesus talked about money more in the New Testament than heaven and hell combined. So, why don’t we talk about it more often?
If we as a church talked about money more, maybe that cringe we all get would go away. You know, the one that hits when we realize the pastor is talking about money and he’s about to ask us for more of it.
What adds even more to that cringe is that we pound the point home that we must give all that we have, everything. Then we add the cherry on top with the example from 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we must do it with a cheerful heart. But, what is overlooked in the preceding verses is the fact that cheerful gift took the church over a year to prepare for (v2). While the chapter is filled with a tone of earnestness for the duty of giving, there is no lack of helping the people of Archaia to prepare. Even leaders were sent (v3) to help so that the people would be ready with a “willing gift and not an exaction (v5 ESV)” or feeling of being forced.
It is acceptable that a church body be encouraged to give. It is even understood when it is done so with great passion and charge. What isn’t okay is giving a charge without helping the body to accomplish it step by step. Shouldn’t we first teach our congregations how to live within their means and how to get God’s financial principles right? As a church body are we not drowning in debt like the rest of the nation? Instead, why not give us the tools we need to be able to give generously out of an abundance that comes from getting God’s financial priorities right?
When we encourage the body to give by reminding them that Jesus gave us everything, and our only response is to do the same, we aren’t teaching people to give cheerfully, we are stressing them out. Most people know they should give, but they haven’t first been prepared with how to handle money. For those without jobs, or those drowning in debt, or those who just know they should be tithing and aren’t, it just makes them feel guilty. Which now makes that earnest charge to give that tithe or gift or campaign pledge an exaction.
This church member has been without jobs, was once drowning in debt, was once not giving a full tithe, has felt guilty for making a building campaign pledge that I couldn’t give one dollar towards, had a marriage and family that suffered greatly because our financial priorities did not match God’s. We had grown up in the church so of course, like most everyone else, we didn’t need help because we knew better. You don’t know what you don’t know sometimes.
Now, however, having had formal instruction on God’s financial principles and how to daily apply them to life, I am able to give from a place of freedom, a place of thanksgiving so deep down for all that God has brought us through. Our marriage is stronger. There is peace in our home. (If you want to read more about that story click here.) We are not so consumed with our own money troubles that we are blinded to the needs of others. We are rich. That fact never changed. The only thing that did was how we viewed money. And now, my heart aches for those still locked in the bondage.
Church, God loved us so much He gave! It is in our DNA to be givers, and I do believe that when we give with such “hilarity” as the Greek word derives from, that people on the outside will look at our generosity as almost a joke because it will be so hard for them to fathom why someone would do that.
Has God given us everything? Yes!
Does He want us to enjoy it? Yes!
Does He want us to be wise with it? Yes!
Does He want us to save it and invest it and yield a return from it? Yes!
Does He require everything from us in return? Yes!
Does that mean we need to be generous? Yes!
Does that mean we need to be so generous some will think that we are crazy? Yes!
It’s a matter of YES!
AND… Has he provided a way for people to be able to get to this point without being exacted by the church? Yes!
Church, we have an awesome responsibility teach God’s people HOW to manage God’s resources.
When we do this will marriages be saved? Yes!
Will tithes increase? Yes!
When God’s people are giving as they should will we have a need for a building campaign? Probably not!
So, let’s start with education instead of exaction.
Before we ask people to be generous, let’s lay the ground work and prepare them for the opportunity by offering classes on budgeting and personal finance. In fact, let’s continue this ongoing help with a complete stewardship ministry. Then and only then, will we create a body of cheerful givers who will be able to give like no one else.
To read the next post in this series click here.