This article first appeared at ReFUNCTIONation. It is used with permission.
People get up in arms about money. And in a sense, they should. It’s important. Jesus got up in arms regarding how money was being spent by the religious leaders of his day. However, it may not be the same as how those who consider themselves “churched” get up in arms about how the church spends money today.
How is it not the same? Because Jesus turned over tables due to the greed of those involved in the religious practices at the temple. Today, those who consider themselves churched don’t get up in arms about greed. Instead, unlike Jesus, they tend to get up in arms about too much generosity and not enough stored up.
Jesus praised generosity, even in its extreme form (see the story of the woman who poured out the expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus). Those who consider themselves churched tend to ridicule generosity from the local church, so much so that they will often quit giving their “own money” if their money is not expended the way they think it should be. Don’t regard the fact that no money is our own money because we’re merely managers of it. In essence, their concern becomes more focused on the church budget being what they think it should be rather than on the purposeful function of the church and the way that budget relates to that function.
There are two very serious issues ignored when this is the case.
First, when those who consider themselves churched care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring where their security rests. Our security doesn’t rest in sufficient finances but in the sufficiency of Christ. To rest in long-term financial security ignores the teachings of Jesus.
“Our security does not rest in what is given but in the one who gives. And if he gives, he can keep giving.”
In Luke 12, Jesus told this story:
Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21 HCSB).
The rich man rested in the fact that he had goods stored up for many years rather than recognizing the very purpose for which God entrusted him with abundance. Our security does not rest in what is given but in the one who gives. And if he gives, he can keep giving.
I recognize that we can be poor stewards and that we can act unwisely with what has been given. For instance, we can spending too much on ourselves or on unnecessary things that don’t relate to the intended function Jesus has for his church. That’s when we are unwise with what he has given. But to give generously of what he has given, knowing he who gives can certainly give more and even promises to give more in the book of Malachi, that would be faithful as well as wise. And that leads to the second issue ignored.
When those who consider themselves churched care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring the purpose for which Christ secures us.
We have been secured in Christ to help others discover their security in Christ. This includes personal presence in disciple making as well as supporting those who are sent elsewhere to make disciples.
“God blessed the early church to be a blessing to the nations. God blesses so that we can be a blessing to others.”
God blessed Abraham to bless the nations. God blessed the Jews to be a blessing to the nations. God blessed the early church to be a blessing to the nations. God blesses so that we can be a blessing to others.
He gives so we can give. He blesses so we can bless. He does not give so that we can store up and rest securely in what we have stored.
What the churched often fail to realize is when more attention is given to the church budget over the church’s purpose to make disciples, a higher value is placed on the financial security of the churched than on the eternal security of someone who doesn’t know Christ.
God have mercy on us.
Ask yourself this question: have I given as much or more energy and attention to making a fuss over the church budget as I have to actually making disciples of Jesus (functioning as the church like Jesus intended)?
Do I care more about how the money is spent than I do about how the church is sent?
If the answer is yes, then consider confession and repentance. Otherwise, the same fate that Sodom and Gomorrah experienced may await. “Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy” (Ezek. 16:49 HCSB).