There John sits, at the early morning service of First Jesus Church, (insert your preferred denomination here; this applies to all who follow Jesus). The worship team had just wrapped up a powerful twenty minute praise session, one in which John genuinely sang every word with his hands raised high. The associate pastor, Neal, follows with announcements. He announces new small groups that are starting up in the fall, one of which John is teaching, and an upcoming missions trip to help a struggling group of believers construct a church building. John is already signed up. After announcements Neal prays and ushers the teaching pastor, Steve, onto the stage. As always, Steve teaches a moving message – one that is filled with historical context and the original Greek. John soaks up every word, furiously scribbling notes in his journal. He can’t wait to reflect back on this message in the upcoming week during his daily quiet times.
Steve concludes his message and announces that it is time to take up ‘tithes and offerings.’ John suddenly feels a quick jerk in his stomach; maybe it was that leftover taco he ate for breakfast, the one that he got from the late night T-bell run after the concert last night. John pulls out his wallet to see if he has anything to give, he was pretty tapped out after all his bills. He’s in luck: one wrinkled ten dollar bill folded deep in the corner of his wallet. Suddenly he remembers that he has lunch plans with a friend. John is stuck at a crossroads, does he give this money as ‘tithes and offerings’ or does he keep it so he can spend some solid time in fellowship at lunch? Surely God would not want him to forgo time in fellowship. He quickly stuffs Mr. Hamilton back in his wallet and smiles at the deacon passing by with the offering plate. After church John can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt. He isn’t sure why. He’s always heard that “tithing” is an old covenant command, but then again he has also heard quite a few pastors preach on Malachi 3:10 and “pouring down of blessings.” John shakes off this feeling and thinks “God Cares more about how I live for him than how I spend my money”. He resolves that he will be more frugal this week, so when Sunday comes he will have something to give. That makes John feel better as he drives to lunch.
Lest there be any confusion, I am not seeking to prove/disprove a biblical precedence for tithing for the New Covenant church. (This is a topic I intend to explore in later posts). I do seek, however, to draw your attention to a topic that is sometimes taboo, often overlooked, and almost always misunderstood in Christian circles.
If you haven’t already guessed it, my focus and contribution to LivingResurrected.org will be discussing money matters from a Christ follower’s perspective. That’s right! MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY… MONAY!, (sung to the tune of The O’Jays “For the Love of Money”). No, I am not talking about stock selection strategies, back-dooring your IRA, or tax avoidance advice (I am not a financial advisor and lack the credentials and the desire to instruct anyone in these matters), though we will look at the underlying principals behind those decisions down the road.
There are a plethora of books on Christian finance out there. I’ve done my best to read them all, though I admit I still have a few to go. With the rise of men like Dave Ramsey, Ronald Blue, and Randy Alcorn, more attention has been paid to money matters in recent years, but I believe there is still a case of cognitive dissonance in the church today. With our mouths we admit that all we have belongs to Christ, but our actions often say otherwise.
I agree with author Howard Dayton that Christians tend to treat their finances much like 12th century crusading mercenaries treated their swords. During the crusades the church enlisted pagan mercenaries, but they insisted the mercenaries be baptized. During baptism, a mercenary would hold his sword above the water symbolizing that it was the one thing God did not control. They were free to use their swords however they wished. Today we often approach our money similarly, if a bit more subtly. We hold our wallet or purse above the water, saying, “God, You are Lord of everything important in my life – except for my money.”
We live in a church culture consumed by debt, marital struggles and divorce blamed on financial distress and a constant sense of stress/depression due to a bad case of “keeping up with the Joneses.” I think there is a lot of room for progress in the way we understand and apply biblical principles about the power and influences of money.
I am extending an invitation, from one pilgrim to another: an invitation to journey with me to discover what Christ, New Testament teachers and other church fathers taught about money, possessions and the potential of both to impact our relationships with Christ, for good or bad.
Join me over the next 12 months as we learn together in attempt to discover how we as believers are called to view money & possessions and leverage them for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.