Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
How many times have you heard someone complain that their congregation talks about money way too much? You may have said the same. Your complaint may very well be valid, and yet the congregation’s need is probably genuine. Probably, in most churches, the leadership would much rather not lodge any requests at all. Ideally, people would be ‘Gospel motivated.’ When it becomes difficult- or impossible- to meet the payroll or pay building expenses, the leadership has to bite the bullet and issue the plea(s).
What is really going on is a lack of familiarity with what the Scriptures say about money and a lack of courage or foresight within the leadership to teach about money. Actually, a lot of it is that some folks don’t even care what the Scriptures say on the issue. Their views on money, like so many other views, are born of one’s own ‘natural reasoning.’ This post is not about them. This post is about folks who do care. Let me share some of my experiences leading a ministry that relies a great deal on donations. But first, let me state plainly what I hope this post will accomplish:
The reader will open up their Bibles for themselves and study what it has to say about money (time, talent, and treasure) from beginning to end.
Now to my thoughts, which I hope will achieve the above. 🙂
I don’t like asking for money. Never have. Never will. I like to earn my money. When I earn the money, no one else has a claim on it. I can use it according to my own best judgment. ‘Given’ money comes with obligations, even when it doesn’t. The difficulty when applied to a congregation is that, in point of fact, the people who receive their ‘given money’ have actually earned it. And rightfully so:
“the worker deserves his wages.” Jesus, in Luke 10:7
We aren’t talking about pan handlers begging for money, here. It isn’t merely ‘asking for money.’ People have a right to their ‘wage.’
This theme is picked up again in 1 Timothy 5, where the apostle Paul quotes Jesus, but I would like to direct your attention to 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul discourses on the same principle, saying, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”
Indeed, this principle is not unique to the ministry. In Romans 13, in a passage often cited to justify submission to even the most tyrannical of taxation, we read: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.” You see, even the governing authority deserves is wages from those being served. It’s a proper, God ordained (and therefore to be obeyed) principled, associating the service/occupation with its just rewards.
I found this principle neatly bundled in another passage, Galatians 6:6:
One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
In other words, he who is built up spiritually should respond materially- to the specific person that built him up.
I think it is unfortunate that our congregations have switched to a corporate model. This one to one correlation is obscured when all the money goes into a ‘general fund.’ It’s hard to get excited about giving when its impact is perceived only in the abstract. If, say, a staff member were specifically funded by 40 families, then those families would have an intimate understanding of how their giving goes directly towards another person’s welfare. (Just an idea to illustrate the principle).
Here’s my point in all of this. It is a thoroughly scriptural principle that one ought to support materially those who labor spiritually. No leadership staff wants to charge for their services. That just seems weird. And yet, if they ask to be paid for their services, people think they are acting like mercenaries. They think that because they don’t know their Scriptures. However, if the leadership knew (or applied) their Scriptures, they would not be embarrassed to draw the connection for people.
As I said, I hate asking for money in general. However, I am no longer really embarrassed to do so. Why not? Because in the first place I understand that I am entitled, like the ox (1 Tim 5:18), to have a material benefit from the hard work I carry out. In the second place- and this is important– I have come to realize that my invitations to donate to this ministry represent an opportunity.
This post is not meant to be a glorified donation pitch. 🙂 It is just that in the course of carrying out this ministry I have come to see the wisdom in what the Scriptures say on this matter. Do you remember the passage I began with? Where one’s treasure is, there also is their heart.
It is simple enough to understand when one sits down to understand it. Obviously, we devote our money, time, talents, and resources to the things we value. If the only place one could spend their money was at the local mall, adding even more stuff to the stuff we already had, then we would have no choice but to store up our treasures on earth.
My accepting donations provides a tangible opportunity for people to consider where they invest their resources. Likewise, churches, charities, and foundations, etc. Moreover, it allows people to extend their values beyond their own sphere of existence.
For example, you may value having tribesmen in Ghana being able to read and write. You could pack up your things and head out there to teach literacy yourself, I suppose, but what if you also valued inner city economic development? You can’t very well do both things at the same time, now can you!
Investing your resources in the things that you value kills three birds with one stone: 1., you allow someone to earn their just reward for their labors, 2., you have a tangible way to ‘store up treasures in heaven’, 3., you are able to participate in activities and ministries that would otherwise be practically impossible for you to do so.
To me, seeing things in these terms, I have come to relish the deployment of my ‘time, talent, and treasure.’ This is in part because most of my giving is to specific individuals and causes where the results are easy to see. This illustrates a reality that I think is true of all humans, and is one reason why I don’t like using the government to do charity. It reduces love to a bureaucracy and none of us ever are able to see what our ‘giving’ actually, specifically achieves. But that is a topic I’ve already hashed out often enough on this blog. 🙂
Now, there are thousands of small organizations out there that rely on donations, as well as the thousands of churches. You are not obliged in any way to donate to them all. 🙂 However, I would urge you to consider which ones are active in your own life. If you are served by them, or support their efforts, then you should find a way to demonstrate this tangibly. (Especially if you are served by them, as Scripturally speaking, there is an obligation there).
This blog is an apologetics blog, so I expect that I’ll get a lot of folks interested in apologetics ministries in particular. In the course of my own apologetics activities I have come across a number of small organizations that could use your support.
Do you follow what I’m saying here? If you think the church needs more solid apologetics, then the existence of these organizations represents an opportunity for you to kill the three birds previously mentioned. I have been following these ministries for some time and can vouch for their commitment and competency. If you are looking for a way to support an apologetics ministry this year, and haven’t any idea where to start, then let me suggest the following ministries which I know could use your donations:
Confident Christianity. Roger and MaryJo Sharp are doing some really good work with Muslims and hard core skeptics.
Apologetics315. Brian Auten has been plugging away at creating a clearinghouse of valuable materials for some time. He facilitates the work of other apologists, and does a good job at it.
True Free Thinker. The volume of output by Mariano Grinbank is astounding. He tackles (literally, I think) the hard core atheists, and with his Jewish background, has unique insights on the theism ‘debate.’
Midwest Christian Outreach. Don Veinot has been managing this ministry for as long as I’ve been interested in apologetics. I distinctly remember quizzing him and Bob and Gretchin Passantino on just how one makes a living doing apologetics back in the mid nineties. (They all laughed. It’s still funny today). Anyway, MCO is a tremendously effective counter-cult ministry.
(Sorry for those I’ve left out… maybe I can get you in another post)
By all means, you shouldn’t just take my word on them. Research them and check out what they’re doing over a period of time. There are other ways to invest in ministries and organizations than just giving money, too. The point, though, my friends, is their very existence represents an opportunity for you. They, and thousands of ministries big and small, represent tangible ways you can devote your treasure to someone other than yourself.
If the organizations I just plugged aren’t your cup of tea, you can be sure that somewhere out there is an organization promoting your values. Find them and support them… and don’t forget the people in your local area or in your own life and the people who are already serving you in some way. Galatians 6:6, baby.