I grew up in a traditional Methodist church. One thing we did every year was put on a Walk Through Holy Week with church members acting out parts of the life of Jesus. They had segments taken from the Gospels, spanning birth to the crucifixion and resurrection. I had the chance to play Jesus more than once in, what I think, is one of the great scenes in the New Testament:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:13-17
It is the one time we read of a Jesus acting aggressively, clearing tables and physically driving the merchants from the temple. He entered the temple and the sights there drove him, the Prince of Peace, mad enough to make a whip and clear the room with it.
In my version, we had fake tables set up on saw horses and I went around the Sunday school room flipping the tables and sending the fake coins flying while yelling, “You’ve turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves.” It was a good time.
This morning, in church, we started a series about Generosity. I don’t know about you, but I have an inherent physical aversion that creeps up whenever clergy members start talking about money. Val and I tithe what we can on a weekly basis and I still get this bad taste in my mouth.
We attended a start-up church once where the pastor’s wife stood in front of the congregation, probably forty people at the time, with her and her husband’s itemized monthly bills. She read them off as inspiration for the goal of him being able to pastor full-time and not work a side job. I had wondered what Jesus would have thought of that experience
In today’s world any church must have a solid budget to fall back on. They need the Holy Spirit to be successful and financial backing to keep moving forward. If it is not there, they must pray for some talented volunteers. Things like media, communication, worship and print materials are easier to produce and acquire than ever before and, sadly, even more expensive.
The topic of money is a double-edged sword. Check out the contrasts:
Believe and you’ll be blessed – Oh you will be blessed, just not in the way you imagined. God doesn’t operate in a box. He made the box. Faith does not equal riches, prosperity, or seeing your dream come true. Faith is seeing God’s dream come true and doing your part. Faith is dangerous. Faith operates to get you off the sidelines and into the game where you may get hit, hurt, bruised, and battered. It is the knowledge that He will never leave your side and how this idea impacts your life on a daily basis.
God will provide – He will provide what you need when you need it. Too many churches turn this into justification. They make it the arm on the great slot machine in the sky. The same God that tells us he will never leave or forsake us, also states to sell our possessions and give to the poor. He calls us to faith action and he works on his time. The journey is a process. Know that you will never be alone.
Test me in this – The only time we are allowed to test God is with our giving, according to the Bible. He dares us to give and see what happens. You want his blessing? Give and he will provide.
Condition, condition, condition.
We need less conditions and more grace. We need less pastors taking in six-figure salaries and more homeless shelters with beds and hot meals. We need less castles that hold thousands of people on Sunday mornings and more feet on the sidewalks, meeting people where they are.
We need to tell the stories, shake hands, open hearts, and reflect the love we’ve found in Jesus.
It is here, when we drop the emotional connection to money, we find the ease in giving. When we remove expectations, we give God room to work. When we serve, we live and are led by his direction into the future.
Money can be redeemed and the church needs to get this message before it is too late.