Money and the Church

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I was talking with Ben recently when the topic of money as it relates to Christianity came up. He admitted that, as much as he loves the thought of driving a Mercedes Benz, he didn’t know how, as a Christian, he could justify ever spending $60,000 on a car. He talked about different reasons why it would be unwise, like the numerous ways in which that money could be used to support the growth of the kingdom and the doubtless negative impact driving a car like that would have on certain evangelistic efforts. I was inclined to agree with him, but as I always try to do, I wanted to make sure his argument was consistent.

So I started thinking about all the ways we use money in the church. How often do churches financially focus on the perishable things instead of the eternal things? Maybe not even instead of, but in the place of an incredibly more substantial amount of good the church could be doing with that money? How often do churches spend inordinate amounts for things like stained glass windows and extravagant steeples while there are missionaries and Christian families in third-world countries who are struggling to survive? How often are we fretting about the color of the carpet when there are desperate Christian teenagers who will never have a chance at a better life because they cannot afford a college education at a Christian school? Just one instance of either of these happening is too many, and yet it happens far too frequently.

That train of thought led me to an all-together different one. The church’s money–whether it be spent on mission work, youth events, VBS, food banks, or stained glass windows–is right from the pockets of her members—amounts which, if members are giving as God commanded, are generous and deliberate sacrifices.  I began thinking about how seriously young people consider the symbiotic relationship between church members and financial contribution. Typically, the answer is that it just isn’t a big deal. Even at Christian universities, seeing a college student participate in contribution on Sunday mornings is rare. That’s something we can do when we’re older, right?

The truth is, regardless of our ages and stations in life, we’re to give out of whatever income we have (I Corinthians 16:2). Even if we’re just working summer jobs, we’re commanded to set some aside just for the work of the church. As a child, I was taught that it was simply “God’s money.” For me, as a little girl, God’s money was 10% of my weekly allowance. Even at that age, I was learning the importance of contribution, and was reminded often of the value in being a “cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).

While this point seems irrelevant to the discussion I had with my husband, I think there are some distinct connections between the two. If people understood the importance of setting aside money every week for the direct purpose of helping the kingdom to grow, we would care a lot more about what the elders decide to do with that money. We would care a lot more about that money materializing in the form of modest church buildings in Africa, scholarships for Christian teens who are full of potential for Him, help for the homeless, medical bills for the sick and impoverished, and evangelistic efforts everywhere. And maybe–just maybe—the brand new Mercedes Benz cars would lose some of their appeal.

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” –Mark 12:41-44