Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Christ and Money: Too Often Rivals--Linden Malki

It was a fundraising dinner put on by a ministry organization I was not familiar with; we were there representing my evangelist brother-in-law who was unable to attend. From what they showed of the mission projects they sponsored and supported, they were doing good things for the Kingdom. Then the gloves came off. Of course it costs money to do what they do. The head of the organization said they needed to get a $5000 donation from this evening. After about ten minutes of an increasingly hard sell, somebody finally put up their hand to pledge the $5000. Then it started again, for several $2000 pledges, and more smaller amounts, committing God to blessing the donors in exchange for financially blessing the organization. I couldn't help thinking of Jesus saying in Matthew 6, that when it comes to charity, we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing, much less announce it to the world; and that if credit in this world is what you aim for, you will hit it--but that is all the credit you will get. At a similar event, different organization, I overheard one of the organization's people express disappointment in the Christian celebrity keynote speaker for not having gone for the hard financial sell. The world too often sees the church as being dependent on and demanding money, like the events I recall. Jesus saw money as a necessity of the world, but one that has to be kept in its rightful place.

Jesus spoke about money in several different contexts. One is Matthew 6:24, where Mammon, the pagan god of wealth, is a rival for God's place in our hearts. In Luke 9, the disciples are heard to discuss the cost of feeding the hillside full of people, when Jesus makes the discussion moot. The wealth of the rich young man in Luke 18 turns out to be what keeps him from following Jesus. And when Jesus is challenged on the subject of his taxes, he sends Peter back to his earlier job to bring in the coin, which is miraculously provided. (Matthew 18:27) The next installment of this conversation is the coin as the claim of the world, in contrast to the claims of God. (Matthew 22:18+)

As a church family, we have been through over a decade of financial crises that totally changed the focus of our fellowship. After more than ten years of dealing with the nuts and bolts of church finance, I never again want to be in the place where we spent that last decade. God is in the providing business, not the begging business. Sometimes I see myself on a tightrope between reality and faith; and need to remember that if God has me He will have a claim on whatever money I have--and in turn, I need God more than money..

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