Thanks to Vanessa for this guest post. For more by Vanessa check out her regular blog: Bible, Beer, and Babies.
No one likes to talk about money. I know of no church elder, pastor or lay member who enjoys standing in front of their congregation to talk about dollars, debts and givings.
Whether we avoid the topic due to fear of accusations of legalism or worry over ties being drawn to televangelists and word of faith scammers who cheat people out of money, promising health, wealth and promises God Himself didn’t make all for a small fee, the fact remains — we suck at talking about money. It’s uncomfortable and perhaps taboo, because we all know, people are to give joyfully, not guiltfully.
But discomfort or not, taboo or not, this is a conversation we must have.
The hard truth is churches are closing, and not because God is punishing them for any lack of faith. For many congregations the doors are locked due to a lack of funds — an inability to pay the mortgage, keep the heat on, or pay the pastor and support staff, let alone do anything “extra” such as support missions, care for the poor, and serve the community.
We could all use a good solid kick in the pants. We are failing. We are shirking our duty as neighbor and church member. We are letting down, not only our clergy, but also our fellow brothers and sisters.
Ah, but yes, church is so much more than just a place or a building, right? God’s Church survives even if bills don’t get paid. True as this may be, it’s a pretty lame excuse. That building? That’s a blessing. That’s a wonderful central location where we can gather with our fellow Christians once or twice a week (maybe more) to receive God’s Word and His absolution. That’s where we are nourished, not only in fellowship, but with Jesus Christ Himself at His Table. Mere rock or brick, perhaps, but let’s not ignore the great blessing of those stones by letting them decay due to our own laziness in giving.
And that man up there in the pulpit — is he not a blessing as well? Appointed and called by our Lord to serve, and not just serve you and me there in the pew, but to serve those in the greater community. I’ve heard far too many stories of pastors having to take second jobs, having to rely on state aid to feed his family, or having to leave the call altogether due to disappearing wages. These men serve us with God’s Word, His Forgiveness, His Supper. They comfort us, teach us, and answer our questions at all hours of the day. They come at the drop of a hat, at the first call of need to serve us. And we laity are to serve them in turn.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]
Our pastor cares for our souls, we are to care for him and his family.
Trust me, I’ve made my share of excuses for not giving more. I’ve claimed a tight budget, despite the smart phones and the Starbucks runs, the dinners out and that sought-after item that finally went on sale. I’ve even justified giving less to our congregation, because we chose to support other worthy causes instead (even though on top of your normal congregational giving it is “ok” to give to other causes).
But that ends now. Our churches are in need. It’s up to us to step up and give, to take care of our churches — our building, our pastor, our congregation — which cares so greatly for us.
We may hate to talk about money, but in this temporal world it’s a necessity. Money keeps our pastor fed so he can shepherd his flock with joy — that second job may seem insignificant, until we realize it leads to fewer classes, fewer calls to the sick and dying, fewer visits to the shut ins and less overall availability to us sheep. Money keeps the lights on, the heat up, and the water running so we can gather to receive God’s Word and Sacrament together. Money keeps missionaries out in the world so they can share God’s Word far and wide. Money keeps our schools running so we can raise up the next generation in the faith. Money keeps the logistical wheels turning so we can serve each other and our communities as we are commanded.
We don’t give, because we hope to gain more from doing so, as if the totals on the balance sheets would bring us more favor from God or a better seat in Heaven. We don’t give out of guilt, because our pastor nagged and lectured on the matter. We give, because it’s the right thing to do. We give, because we have been given much. We give, because we can.
Not after all our bills are paid, not after that $5 latte is enjoyed, not after that cruise, that beer, that grocery bill or whatever else — but first. We are to give the first fruits off our table, not the crumbs that fall to the floor. In acknowledgement of The One who provides for us, we give back.
And yes, we do so cheerfully. Whether we give 3%, 10% or 15%, we give. Not assuming someone else has it covered, not worrying about what anyone else is or is not giving, not getting pissy over our Old Adam’s perception of fair.
Simply give. First and with joy.
Because how cheerful will we be if our church closes its doors, if our pastor walks away from his office, if we are left without that blessing of a building and a congregation?