“What people of faith do with their money is indicative of what they believe about God.” -Martin Luther
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Jesus
One of the biggest taboos in the church today is to talk about money—even more than sexuality. It seems that the principalities and powers of our age have stuffed a gag into the mouths of our preachers, prophets and sages. Most of us as church leaders seldom talk with people about their money or our own, even in personal conversation.
Yes, we may agonize over the state of giving in the church, or fret about the annual budget. Less frequently, I hear of churches talk about the generosity of their members. But more often than not, we’re as reluctant to ask people about their spending and giving habits as we are to ask them about the size of their underwear.
Something is wrong with this picture. Jesus talked freely with his disciples about money, and he recruited Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. Matthew wrote a lot in his gospel about money. So I propose that we start talking more openly about money. Not simply about money in general, but about our spending and giving habits as Christians in particular.
Let this short column be the beginning of a conversation in which we discuss the topic of money matters in the church. I’ll start in a general way and then move toward the particular. I welcome your comments and contributions (of ideas, at least) at any time.
I’ll be drawing on my observations as a church leader, as well as some insights from the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. I had the privilege of attending a Lake Institute seminar sponsored by Everence in April, and it has galvanized me to write about this topic.
I begin this series with the assumption that money is a profoundly spiritual issue that must be addressed in the church. Nothing less than our spiritual health is at stake.
I recently spoke to a pastor of a very large church who sees a strong connection between money and the spiritual health of his parishioners. Since he has ready access to the giving records of his congregation, he regularly decides who needs a pastoral visit, based on what he sees in their giving patterns. After all, there is hardly a serious pastoral issue that doesn’t have financial implications.
While lifestyle often provides a clue about individual’s spending habits, most pastors in the Mennonite Church don’t have a clue what their members give to their church. Just be aware, there are members with fairly lavish lifestyles who give little if anything to their church community. I’m sobered to recognize that if the saying of Jesus about “treasure” and the place of the heart is true, most pastors are missing a vital piece of spiritual information about their parishioners.
In anticipation of this series, I invite you to ponder two questions about money:
1) As a church leader, what does my use of money say about my own spiritual health?
2) How am I listening to what money is saying about the spiritual life of my congregation?