A mask to cover greed?
Old joke: What is the difference between a pastor and a pizza?
Answer: A pizza can feed a family of four.
That joke hardly works these days, because few people know any pastors who are struggling financially.
Gone are the days when congregations expected their ministers to be in humble circumstances – vicariously living out, on behalf of their flock, the supposed call for Christians to be poverty stricken. And a good thing that is too.
However, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
When I had a pastor’s credential from a large denomination, and was leading a rural church of limited means, I was told that I would never build a significant church if I couldn’t raise money.
I don’t know if I failed God in that church, but I certainly never “succeeded” the way many city churches expect to succeed and to prosper these days.
I don’t even believe in tithing for Christians – generosity in giving, yes [2 Corinthians 9:6-7] but according to one’s means [2 Corinthians 8:11-13]. So, I’m no longer with those good people, but that’s another story, and I can only bless them in all their endeavours.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.×
2 Corinthians 8:11-13
Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.×
Of course, if you do want to raise money in a church and, let’s be charitable here, I am not suggesting that the raising of money is to line the pastor’s pockets but, let’s say, it is to build a “God-honoring” meeting facility, then a sure-fire way is to tell the adherents that God wants them to “prosper”, and that all the money they give will be “seed” for the spreading of the gospel and the growth of the Kingdom, and that it is a spiritual principle that if you give then it will be given back to you multiplied.
It’s a message of getting rich, to help God out, that fits well with the values of a materialistic society. Christians also have “role models” with TV preachers who boast publicly about their private jets and mansions in gated communities.
Ah well, if there’s a problem, then it’s God’s problem. I can’t preach it though. You see, it’s not what the Bible says, and it’s not the way Jesus lived. And don’t tell me that Jesus sacrificed His opportunity for “the good life” in His time on earth, so that we wouldn’t have to, because another example we have of New Testament living is the apostle Paul – and he went round in rags [1 Corinthians 4:11-13].
1 Corinthians 4:11-13
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.×
Cheer up – you don’t have to give everything away, and be a burden on society, in order to find acceptance with God. You are simply called on to be content with what you have [1 Timothy 6:6-8 and Hebrews 13:5]. It’s wanting and desiring more that is a trap [1 Timothy 6:9-10]. That’s why I don’t like the “prosperity gospel” line of preaching.
1 Timothy 6:6-8
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”×
1 Timothy 6:9-10
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.×
Living simply is a blessing [James 2:5]. There are lots of people who don’t have the Holy Spirit in their lives who recognise that, and the ambitious Christians they see on the television throw them into confusion and a rejection of the true gospel. That, to be honest, makes me angry.
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?×