Monday, July 27, 2009

Finances in The Kingdom of God

I have a pastor friend who struggles with starting a business because he doesn’t want to abuse his spiritual position in his parishioner’s lives by making money with them. Ironically, week after week he takes up an offering for his salary. He is not alone in this kind of mindset and I understand because I've been there, done that. Somehow, I had not appreciated the fact that the Apostle Paul had a tentmaking business that provided for himself and those he was mentoring and established a model that he wanted passed on to all leaders.

“I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Acts 20:33-35

This passage has dramatically changed much of my thinking about finances in two specific areas: charitable giving and making money. To say the least it’s been a huge paradigm shift for me to see kingdom values about finances in a very different way than I was originally taught.

One of my biggest shocks was that charitable giving was primarily to be used to support those who have no other means of support, ie. the weak: widows, orphans, persecuted, disaster victims, etc. And yet today, the lion’s share of charitable giving goes to support the administration of churches/ministries with very little going to those that really need help.

Much of the church’s understanding of finances is taught by professional teachers/pastors who have become dependent on the offerings of their followers. Where Paul was able to say "I have worked hard with my own hands to supply the needs of others", leaders today have to say "My followers have had to work hard to supply my needs". The professional clergy model that exists today for making money cannot be duplicated by their followers and in truth, has made them dependent upon their parishioners. Paul clearly said we are not to become dependent on others.

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
1 Thessalonians 4:11,12

One friend suggested that if I feel so strongly about this now, that I should give back everything I made during my 8 years in paid ministry. Perhaps he’s right. The problem of course is that it would make it a huge obstacle for any pastor to transition into the values that I am suggesting.

Why wouldn't pastors want to model to those they are discipling something that can be practiced by all? Is it really necessary to create a separation between clergy/layity of how to provide for our families?

The more I study kingdom finances, the more I realize that we are to help each other prosper. The way things are right now is that people are isolated and have little desire to work together to increase each other’s financial position in order to do more within the kingdom of God. Working together for kingdom purposes should be normative for Christians and yet when it comes to making money most Christians are virtually on their own.

I recognize that this simple view of providing for ourselves and others would be a radical departure from what is currently being practiced. Does that mean that it is an absurd idea or is it simply because we have never done it this way before?

Oh and BTW, it really is better to give than to receive.

"A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic."—Dresden James

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