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Your Money and the Church – Part 3

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Here is one of the best secrets for managing your generosity and giving of money: Don’t.

If you spend any time among religious people, you will be asked for money. When I go to church on Sunday, there is always an offering, a time when all other business stops and the ushers collect money from us. I have lived with this all my life and I have an acquired immunity, but some people who come with me are offended and disoriented. What will God think about them if they don’t give enough?

So, don’t give. The exercise will be good for you.

Yesterday I was walking in the mall. It’s not really my place but I had a meeting with someone. At an intersection in the walkways, I saw a display booth with two young women looking hopeful. They represented one of those Christian charities that sponsor children and they were looking for sponsors. I won’t name the organization, but there are several and they do very good work.

What bothered me was all the busy shoppers who hurried by and ignored them. The women seemed a bit forlorn, so I walked over and told them I appreciated what they were doing, even if other people didn’t. They smiled and thanked me, and then they tried very hard to get me to sponsor a child. I thought about it, and then I remembered my decision. I had walked over to encourage them, and that was my only reason for being there. As a family, we might decide to sponsor a child, but the decision could not come from a quick conversation in the mall. I think it’s a serious long-term commitment, but the young women tried hard to aggressively upsell me.

Do you remember Jim and Tammy Bakker? I believe they began as sincere Christian workers and I think God gave them important things to do. But then it all went wrong, and in the world, they are one reason people roll their eyes and accuse us of being greedy and dishonest with money. The Bakkers had gold-plated faucets and a large bronze giraffe in their home, or in one of their expensive homes, and there were rumors of an air-conditioned dog house. Tammy defended herself by saying the doghouse was not air-conditioned, just heated.

If you have a stomach for it, Tammy had a wedding for dogs, with a “minister” officiating. I just can’t believe that was a good way to spend money that was dedicated to God.

It is easy to criticize the Jim and Tammy now, but it is also easy to miss their partners. A large number of Christians poured their money into the Bakker “ministry” and made all the excess possible. That was a good time to say “no” and not give, and the tragedy is that many churches and deserving charities could have done great things with those resources.

Your money must have boundaries, and you must direct your finances by your own decisions. There must be a “no” boundary so that you have a “yes” option. In the Bible, giving to a worthy cause was always a choice, there was no guilt or manipulation or aggressive selling; the “no” boundary was never removed.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

The worthy cause was a famine where other Christians really suffered, and still there was no aggressive promotion. Just do what you decide with resources that belong to you. I believe every Christian should know the cost of operating their church, including staff salaries. We have important decisions to make, on the yes and no sides.

In the Bible story, once the decision to be generous was made, the leaders gave clear directions for simple project management:

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. (1 Corinthians 16: 1 to 4)

More in this series:

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