I have just spent some time in an isolated northern city where real estate is too expensive. All the churches are small, and I think there is a mosque and a Sikh temple. I’m not sure about the religious buildings because they are all small, and easy to miss. A big building costs millions. Next to the house where I stayed is a house church. It looks to me like one church operates out of the members houses, and it seems to be doing well.
One church petitioned the city to take over some park land and change it to a parking lot. They wanted the land for free, but they promised to invest more than a million dollars. I understand the mayor attends that church, and you can imagine the angry debate in the community. I heard yesterday that the church had withdrawn the request.
So, how do we worship God when a parking lot costs a million dollars? And how do we pay the salaries for pastors, so they can support their families? And how to we pay the mortgage on the building? Ask almost anyone about religion, and you will hear something like ‘All they want is your money.’ That’s a general impression, anywhere in the world.
Can we afford God?
One writer for “Market Watch” described the financial cost of being a believer. His perspective is Jewish, but he writes about all religions:
- RELATED: The financial cost of religious faith: Market watch
Can you afford a spiritual life? Jesus told us to count the cost:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ (Luke 14: 28 to 30)
Some of that cost is actual money; we have to count that cost. How many million-dollar parking lots can we afford? Can we still worship God in a slow economy? What if some government takes away our buildings? In China, the Communists made religious buildings into state owned property. In Mexico, any place of worship belongs to the government, and landlords don’t like to rent to religious groups. Government agents might seize their property.
Religious overhead ranges from cathedrals and temples and mosques that cost many millions, to small groups that meet in private homes. If conditions change, including politics, many religions will collapse. For example, every Muslim is supposed to travel to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime, and they pray at a mosque on Friday; and mosques are expensive buildings on expensive land. What happens to the religion when those things are not available?
How much overhead do we need to serve God?
I believe we are coming soon to a time in history when the high-overhead religions will collapse, or will be owned by governments. Many Christian groups will be easy targets. Watch the video, some churches are paying the price now:
The Bible is clear, there is no overhead, no financial cost, with God. The Father is very generous to His children: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 4: 23 and 24)
Jesus wanted us to know this lesson. He taught his disciples, in the ‘College of Jesus’ for about three years. I made up that college name, but Jesus was careful to teach His followers before He left them. His training curriculum was spread over about three years, and one important lesson was ‘how to keep the overhead low.’ This is a lesson we need to relearn:
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff, no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6: 6 to 13)