The twitching and knee-jerk reactions I get from many (not all) “organic church” believers when the topic of money comes up, reminds me of what the Holy Spirit said to Saul of Tarsus: “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.”
The topic of money and finance has been very seriously abused in the past, and continues to be, in media and many church environments. This abusive “static interference” makes it hard for believers to “hear” God’s genuine frequency on this subject.
What is heard stirs up echoes of a painful history and a reactionary protective (understandable) posture: “I’m not going ‘there’ again.” If our pain and desire to protect ourselves ends up desensitizing our hearts, we will be in a bad place. The Holy Spirit in us has to be, and is, greater than the pain of our past.
Organic Church Finances
Many believers in non-institutional environments who experienced manipulation and coercion in the past have reacted and settled into a very unhealthy place. My good friend, Stephen W. Hill, says it like this: “For many, the freedom from the selfishness of tithing (giving to get, or to avoid a curse) has been replaced by the selfishness of not giving at all.” Well said. That’s the problem. Historical abuse is being used as an excuse to deflect any scrutiny or criticism of personal financial giving habits and disciplines by others.
If our alleged Christian liberty and understanding of grace results in the decrease of the life of Christ and personal disciplines, it is neither grace nor freedom, but self-deception. Our freedom is not to be used for self-indulgence, but to serve one another in love.
Since the accurate reflection of our Father in time in space is the definition of being “Spirit-led,” and since our Father is a giver, to proclaim one’s self to be “Spirit-led” and “free” and “spiritually mature,” and to be tight with our time, talent, and treasure (money) is not only oxymoronic, it is high-level delusion.(I have written on the joy of Spirit-led giving, elsewhere on this blog: Why I Quit Tithing: http://wp.me/pPFqI-Hk
We do not need any special “leading of the Spirit” to obey simple scriptural mandates. The Spirit has already led us, through the scripture! Now, we can seek the Lord for specific details, but the FACT of the MANDATE to give financially and regularly, is not something we need to “seek the Lord” about. We just need to do it! (1 Cor. 16:2, etc.). I am no telling anyone what to give, or where to give. Seek the Lord for that, and be generous like your Father. But giving itself, and the disciplined regularity of it are scriptural non-negotiables. JUST DO IT.
I do not believe that our structures, meetings, meeting mechanics, what does or doesn’t happen in meetings, how they are conducted–open, closed, participatory, passive, “teaching vs. sharing,” “leading vs. facilitating,” etc., –have any bearing at all on how spiritual, mature, or “revelated” we might be. They’re all irrelevant to me. I’m more concerned about the cold love in my shriveled heart, than the spatial geography of my body during a meeting. There’s a better measure of the temperature of our love than futile OC/IC debates. That measure is our wallet. Closed wallets=shriveled hearts, regardless of how we do meetings. God looks on the heart, not our meeting mechanics.
Many try to rationalize their lack of financial generosity by saying: “Well, there are more ways to give than with just our money, and after all, Paul said that if I give all my money to the poor and have not love, I am a tinkling cymbal. It is true that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Giving includes the giving of all three dimensions of our life–time, talent, and treasure (money)—it’s not a take your pick buffet!
So, Paul is right, but so is James. What is the essence of true religion? Winning Facebook debates about the deficiencies of the institutional church? Hanging around in eternal do-nothing holy huddles in living rooms swimming in our own sense of superiority? Hardly.
Let’s try a simple experiment. Fill in the blank after each of the following regarding your giving of time, talent, and treasure (money), but particularly treasure, to what follows:
The Poor __________
The brotherhood in need _____________
Expansion of the gospel _____________
Other general opportunities for charity _______________
(Going to meetings/gatherings with your friends does not count as giving of your time! That is what you enjoy. I am talking about practical expressions to others that have NO derivative benefit to you.)
How did you do? If you have a computer and are reading this, you are able to regularly give financially to some, if not all of these. If you are not regularly financially giving, you’re self-justifying behind the “not all giving involves money” argument.
Most westerners could do a garage sale of their “stuff” and feed a poor family for a month or more.
Most of us could drink water instead of wine, soda, or fruit juice at our meals and times when we eat out (let alone other alcoholic beverages at $6.00+ a pop) and easily fund $50-$60 a month to one of the above.
Budgeting $2.00 a day–the price of a cheap hamburger or small bag of potato chips–would enable you to give $50-60 a month to something . . . can’t? OK, cut it back to $1.00 a day. Are you really saying that you can’t find $1.00 a day to give on a regular, disciplined basis to something that really matters? How about 50 cents a day?
Do you have any idea of what a $5.00 or $10.00 offering done regularly can do for the poor or someone in the third world?
You used to “tithe” faithfully to the institution based on self-centered manipulation and guilt, and now that you are out in “freedom,” you are giving what to whom? Nothing? Little?
The –“there are more ways to give than just money” or, “you might be giving in the flesh” etc.,–arguments are all bogus sophistry. It’s not that you can’t give financially. You won’t. Your love, personal discipline, concern for others, or creative thought (or all four) are so meager, that you won’t.
Closed wallet=shriveled heart, in need of a refreshing touch from Jesus. If Jesus touches my heart, and my wallet, and touches others there also, everything else will be just fine, without the distracting hyperventilating on other things. I think “how we do meetings obsessiveness” is a giant distraction from the essence of “true religion.” So, maybe you’re “right” about “how to do church.” Big deal. What are you doing for others?
I pray you and I will have a heart-touch instead of making self-justifying arguments about why we may not be giving financially
Yes, our use of treasure does reveal our hearts. Your wallet is a lighted highway that leads directly to your heart.
Organic Church Finances
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