Christians are not immune to financial problems. One article claimed the percentage of Christians declaring bankruptcy is roughly the same as non-Christians. Yet, in Matthew 5, Jesus calls us to be salt and light to the world. In other words, we are called to be an example which includes handling resources. I can’t imagine a better testimony than Christians and churches who have learned to control their spending habits and practice generosity toward others.
Money has a dark side and a light side. The dark side involves greed and poor management which leads to excessive debt or extensive hoarding. The money we possess can bring out our worst traits. Churches are not immune. Sometimes the biggest arguments and disagreements come when churches are deciding how to spend a surplus or large gifts.
The light side of money is when we exercise self-discipline for ourselves and generosity for others. Think of the missions that succeeded because of giving individuals and churches.
“How do we use our finances as a witness for God?” The Bible is full of teachings on money. Many of Jesus’ parables deal with money. The parable of the dishonest servant in Luke 16 provides a lesson about our witness and our money. This Scripture is for those who made the commitment to follow Jesus and ask: “Now What?”
The dishonest manager was paid to handle the owner’s money. In those days, you collected a certain amount for the owner but anything else you kept, like a commission. But this manager was greedy and collecting too much. The owner found out and fired him.
So, what the manager did was call in the people who owed money and eliminated his commission. The owner was grateful because he got his money. The manager was grateful because he kept his job. The debtors were grateful because they got a better deal. Shrewd.
Jesus then says: “It is true that the citizens of this world are more shrewd than the godly are. I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.” (Luke 16:8-9)
Have you heard this? “The only way to be a good Christian is to sell all that we have and go live in a cave and memorize scripture.” Not true! Jesus says: “use your money to benefit others.”
- We are to be shrewd. Money is not avoided but rather used to benefit others.
- Money should be managed. “Charity given to the poor will stand as credit in the future to come.” Wealth is measured not in what we possess but in how we give it away.
- Faithful in small, faithful in large. Children say, “give me a bigger allowance and I’ll do my chores.” Parents say, “do your chores and I’ll give you a bigger allowance.”
- No one can serve two masters. Money shouldn’t corrupt but it often does. If you are not careful, you find yourself serving the wrong master.
I don’t want to give you the idea that somehow, I have my act together. Managing money is a challenge. I was once in debt so deep; I was lived paycheck to paycheck. I worked long hours because I had to not because I wanted to. I was not fulfilled and most of the time, I was so stressed out, I couldn’t enjoy what I was working so hard to possess.
Recently, I saw an ad for a computer with great features, and it was on sale. I wanted that computer, but then reality struck. I was going to stand up in front of my church and talk about managing money while considering an unnecessary purchase. I have plenty of computers.
Within hours after not purchasing the computer, I heard from someone who needed financial help. Her mother had cancer and they were struggling to pay bills. Later, I financially supported a vital ministry in our church. If I had purchased a computer, it would be difficult to offer support but not purchasing it made other decisions easier. Managing money for God is about choices.
How can our churches use money to serve God rather than allow money to control us?
I met a pastor who persuaded his church to buy an abandoned city block of business property and develop it. Within each building, he opened a business with half the property and a ministry with the other half. He had a restaurant on one side and a food pantry on the other. In a warehouse he had storage facilities on one end and a youth indoor playground on the other.
Potter’s House is our church’s outreach ministry, serving our homeless population on the Oceanfront and the larger Virginia Beach community. Right beside the Potter’s House is a Pizza Restaurant that pays rent to our church so we can support missions, including Potter’s House.
Shrewd. Very Shrewd. I think Jesus would approve.