Show me the Money, pt. 1

I am going to get myself in trouble with some people with this entry – I’m going to talk about money.

We are living in an age when the “prosperity gospel” has grown in enormous popularity and taken a strong grip, if not a stranglehold, in many Christian pulpits. Simply stated, is a theology that defines spiritual blessings in financial terms. It’s a worldview that pairs a lack of material means with a lack of spiritual muscle. I am willing to go on the record in stating that not only is this an inaccurate interpretation of scripture, it is dangerous and harmful. For the purposes of this blog, I will limit my comments to the impact of this thinking on the pastors and spiritual leaders.

Why do you think there is so much discussion in scripture about money? I think it is because God knows that the almighty dollar is a force that comes about as close as you can get to matching the power of the Almighty God. It should be noted that right at the top of the list of the qualifications for the overseer of the church is being ”free from the love of money” (I Timothy 3:3). God knows that money has a way of stealing our loyalty and diverting our attention – “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

Because many pastors feel overworked and underpaid, money and issues surrounding it can become a serious distraction, if not downright temptation. Your attitude about money, both on a personal level as well as a corporate level, will be a great determining factor in your satisfaction with ministry. I want to share with you some important lessons (actually, only one) I’ve learned concerning money that have saved both my ministry and my mind.

 

The most important lesson I’ve learned is this: confirm your call, not your salary. If God has called you into His service, will He not be faithful to provide for your needs as well? Isn’t that the promise of Matthew 6:33? “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

In Luke 22:25, not long before His death that would propel the disciples into the scary, lonely world of ministry, Jesus called the disciples together and asked them a crucial question: “And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ Earlier, Jesus had challenged them to put God’s needs above their own, by focusing on kingdom work and trusting that their own needs would be met. They took the challenge and now it was grading time. God passed with flying colors.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring the need for money in either the personal life of the pastor or the corporate life of the church. That would be foolish. Nor am I suggesting that the calling to pastoral ministry carries with it an implied vow of poverty. That would be irresponsible. I am simply stating that we have to know that we can trust God to provide for our needs and not make money the dominant, focal and defining point of our life and ministry.

Jason P.

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8 thoughts on “Show me the Money, pt. 1

  1. Steven Smith

    Yes sir! That’s good teaching there. I can’t see why anyone would disagree with what you laid out. This is a very balanced and sound teaching on the very delicate subject of money. Thanks for sharing Pastor J.

  2. Amen brothers! Here’s my lingering question… what makes this a sensitive topic? My guess is that it hits close to home for many of us on our willingness to let go and give our life fully to God. How I view money makes it pretty evident if I’m struggling to let go or not… (still a journey for me). But it doesn’t stop there, just beyond money are other things beckoning me to hold on… like my self righteousness, my desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain, my need to feel good about myself even when my actions might suggest I should do otherwise.

    I’ll stop here… and continue my journey of letting God change me that I might let go and receive abundant life.

    Blessings

    • I think there are several factors that are foundational to this topic’s sensitivity.
      1.Bad theology. As I mentioned in the post, inaccurate interpretations of the scripture have resulted in faulty, poor teaching on the subject. I think this is true on both ends of the spectrum. The gospel of poverty (”poor people are more spiritual than rich people”) is just as wrong as the gospel of prosperity.We have permitted fleshly impulses and worldly attitudes to shape our interpretation of scripture. The resulting poor theology has been passed on to the body in our preaching and teaching. This poor theology has resulted in Christians developing poor belief systems (inaccurate worldviews) about money.

      2.Bad beliefs. Growing up in a dirt poor community and then working in that community in a poor ministry shaped my worldview about money. I was mistrustful of the sincerity and spirituality of wealthy people. I believed that I was more rigtheous than my wealthier brothers and sisters in Christ. Much of that worldview was the direct influence of my spiritual mentor. The other side of the coin is also true. If we equate God’s blessing with material increase, anything less that tangible abundance causes us to question our faith or worse, the God who is not keeping His word.

      3. Poor practices. As a result of the jacked up worldview I had in my early years, I felt guilty (somehow less spiritual) about earning a good salary when I was in a position to do so. Whether we take a literal or figurative vow of poverty or we adopt a I-need-to-live-like-the-king’s-kid-that-I-am approach, we will begin to live out our beliefs.

      When we begin to challenge one’s worldview and question deeply held belief systems, we are striking at the very heart of who a person is or the foundation upon which a ministry is built. This is never comfortable and defensive resistance is natural and expected.

  3. The truth is if we set our minds on money then Christ won’t be the center of our salvation. We end up chasing things instead of seeking the kingdom. We all need money but money is not the reason why we are in the ministry. It’s all about the call as He stated in John 15:16; He chose us for the purpose so we can bare fruits that last. SO I do agree 100% that we need to change our minds as if the one who has money is labeled as the successful ministry. What will it help for the man to gain the whole world and lose his soul.
    Keep up the good work

  4. Alongside dealing with this issue of faithful service and financial provision from the perspective of individual application, we need to approach the same from the perspective of mutual Christian community. Consider: “You all [plural/community] seek [together] the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you all [plural/community]” (Matthew 6:33).

    In this light, the dedication to the kingdom and righteousness, and the receipt of necessary things from our heavenly Father, becomes a mutually shared experience in the Christ-centered body of believers. The miracle-provision manifests itself in the community of believers whom God uses to meet the needs of all its members. Here is the kingdom-priority, provision, peace, and joy of true “Koinonia”! (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

    [http://the-nbea.org — convention on “Koinonia”]

    • I agree that we can never forget our responsibility to live in Christian community. A couple of scriptures come to mind.
      2 Cor. 9:6-15 tells us that God gives to us so that we can give to others:

      Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[c] 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
      “They share freely and give generously to the poor.
      Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
      For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem[f] will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

      and
      Eph. 4:28 speaks of how our personal spiritual transformation should result in a shift in our mentality about work and caring for others:

      If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.</blockquote>

  5. Mike Bonser

    Jason,
    In theory there can be no question about what you say, but living it is so much harder. When you see guys out there making big money and you know they are a wreck spiritually, it is hard not to compare and think it isn’t fair and unjust.
    As you know I got out of ministry out of obedience and took a big salary cut to join the secular world again. I know it will help me as a pastor in the future, but in the meantime, I sometimes wonder if I heard the Lord or not. I am being faithful, but wow is it hard when you can’t even put gas in the car sometimes.
    Anyway, great thoughts – they confirm where I am at and what I am doing.

    • I feel ya, Mike. Been there and bought the t-shirt. I have to honest and say that when I look at some of my peers who have large and successful ministries, I find myself sometimes experiencing “ministry envy” as I consider my own struggles. I think I talked about that in a reply earlier to an earlier post. Financial security is a big deal in our lives (especially if you are married) and it takes a lot of prayer and faith to not allow spiritual decisions to be overridden by financial considerations. Stay faithful; we know that God will!

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