I ended my previous post with these words:
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.
There are a couple of significant benefits I have learned from settling this money business with God up front.
First, you will not be afraid of people. If you think that keeping your ministry’s “paying customers” happy is the requirement for financial stability, you may find yourself being guilty of the sin of partiality. You may begin to look at people financially (What can they give?) rather than spiritually (What do they need?). James warned against this sin: “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool” (vv. 1-3). But when you know that regardless of who writes the check, it is the Lord that pays your salary and your bills, it will reduce your reduce your temptation to compromise truth or cater to givers to keep them happy.
I once was at a meeting of pastors where one of the major topics of discussion was church finances. There was much lamenting about how many people gave far below their capacity to give. In the car on the way home, I asked a pastor why, if giving was such a problem in the church, it was not addressed by means of challenging people to pay tithes and offerings. The pastor told me that, quite frankly, he and most of his colleagues were afraid that if they preached about money they would anger people and thus risk losing what money those people were giving.
When you have come to a place of peace with God about the issue of money (and who controls it), people don’t scare you as much.
Second, you will not be afraid of not providing for your family. The responsibility of providing for a family can add significant stress to a pastor. Adding a wife to my faith journey added a new layer of challenge. In the early years, the challenge was for her. However, the longer we were married and then added children, I found that the challenge became for me. I took very seriously the mandate that I should protect and provide for my family. When I was flying solo, waiting on the Lord to provide, I did not have a hard time making sacrifices, but when those sacrifices were having to be made by my wife and kids, I began to struggle a bit more. I didn’t want them to go without (or with less) because I was in ministry. I wanted to be able to take care of them without the “stress” of earlier years of waiting on the Lord.
When I moved to Denver in 1999 to take a position with a new ministry and a fat new salary, I made the promise to my wife that I would never put her in that financially challenging situation again. I should have whispered, because God heard me and I don’t think He appreciated my misplaced self-confidence. Within months after our relocation, we were in the same position again as the ministry did not have the funds to pay my salary. The combination of the understandable frustration from this situation combined with my ill-advised promise was a toxic cocktail that threatened my ministry, (it made me want to find a regular job that would eliminate these financial swings) and my mind (I was discouraged, angry and despondent).
When we shared this situation with my pastor, he provided a concise evaluation that has forever changed my perspective. He said, “First, that is a promise that you should never have made because it is not one you can keep. You don’t know what God has in store for your life. Second, God is the provider for you and your family, not you.” That was just the reality check I needed to push (more like slap) me back in line. As I reflected over the years of God’s faithfulness, He reminded me that it was always Him and not me that had provided for my family. Nothing had changed.
Make your peace with God right now about the issue of money. Don’t let your concerns about it, your pursuit of it or your fear of the lack of it derail your ministry. Learn to trust God with this area of your life because you will pay a great price if you don’t, but have great peace if you do.