Our Heart & Our Money
"A man's gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men." Proverbs 18:16
We studied this verse at Selmore on a recent Wednesday night. This proverb states a basic fact of life... Those who give (the implication is financial/material giving), often receive benefit in return. They're given a "seat at the table" so to speak. Is this right or wrong? For most of us, our thoughts probably immediately turn to "dirty money" (i.e. lobbyists, bribes, etc) and we say, "That's unfair!" But not so fast...
In 1 Corinthians 9:7, Paul asks "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?" So, we see a Biblical principle here that investment rightfully yields benefit. Not just anyone has the right to pick grapes, but the vine dresser does because he's the one that invested sweat and blood in the vineyard. Not just anyone has the right to help them self to some milk, but the shepherd does because he's the one who invests his time in guarding the sheep. Fair enough, right?
Now, let's apply this principle to the church, and specifically to one area of the church... financial giving.
I posed the question in our Bible study that night, "Should one's level of financial sacrifice to the church be a factor in the amount of influence/trust they are given in the church? Should it give them a bigger seat at the table?" The response fascinated me... The almost unanimous answer was "no!" I went on to give an example of a pulpit committee. I asked the folks, "If you had to select a pulpit committee, would you put someone on there who never attended church?" Everyone agreed there was no way they'd ever do that. But when I asked if they would put someone on the pulpit committee who never gave to the church, many were indifferent at best, and maybe even a little uncomfortable with it being an issue.
I think this raises an interesting point, and that is that we have a tendency to use church attendance as the primary indicator of one's faithfulness. At Selmore, if you're there on Wednesday night you're one of the faithful few, and if you're there on Sunday night you're a candidate for sainthood! But here's the thing... Jesus never said "Where your attendance is, there your heart is also." No, Jesus said "Where your treasure is, there your heart is also." Here we see another Biblical principle... There is a supernatural connection between our heart and our money. You wanna know what's truly important to someone?... Look at their bank statement. That will tell you all you need to know.
Inevitably someone will say, "Well I don't give money, but I invest my time." Or, "I don't give money, but I invest my talents." That's to be commended, but the Bible never presents our service to the Lord and our giving to the Lord as an "either-or." It's a "both-and!" It's not so bad to give an hour here or there every week to work in the church, but writing that check... Now that's painful! This is why the New Testament repeatedly presents money as the primary challenge to God's lordship over our life. Most of us really struggle with rebellion in this aspect of our Christian walk. We think of all kinds of reasons to justify or rationalize why we don't give like we should.
But back to the original question... "Should one's level of financial sacrifice to the church be a factor in the amount of influence/trust they are given in the church? Should it give them a bigger seat at the table?" If we're talking about the level of sacrifice, and not dollar amounts, my answer is "yes." (i.e. The widow who gave her two mites would have the biggest seat.) Based on Scripture, if someone isn't giving to the church, I don't think you can prove that their heart is really with the church. And if their heart isn't there, if the investment isn't there, should they really be holding a position of influence and trust?
Now practically speaking, how does this play out?... I really don't know. I personally wouldn't support the church organizing a local chapter of the CIA to determine whether or not people are giving sacrificially. I also know (as the pastor) I really don't care to know what people give. But surely there's some accountability we could institute somehow? In the western world we seem to have the idea that what we make is among the most sacred secrets we possess. But other cultures in the world aren't this way and, for that matter, Acts 2 presents a far different picture of the first Church, saying "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." Seems like their finances were pretty transparent doesn't it? Furthermore, if you're familiar with the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, transparency is taken to a whole other level.
What do you think?... Church accountability in this area, or no? If so, what does it look like?