Conventional pastor wisdom tells us that talking about money from the pulpit is a mood-killer. “No one wants to hear that!,” the elusive they say. I suspect it’s hard to talk about money in the church for lots of reasons, chief among them that one’s relationship with money is intensely personal. In the same way that many of us don’t want someone telling us how to spend our time, we sure don’t want anyone telling us how to spend our money! Even the mere conversation about how we as Christians are to be good stewards of the money we receive or earn can suggest that we’re not doing it right, not giving enough, not spending or saving well. Then there’s the added layer of institutional suspicion — are we talking about money in church just to keep the lights on and the salaries paid?
Before you tune out right now, let me add: but that’s not the whole story! If we learned nothing from the life of Jesus, I hope we’ve learned that he was never one to avoid any hard topic, and money in particular! In fact, one out of every ten verses in the Gospels deals directly with the topic. Money and our use of it constitutes more biblical attention than words about prayer, or even about faith! With that in mind, how can we not talk about money in the church?
Because at the end of the day, the church exists as a worshiping community – a beloved community at that – entrusted with telling the good news of a risen Christ. Wrapped into all that theological truth is the reality that our faith in God through Christ changes us. Our experience of God’s transforming love as revealed in Jesus changes our priorities, makes pliable our opinions, and softens our hardest edges — even (and especially) as it relates to the intimate, sometimes minute-by-minute decisions about how we use the money we have. And it’s within Christian community that we cultivate practices that give honest space for changed-life behaviors. Prayer, worship, fellowship, testimony, confession, study: all when practiced in community allow us to both soften and sharpen one another.
We’re spending a few post-Easter weeks in worship talking about faithful giving and generosity. An invitation I put forth to you is to conclude our three weeks with a financial response on May 7. Here me say clearly: this is not a fundraising effort for some institutional need, but rather a response to hopeful softening and sharpening that God in Christ through our beloved community is inviting you into in your financial life. Perhaps you have never tithed before (“tithing” is the biblical practice of giving the first 10% of one’s income to God), and have not ever practiced prioritizing such a gift. What if you tried tithing one week and brought those “first fruits” as part of your worship? Or perhaps you have fallen behind on the financial commitment you’ve made to God through First Baptist. Could May 7 be for you a “catch up” Sunday? Or maybe you’ve recently received an unexpected source of money – a tax return, a gift, an investment that’s done well. What might it feel like to give part of that to God?
I shared last week about my own journey of giving, and the very non-linear path I’ve walked thus far and continue to travel. I’m grateful for you: a community of faith that invites and encourages me to deeper practices of generosity and faithful giving, and I hope you’ll join me with the same openness of spirit to God’s transformation. Who knows what might emerge!
Together in the work of Love,