Jesus and our money
The pastor of a Presbyterian Church is sitting at his desk when the phone rings.
“Good morning, Reverend,” the caller says, “I am Agent Johnson with The Internal Revenue Service. The reason for my call is that we are in the midst of a tax audit of one of your parishioners, a Mr. James E. Smith, and I need to confirm that he did, in fact, contribute $10,000 to your church.”
The pastor pauses awkwardly for a moment and then answers, “Yes, yes, he most certainly WILL.”
The joke is funny, in part, because we all feel a little uneasy about the issue of discussing money in the church. People in many congregations seem to be of two minds when it comes to the subject. Some say that we should never talk about money and, with God’s help, “things will somehow work out.” Other people say that “we better be a lot more realistic and let people know what it costs to run the place!”
The truth is that money and possessions are talked about in the Bible from beginning to end. In fact, Jesus spoke about money and possessions more often than any other topic.
Jesus taught that a legitimate use of money is to support the Lord’s work through the religious institutions the Lord established (Matthew 23:23; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 8:1-3). In the Old Testament, it was the tabernacle and the temple; in Jesus’ day, it was Herod’s temple; in ours, it is the local church. The LORD’s command to bring the tithes and offerings was not predicated on how holy the priests were (Malachi 2 and 3; Mark 11:15-18) or, in our day, whether or not we like the pastor. It was predicated on obedience and surrender to his Lordship over all we are and have. God knows how to deal with disobedient priests (1 Samuel 2:12-36; 3:13; 4:11-18).
Jesus taught that we ought to pay our taxes (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-22). Caesar was the emperor of an oppressive regime; but his followers, then and now, were called to show deference to the ruling authorities in matters that do not violate our Christian calling to be his witnesses (compare Acts 4:18-19 and Romans 13:1-8).
Jesus taught that we should use our financial resources to help the poor and needy through benevolence (Luke 10:29-37; 18:18-25; compare James 2:15-17) and missions/ministry support (Luke 8:1-3; 10:1-9).
That’s why in November of each year, each of us who call MPC home is asked to make a pledge of financial support to our mission and ministry. The pledge is a commitment made after prayer between you and God. When you turn in your pledge it is held in strictest confidence. We use these pledges along with historical giving patterns to help shape our giving budget for the year. Ultimately, our budget will reflect our faith in God and our commitment to carrying out the mission and ministry that God is calling us to stretch into in the year ahead.
Of course our church is less than perfect, and we have a long way to go, but the amazing thing is that God it is still God’s best idea for sharing the light of God’s hope to a broken world. In order to continue God’s work in the coming year we need 100% participation from everyone who calls MPC their home congregation.