The nation’s economy is in a crunch. Unemployment rates are high, gas is high, utilities are high, the dollar is falling…translate this to church and the SBC: giving is down and the Cooperative Program is down. Many churches are having to slash budgets (including mine—our budget year ends the last day of June and it looks like we are going to have a 20%+ budget shortfall). And now come the calls that we need to give more—pastors do it from the pulpit, deacons do it (I personally know of one church from my past where a different deacon is now getting up in front of the congregation each Sunday to talk about why they tithe and how it has changed their lives), the SBC does it.
There is a general anxiety about how everything from churches to associations to conventions are going to keep operating. And of course, the answer must be give more!
But perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way.
Certainly, there are some people (and some churches when it comes to the SBC or their local associations) who, even in this economy, can and should give more. And we must be good stewards with what we have—be it personal finances, church, or convention.
But in the Bible when is the work of the church ever about the money?
There’s a passage at the end of Matthew 6, I think we often forget about. Right after teaching on helping the needy, prayer, and fasting, Jesus teaches about treasure. Where our treasure is our heart will be also, therefore we are not to lay up treasures on earth but those in heaven. We either love God or we love money, we can’t have it both ways.
And then in 6:25-34, Jesus says do not be anxious—and it all has to do with what money will buy. Don’t be anxious about life—about making sure we have the things we need to drink or eat or wear. After all, look at the birds and the flowers. Consider how our Father feeds and clothes them, and are we not of more value than they?
We should not be anxious because our heavenly Father knows all our needs. But if we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be added to you.” So if we dedicate ourselves to seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, God will give us everything we need.
Now here’s the question: do we live as if we actually believe this passage?
Again, stewardship is a must—it’s a part of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness—but perhaps when we look at the struggling budgets of our churches and our convention, our first reaction should not be, “People, you must give more!”
Maybe instead our first reaction should be to take a step back, examine ourselves and what we do as churches and as a convention of churches, and ask: “Are we truly seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness?” Maybe just maybe our budget woes stand as a warning from God that we are missing the mark and twisting our priorities in seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness as we attempt to disciple the world.