Thursday, September 15, 2011

Follow the Money

“Your heart follows your wallet” -- not exactly a literal translation of Jesus’ words, but it certainly captures His meaning. As the maker of the human heart, Jesus understands how it works and He wants His followers to understand the link between what we treasure and the location of our hearts. On another occasion, we are told we cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24). We are again warned, “the love of money is a root of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10) Pretty tough stuff!

Nobody likes it when preachers start talking about money. What you may not know is most preachers don’t really like to talk about it! Jesus, however, talked about it a lot. He talked more about money than He did about heaven and hell combined! The amazing thing is, He never asked for it. Jesus wasn’t trying to get anything from His followers, He wanted something for them. He wanted them to understand how dangerous it is to allow your heart to be enslaved by wealth and greed. He wanted hearts fully devoted to God and He understood money and the love of it is the number one competition for the human heart. Notice how Matthew 6:24 doesn’t say, “You cannot serve both God and Satan.” Wouldn’t you expect that to be the choice? No, Jesus says the choice is much harder … we will either serve God or our stuff. Our heart follows our wallet.

If Jesus is right (and He always is) an effective way to turn our hearts toward God is to invest our treasure in His Kingdom. That principle doesn't only apply to individuals but to churches as well. So many churches see themselves as the recipients and beneficiaries of tithes and offerings that they unwittingly become self centered in their approach to managing the money people give. In his book The Hole in our Gospel Richard Stearns points out that if Christians would only give 1 percent of their income they could life the poorest 1 billion people out of poverty. Perhaps the reason unchurched people are so skeptical when the  church starts talking about money is because they look at how churches selfishly use their money and don’t see a reflection of a selfless God who loves the world so much that He would GIVE. The world hears the words we say and watches how we spend our money and they instinctively know there is a disconnect between the God we say we believe and the god we actually worship.

In their provocative book Passing the Plate, Smith and Emerson write “The vast majority of the money that an American Christians do give to religion is spent in and for their own local communities of faith – little is spent on missions, development and poverty relief outside of the local congregation, particularly outside the United States in ways that benefit people other than the givers themselves.”

It is my prayer that the church in America would be known for its generosity. That will only be true when our churches are filled with generous people who reflect our Generous God. Just as church leaders challenge their attendees to give a percentage of their income away, church members should expect no less of the church they attend. Can you imagine the difference Christians could make in the world if tomorrow every church designated just 10% of their offering to meet needs outside of their own walls? When that happens our hearts will be turned in God's direction, for where our treasure is ...