When we were first married my husband and I spent many a Friday night watching Gail Vaz Oxlade shows on Slice. For the uninitiated she does shows called “Till Debt do us Part” and “Prince$$” which focus on debt reduction and determining a good budget for people to live within. I loved these shows. I loved learning a little about finance and reading more after watching them. My husband and I had great discussions on wants vs. needs and it probably was a good way for us to learn about the others money management style and dreams for the future. Overall I feel it’s necessary to know about money. Of the two of us I’m not the most learned but I have come along way in 8 years.
What does this have to do with Jesus? Well more than you might think. Jesus has a few things to say about money. So does Paul. It gets a little complicated when you sit and dig through the text. The issue really seems to boil down to ‘are you rich and what are you going to do with your money if you are?’.
So, are you rich? You likely think you’re not and I was right there with you until I read this week’s book How to be Rich: It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it by Andy Stanley this week. Now sitting on the other side I have to admit I’m a little rich. Maybe not Kardashian rich but flush enough that I’m able to type up this blog on a computer that is my own and read the book on an iPad. We’re not rolling in dough but we’re not suffering either. I think this is the case for many of us. We’re comfortable. That comfort is a nice place to be.
That comfort though brings with it some dangers. Andy Stanley writes “It’s easier to keep your priorities in perspective when they revolve around the tangible elements of survival like your next meal. The richer you get, however, the more your priorities begin to separate from actual needs.” This danger of not knowing want from need hits us all I think. What are the things we want as opposed to our actual needs? Seeing our wants vs. needs is easier I think in a home setting. We all know we don’t need a 60″ flat screen plasma and if we happen to have one it’s because we wanted it. What is even harder I suspect is determining needs and wants in the church at large.
When you look at a budget of a congregation and think about denominations and costs it’s easy to see where we’ve fallen into the trap of determining wants as needs. Often times we’ll have 5 or 6 churches in one city that sit half full and say we need them, they all serve a different purpose. Do we need them? Really? Or is it that we want them. We as people are comfortable in the current system. We are comfortable with our history and our ways of doing things. Is comfort a want or a need? Are we really being good stewards with the resources we’ve been blessed with?
Please note I’m not suggesting we close all buildings and merge every congregation. I know some of you will think that all I want to do is close things and cause pain. This could not be further from the case. I love people. I do not want to cause pain. I am broken hearted when a congregation closes. Though it’s hard, I really think we are at a point where we need to sit down and reflect on how we are using our resources. One of the things that this book really hammered home for me is the responsibility that comes with the money we’ve been gifted. As a people of God in Canada we’ve been blessed enough to be born into a society that is for the most part very rich when it comes to the world stage.
Think about it. We have almost everything looked after. We are for the most part secure. We’re able to worship without restriction or fear. We’re blessed. In that blessing I wonder if perhaps we’ve fallen into the trap of riches. Andy Stanley says in the book “…it’s not yours anyway. You are a steward. A manager. Money managers don’t feel guilt; they feel responsible.” Are we feeling the weight of that responsibility when it comes to our resources? What is responsible management of the money which we’ve been blessed with? I think we should mull these questions over and really think about what it is we are doing with our money. What is our purpose and plan? Where are we headed? Why?
There are so many questions here. So much we need to think about. I thought it was an excellent read this week. I loved the conversations it sparked between my husband and I. I rather enjoyed the reflection I did on the church at large and found myself thinking we could maybe do a study on it as a Presbytery to discuss what it is to be stewards and managers of the resources God has given to us in our context and place. While I know that there are many who are struggling out there, as a group we are in fact rather better off than we’re willing to admit. The problem seems to be that we don’t want to make different choices and perhaps envision a new way. I wonder if we will get to the point where we are willing to reflect and muse on this or will we continue to neglect this side of our ministry?
I know this week I said I’d read another book. Here’s the truth: I lost it. I found it on Sunday tucked away in a pile of books so before I found it I had started another one. I intend to get around to reading The Ragamuffin Gospel in the future but for this week I think I shall crack open Does Santa Exist: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan. It’s getting to be that time of year again and it looks like an interesting read.