Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Money and Church Part II

One my friends sent this in reply to the post I did a while ago about money and the church (It was called Money). He had some really good insight. So I asked him if I could post what he wrote. Here it is...

About preaching about money, I would say both do and don't. As you say, how we use our money is of great importance - its use can be both good and produce good. The same could go for being sinful and producing sin. But you also mention that there are taboos surrounding preaching about money and the church. Whether those taboos are justified or not isn't really the issue. The fact is they're there. They're in the mindset of the leadership, as well as in the mindset of the congregation. Confronting that taboo, by preaching directly against it, could result in a backlash - either conscious or unconscious. I’m reminded of some of these TV evangelists who preach directly about giving money to the church. With thousands in attendance and millions watching, these fellows rake in millions and don’t necessarily use that money for good. Instead, some of these people have a dozen mansions around the world, helicopters and an entourage. Investigation has shown that some of these people do little good with that money for anybody but themselves. Less overt, I’m also reminded of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. It’s the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen. Although this could be controversial, I’d say that the display of opulence, though stunning, is also very ugly. Built in the 1800s, with parishioners’ money and the lives of a number of those who constructed it, what went into that building, in my view, was a gross misallocation of resources by the clergy, in a time when peoples’ lives were hard and backbreaking, luxury meant adequate weather, and death from disease, child birth, or injury was ever present. Should that church have been built as it was? I’d say no – especially not in the context of that time. But I’m sure the vast majority would fervently disagree with me. The point is that the taboo is there and if we at least keep that taboo in the back of our mind when discussing money, it will at least foster a little humility as to what we do with the money when it does come in and perhaps get us to think about how we can best put it to uses that are good. It would also address the perception that ‘the church is just about getting your money’. Regarding getting beaten for that preaching, I don’t think you have to worry about that. You’re preaching to the converted, as the saying goes.

The simple fact is money is an essential part of our lives, and as you mention, the gospel should penetrate into all aspects of our lives. I read in one of your other blogs about the question of community – that is how to we situate ourselves in giving importance to one community over another. With respect to money, anybody who is in the paid workforce spends the bulk of their time (apart from sleeping and maintaining oneself) working for money. The workplace itself is a community, in which one may wish to involve oneself. But we are also spending that time there for the purposes of making money. And when we spend that money we are entering into a relationship with the producer. We enter that community so to speak. So in effect we spend 4 to 14 hours a day for the potential to enter into the sphere of the economic community. As you mention, how we spend our money can be of great good or sin. I think it is detrimental to ourselves and to our neighbours around the world if we ignore the effects of what our money can do. If we buy, say, a widget from Mr. A, who greases the wheels of his machinery with the sweat of little children, we are in effect telling Mr. A that we condone his activities and that by giving him greater resources, we are asking him to continue – to continue sinful actions. I’d add that lesser degrees of exploitation also fall under this category, with say, workers who are underpaid. Then on the other hand, the converse it true; if we support Mr. B who treats his workers well and gives what is due to the workers, then we are applauding in a very concrete way (by spending money on that widget) to a relationship that is good, or at least produces the potential for good. In real life, it is difficult to know the inner workings of each company and what the relationship between workers and bosses are. But a little research here and there can go a long way in producing good around the world.

Now how should the church approach the issue of money? If I was over stepping by bounds in the above, I’d be on my face if I were to continue. But if I didn’t fall off my bike continually while I was learning the skill, I’d have never learned. So I would say preach at the issue of giving money to the church less directly and approach it more broadly. A question like ‘how does a Christian spend their money’, or ‘how can a Christian do good with their money’ or such like questions I think would be useful. Then, to bring the question back to the more specific question of giving money to the church, simply be honest with the congregation of what you are doing. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not sure of what goes on in the weekly service or other church related events – so all of what I’ve written may be redundant, you may already be open with what the church is doing and with what the needs of the church are. But I think simply stating what the church is doing and/or what you would like to do (given the funds) would be reason enough for people to look within themselves and to make the decision on their own, with the knowledge of what is going on, to give.

1 comment:

Sister C said...

That was some good insight, I especially agree with the point on how we spend money on just or unjust products should matter. I have done reseach on this over the years but still information on just companies is scarce.