These past couple of weeks have been eye opening for me, and I have been challenged to think about greed, generosity and idolatry in whole new ways.
It all started a few weeks back with a new building campaign fund that was being started at our church. Our congregation bought a new building 2 years back, and while it has been a blessing, it was discovered that there were quite a few updates that needed to be done to the structure. The building needs a new roof, there are several city required updates to the heating and air conditioning units on top of the building, and the parking lot lighting has to be updated to city code. There are a variety of other updates needed on the 30 year old converted school building.
They Want Me To Give More?
This building campaign isn't the first that our church has seen. There were two previous campaigns that both had raised money to fund the purchase of the church building, and during those campaigns our church raised around 4 million dollars. That money has been used to pay down the church building and do some initial fixes for the property, but now the church needs the additional fixes mentioned. Because of that we'll be having what we hope is the final building campaign.
While I know that our church has been very blessed through the use of this church building, every time one of these building campaigns comes up, I tend to get wary. Raising money and having capital campaigns always seem to make people uncomfortable. For me, I have seen first hand the damage that can be done by a church focusing too much on money, the building, and creating a legacy through a building for a senior pastor whose ego may have gotten the best of him. It happened at the church my wife used to work at.
That church built a new multi-million dollar building (in excess of 20 million i think?) almost sheerly on the will of a powerful few at the church, especially the senior pastor. Then when the senior pastor was found to be having an affair and wasn't all that sorry about it, the church basically started to crumble. People left the church and the faithful who were left over were saddled with huge church building, huge debt and declining attendance and revenue. The pastor left town altogether.
Because the congregation, and especially the pastor had lost focus on Christ, all his plans came to ruin. The church is only now a few years later starting to recover after receiving a more Christ focused leader.
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Luke 16:13-15
My Lack Of Wanting To Give More Due To My Idols?
While I have the utmost faith in our pastors, stories of things like what happened at my wife's church tend to keep me wary of church buildings, and having too much focus on having too much or too fancy of a building. Unfortunately I think I've used this as an excuse of why maybe I shouldn't give.
but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:19
When I compare the two situations, however, they seem so different. At our church there isn't one senior pastors, but many pastors who keep each other accountable. Also, when we look at the building plans, I realize that most of the money is being spent on necessary updates (a new roof because the old one is leaking, city required updates), and not on big fancy things that might inflate someone's ego. I also see the senior pastors being very careful and prayerful in their approach to this campaign, and I can see God working through it much more than at the other church. I realize I've been making some rationalizations.
I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35
I've been extremely challenged through this to examine my own priorities, and how we're giving. We've been tithing faithfully to our church for a few years now, after finally being convicted that we weren't giving regularly enough. Now I'm once again seeing my need for even more Christ centered, joyful giving in my life. Everywhere I turn I'm being challenged. From church, to right here on my own blog by my staff writers. Some of the posts that have challenged me to give more, and more generously in the past few weeks (and not out of a need to follow rules, but out of gratitude to my savior):
- God’s Provident Plan: Contentment In Christ: Paul gives us a reminder of where our focus needs to be, and where we need to look for contentment. I know my focus has strayed.
- Redefining Riches: The Basics Of Biblical Generosity: Rob Kuban talks about how generosity is the result of a transformed heart, and how it needs to be a lifestyle of giving. He says, “When we withhold, we follow the world’s idolization of consumption and love ourselves well.”
- Dave Ramsey's New House: The comments area on this post really made me think harder about generosity, and it's place in my life. While the comments debated about whether it was right for Dave Ramsey to buy a new house, it got me thinking about how I need to be more giving in my own life.
- Don’t Let Tithing Rules Rob You of the Joy of Giving: This post reminds me of just how personal and rewarding tithing, and giving in general can be. I can get way too caught up in the rules of things sometimes.
We're reading a great book called “Counterfeit Gods” in our church small group right now that focuses on the idols we all have in our lives, things that basically steal our focus away from Christ. Idols can be just about anything from money, to relationships to comfort. Idols often start out as good things, but we twist them and try to make them “ultimate things”. We allow those things to be sole focus of our attentions, and we sacrifice other things to get them.
Through this study I've realized I have a lot of my own deep seated idols that I need to root out, things that may not have been readily apparent to me before (idols can be sneaky that way). One of those things I need to work on is my need for control, and a need to have security via money. It has caused me in some ways to not be as generous and as joyful in my giving – and to not rely on Christ for everything. Thanks to being hit over the head by all the posts lately on generosity, I'm starting to get the point (thanks guys).
I hope to write more about that in a coming post based off of reading in Counterfeit Gods. Below in the video is a discussion of idolatry, and why the author of Counterfeit Gods thought the topic of idolatry was important.
Have you been challenged lately in your thinking about giving, generosity, or anything else? Do you think you have your own idols that are keeping you from fully embracing Christ and giving with a thankful heart? Tell us your thoughts.