The goal here is not to get into household finances, but rather the financing of the work of the kingdom of God. This relates to household finances at some point, obviously, but the purpose here is to address finances at the kingdom level. The amount of material on this subject in the Bible is simply immense, but many of the passages are neglected in our common preaching and teaching on the subject. This can be the result of fear, or ignorance, or self-pity, but the end result is the same. When God’s Word is squeezed out, for whatever reason, the methods and words of men will always come in to take its place. And when it comes to money, men do have their traditions.
“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”” (Romans 2:21–24, ESV)
When disobedience is common, there are usually excuses for that disobedience. What are some of them? It is important to note by the way that the excuses, while remaining excuses, are not necessarily false. Excuse makers frequently have a point.
First, the leaders of the church provoke the people:
“And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches; And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind: Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:18–21).
Paul knew how easy an accusation of financial mismanagement is to make. He also knew the importance of being prepared in advance to rebut such slanders. When this does not happen, Christian leaders positively create reasons to avoid giving.
Second, the people in the church provoke their leaders:
“Prophets are those who have unusual gifts for discernment into the purposes of God and who are unusually bold in bringing those purposes to speech” (Willimon, Proclamation and Theology, p. 22)
1. Our starting point for all discussions of biblical authority should begin with an affirmation of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. More needs to said on this subject than was said there, but not less. Fruitful discussion can take place only among those who can honestly sign that statement. With those who cannot sign it, our duty is that of charitable debate and refutation.
2. Obedience is a key element in exegetical understanding. Obedience is the opener of eyes. Without obedient application, the text is not really being studied.
3. Affirmations of biblical authority are worthless unless we understand that the contemporary secular challenges to biblical authority create enormous pressure on those affirming inerrancy to develop interpretive workarounds, such that inerrancy can be formally affirmed while being practically denied. Examples of such pressures today would include biblical teaching on sexuality and human origins.
4. Scripture is given to us as seed, and is therefore intended to grow and flower down through history. The Word of God is living and active and this extends to more than just the personal conversion of individuals. The living Word is intended by its growth to shape and govern all of human history. The development of unbelief in history has no authority to dictate the contents of the seed.
5. The spirit of liberalism wants to detach this life and growth from the seed, in order to shape an autonomous direction for that life and growth. The spirit of blinkered conservatism wants to keep things orthodox by keeping the seed deep frozen in the shape of a seed. But the nature of the plant depends upon absolute allegiance to the seed, and the nature of the seed requires growth and development that is fully in line with the intention of the one who gave the seed.
6. This growth means that in addition to the autographic meaning of the text, there may also be additional (non-contradictory) canonical meanings to the text. The original Masoretic text says “my ear you have opened” (Ps. 40:6), while the New Testament citation of this passage, using the LXX, says “a body you have prepared for me” (Heb. 10:5). This latter meaning is a canonical meaning, fully consistent with the autographic meaning, while plainly not meaning the same thing.
7. While no “normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings,” canonical meanings can be expected to develop in post-apostolic history as well. Examples would be the development of the Table of Contents of Scripture itself, the growth of Trinitarian understanding, and the gracious God-given knowledge that justification is by faith alone.
8. Dealing with such issues honestly and with theological and intellectual integrity is necessary to prevent young biblical scholars from coming to believe that they must choose between inerrancy and personal honesty. Presented with this false choice, too many have discovered that choosing “personal honesty” leads them straight into professional and personal dishonesty.
9. We must therefore reject a biblicist primitivism that regards it a higher way, for example, to “get back” to chanting psalms in Hebrew. If God had been all that enamored of Hebrew, He wouldn’t have switched to Greek for the New Testament. If you had two buttons in front of you, one which would make everyone in your congregation a superb Hebraist, able to chant the psalms just the way David chanted them, and the other button giving you a congregation that contained several Greek and Hebrew scholars to help keep things honest, but the congregation was acquainted with and well-versed in the history of Christian psalms and hymns, along with other songs from around the world, in various styles, and was also a congregation engaged in composing new music for the psalter that would make David go hmmmmm, which button would you push? And, just as an aside, which one did God push?
10. The Bible itself gives us the standards of truth and accuracy that we must use in judging all things. A false precisionist approach, in which words are believed to have decimal points, seeks to judge Scripture with a set of idolatrous standards. But the Enlightenment does not judge the Bible — rather the Bible judges the Enlightenment, in part by growing right past it.
11. The Word of God is absolute truth, the breath of God, silver that has been refined seven times.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact and influence of the Book of Psalms on the history of Israel, and on the subsequent history of the Christian church. As Luther once said, the Psalms are a “Bible in miniature,” and the way the Psalms are given to us, they are as constructive as they are retrospective. But more on that shortly.
“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Ps. 45:6–7).
Summary of the Text:
Psalm 45 is a triumphal wedding day psalm, celebrating the marriage of the king. The author of Hebrews picks up on a phrase from the psalm, telling us that it represents God speaking to His Son, the Messiah. “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8). Note that the Son is the bridegroom in the psalm, and that God the Father addresses Him as God. We will come back to the importance of this kind of thing shortly.
In many respects, we are like a man who lives in a house that is increasingly cluttered and trashed. When the day finally arrives when it becomes obvious that he must do something, it is equally obvious at the same time, that he has no idea what to do, or where to start. He is overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem. It is the same with us as we consider the politics of sodomy. We want to put things right. Where do we go to begin? Do we go back to the sixties? The New Deal? The War Between the States? The Enlightenment? And the answer is yes.
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matt. 12:25-30).
Jesus is speaking in the first place about the kingdoms of God and Satan respectively. He had been accused of fighting Satan even though His accusers said He was really on Satan’s side. Jesus responds by saying that a house divided cannot stand, and so Satan would not be so foolish as to do that (vv.25-26). Jesus goes on to say if His power over Beelzebub was a demonic power, then what power was being used by His adversaries’ children (v. 27)? But if Jesus was empowered by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God really had come to them (v. 28). And, continuing the argument, if the kingdom of God has come, why should anyone be surprised that the strong man’s house was being pillaged? The strong man was bound, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says what we all need to hear—one who is not with Christ is against Christ. One who does not gather with Christ is attempting to scatter (v. 30).
One of our great responsibilities in the Lord’s Supper is to look around. By this I mean looking around metaphorically and looking around actually. We would encourage you not to stare at the bread and the wine, and we would encourage you not to curl up into a little ball of pious thoughts. Look around.
Look around the world. All over this globe, the saints of God are worshiping Him, ascending into the heavenly places in the power of the Holy Spirit. A swath of worship is sweeping around the globe at a steady rate, just like sunrise and sunset do. You are together with all of them. See that by faith, and make sure you look around.
Look around your town. There are many believing churches on the Palouse, and these saints are your brothers and sisters. You don’t worship together with them, but you work together with many of them in the course of the week—sometimes in ministry and sometimes in your regular jobs—and so you know them, and love them. And even though you don’t worship together with them, if you look around, you will see that you do worship together with them.
Look around this room. These are the saints that are together with you in one congregation. You all live together, worship together, educate your kids together, car pool together, and work together. What this means that you have, with regard to those closest to you, the most opportunities for both gratitude and complaining. Isn’t it odd that in the place where God has given us the most, and so we should be most thankful, we tend in that place to do most of our complaining? So as you look around the room, think of the offenses against you. Then look on the bread and wine, and realize that you are privileged to eat and drink their forgiveness.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
Another aspect of funding a church building is the important element of faith. We often feel like we are supposed to trust God for “spiritual” things, like our salvation, but that when it comes to finances we have to learn how to be “realistic.” Unfortunately, being realistic often means adopting worldly techniques that could just as easily be used in building a civic auditorium.
But God’s people need to do everything differently. And even when we do something externally similar to what unbelievers might do, the insides of the thing have to be totally differently. Jesus says this about how God cares for us.
“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Luke 12:27–28).
The admonition at the tail end of this says it all. “O ye of little faith” means that we need to learn how to trust the Lord who loves to adorn things. This is a “how much more’ argument, and Jesus says that we are to look at the flowers of the field and reason from that to what God has prepared for your wardrobe. And we are therefore invited to reason from both the flowers of the field and your wardrobe to the way our sanctuary will look and feel when we are done.
Men without faith build things too, and the results of their work are either sterile or excessively gaudy. This is another way of saying that a true and living faith has a lively aesthetic sense.
This means that we must take care to make sure that faith is our motivation in every aspect of this, from the fund-raising to the placement of the cross on the steeple.
So let the stones cry out.
A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1979)