Financing the Kingdom and Church Debt

A great difference lies between alternative living and eccentric living. As citizens in the kingdom of God we want to live in a way that demonstrates a genuine “third way” without veering off into eccentric overreactions. Living under the financial blessing of God, without adequate fleshly explanations for the provision, is such an alternative. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5-6). In asking whether debt for a church is sin, let us begin with a couple of disclaimers. When this question is asked in this context, it reveals many assumptions about the nature of sin and financial responsibility. If someone were to splay his fingers on a concrete sidewalk so that he could whack each one with a hammer, we might try to stop him. But what if he asked, pointedly, “Would it be a sin to do it?” the answer would have to be, “Not necessarily.” To answer the question this … [Read more...]

Fundraising and Financing the Kingdom

We have repeated examples in the Bible of how God's people raised money for various needs. We learn many things from these examples, but one of the most striking is how unlike this fundraising is from the kind of fundraising we are accustomed to. Some of the principles appear in more than one passage, and this brief treatment below is by no means exhaustive. “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Dt. 8:18). An early example is building the tabernacle. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” (Ex. 25:1-9). God led them in what was to be done—the tabernacle was to be built according to the pattern, and with the materials specified. Fundraising in God's name is not to be conducted to build out man's … [Read more...]

Basic Principles in Financing the Kingdom

We all know what the uh oh point is in various situations. The person you thought might be a new good friend invites you over for a business opportunity presentation. Uh oh. The church gets in a financial jam and “stewardship Sunday” seems to come round more and more frequently. Uh oh. But the point of writing about finances is not so that we would be able to accomplish what we have undertaken, but rather so that we would do it right. “But [the Israelites] lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:14-15). “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9). In the context, Asa the king had been rebuked for his “political realism.” He had relied on the king of Syria when the Lord had previously shown that He was able to save apart from such fleshly support. Because of this folly, … [Read more...]

Obstacles to Financing the Kingdom

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 … [Read more...]

Whirled Vision

My brief post on the reversal of the turnaround at World Vision generated some questions and comments, so let me chase them here. Start with the central thing -- and that would concern our duty of not being the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. If the subject is sin and repentance, it should go without saying that we should never sneer at a broken and a contrite heart. How many times do we forgive someone? Jesus dealt with this famously when He said the right number was 70 times 7. And that does not mean that once the sinner gets past 490, then pow, right in the kisser. Our forgiveness for others should imitate God's forgiveness of us, and it is obviously impossible to outshine Him. Jesus taught that someone could sin against us seven times in a day, and that upon a profession of repentance we should forgive him each time. Now, along about the fourth or fifth incident, I might begin to suspect that my friend is not dealing with the root issues -- but I am still to … [Read more...]

Parable of the Ten Investment Portfolios

Given the emphasis that the president placed on "income inequality" in his 2014 SOTU speech, I thought it necessary for us to review a few things from the Bible. We have wandered so far off from the teaching of Jesus that some of this pandering seems compelling and/or compassionate to us. It is actually evil. Allow me to say a few things in this second paragraph that will seem outrageous to some, while doing so in the hope that you will then allow me to explain myself. I have argued repeatedly that free grace creates free men, and that free men are the only ones who can create free markets. Free markets are God's design for us. If you don't love the idea of free markets, you don't love Jesus rightly. Christian discipleship requires an understanding of, and deep love for, economic liberty. So why invoke Jesus by name? Why bring Him into it? First, He is the Lord of all things, including what we do with our money. So there's that. Second, in his fine book Friends of Unrighteous … [Read more...]

You Ain’t Gonna Make It With Anyone Anyhow

In this short piece, Michael Bird comes to the defense of N.T. Wright, nationalized health care, and all that is civilized. A good response to that can be found here, but one more thing needs to be said. What the soft Christian left does not appear to understand is that whenever the offering plate is passed, and the collection officer is wielding a firearm and has big, block letters on his jacket, and looks at you meaningfully, the results, however remunerative, are not what you seem to be claiming. The large offering would not be an instance of Christian love, compassion, tenderness, thoughtfulness for the poor, or any of that glow-in-your-heart talk. Statist redistribution depends upon coercion and violence, pure and simple. It is not love, it is not compassion, and it cannot be supported by appeals to all the Christian happy words. Put the guns away, and then let's talk about Christian concern for the poor. … [Read more...]

A Prescription for Grief

In my reading this morning, I noticed a striking contrast between the beginning of the tenth chapter of Isaiah and the first few verses of the eleventh. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!" (Is. 10:1-2). "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots . . . But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth" (Is. 11:1,4). The contrast is between those who prescribe grievousness, robbing the poor, and the one who will judge the poor in righteousness. Of course, the first thing I thought of was the endless stream of regulations and laws pouring out of Washington, all done in the name of prescribing solutions for the disadvantaged among us. But each written … [Read more...]

A Five Gallon Bucket of Lamesauce

In my previous post, I said that the great idol of modernity is the state. One perceptive reader on Facebook suggested that rather we should think of the great idol as being that of the individual self -- freedom and liberty for me, me, me. I don't know how to link to a Facebook thread, but try this as a sample of my guessing. Now this observation is quite true in one narrow sense, and if we have our wits about us, it should immediately show us the limits (and treacherous nature) of secularism. The secular state dispenses freedoms (it would be better to call them privileges) like they were party favors. They function as bribes. They serve as . . . bread . . . or circuses. As Chesterton points out somewhere, sexual license is the first and most obvious bribe to be offered to a slave. For many in our era, that was the bribe that ushered them into their bondage to the state. This is why secular conservatism, and secular libertarianism are both impotent against the collectivist … [Read more...]

Honoring His Stuff

A friend pointed me to an important truth about property and giving that is found in Deuteronomy 26. "And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you" (Dt. 26:10-11). Note that the worshiper is told that he must include the Levite and the stranger in his worship of God -- he must share as he worships with his tithe -- but that the foundation of this sharing is the fact of property ownership. He is called to share "every good thing" which the Lord his God "hath given" unto him. God gave every good thing to him, and to his house. This is the answer to those who think that any assertion of robust property rights is to absolutize them. The only absolute property ownership is God -- the earth … [Read more...]

Book of the Month/August

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I owe a lot to George Gilder, and with his release of Knowledge and Power, that debt has increased significantly. Decades ago, I first read Sexual Suicide, a book that later became Men and Marriage, and which I have read again several times in that form. I was greatly influenced by Wealth and Poverty when it first came out, and have enjoyed other books as well, the most recent example being The Israel Test. This book is a worthy companion to the others in a long line of worthy companions. There are three things I want to say about this book, and then I will leave you to get your own copy. The first is that Gilder is a contrarian, but a sane one. He is what any sane person would look like in an insane world, provided that sane person had the guts to say what he thought out loud. The book provides kind of a grab bag of examples. He has a delightful chapter on the need for insider trading, for instance. By outlawing insider trading, we are requiring people to trade stupidly, … [Read more...]

Managing Mammon

Jesus set up a fundamental antipathy between God and Mammon. One way or the other, He said (Matt. 6:24). In another place, He said quite plainly that whoever does not give away all His possession cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:33). Look at your possessions, Jesus says, and if you want to be a disciple, kiss them good-bye. Say farewell. Now here we are, gathered as a congregation of disciples. That is what our baptism declares, and that is what we profess to be. Are we making this profession in the teeth of the Lord who called us? Is stewardship of possessions disobedience? Not at all. As we seek to understand this, and to obey it, what we must not do is dilute in any way the force of the Lord’s requirement. He is the revelation of the Father to us, and so we must not add to His words, and we must not take away from them. Whatever Jesus meant, we must do—all of us. Jesus uses the word Mammon four times. Once is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:24). Right before this, He had … [Read more...]

In the Sunlight of Our Deliverance

One of things we should notice about the drive for "social justice" is that the theory of the thing contains a soteriological contradiction right at the heart of it. This is what I mean. In true evangelism, the unbeliever is being called from a state of condemnation into a state of no condemnation. This is why the message that accomplishes this is unambiguously good news -- Jesus was crucified and is risen, and the sinner who believes in Him is set free. This is a true evangel. But in the world of social justice, what is the task? What is the mission? It is precisely the reverse of this. It is to get the weak and oppressed from a condition where God identifies with them into a state where they come under His judgment. Advocates of missional social justice identify with the poor and they sneer at middle class values. But this is like a lifeguard identifying with the drowning and sneering at the beach. We are supposed to minister to the poor, but what does that mean? Does it … [Read more...]

Mammon Is Like Gravity

Many years ago, somewhere in the seventies, I was working for a Christian bookstore called Crossroads. One day we were visited by a young and zealous member of a group called the Children of God, and I vividly remember our conversation on the sidewalk outside the store. He asked if I had a job, a car, etc. I said that I did. He told me that I was not a real Christian because Jesus said that whoever did not give up absolutely everything could not be His disciple (Luke 14:33). Instead of arguing the exegesis with him, I reached over and tugged on his sweater (for he was clothed, contrary to what he had just said Jesus required), and asked, "Whose is this?" He was startled, not expecting any questions of that nature. I asked again. "Who does this belong to?" He said nothing because he didn't know what to say, and so I helped him out. I said, "This belongs to Jesus, right? And He is letting you borrow it? Is that how it works?" He was greatly relieved, and said yes, he was borrowing it. … [Read more...]

Theses on the Kindness of Christ

These affirmations and denials are intended by the session of Christ Church to provide a theological framework for the various mercy ministries operating under the authority of Christ Church, as well as any related teaching ministry connected to or supported by our church. We write with the average parishioner in mind, wanting to encourage active involvement in the mercy work of our church, and in such a way that simply shows us to be overflowing with gratitude as we live out the implications of what God has done for us. This statement on these issues represents the current position of the session as a session at the time of adoption. This is a working document, and we invite response and feedback. Individual elders may certainly differ with various elements of this statement, but the statement as a whole represents our corporate conviction. The Scripture texts cited are simply meant to “show our work,” and to demonstrate that we are seeking to develop this statement in submission … [Read more...]