Slaying the Money Idol

Over on FB and Twitter, I referenced an article over at Faith and Leadership that asks, “Should pastors know what members give?” I wasn’t even really trying to push one answer, just referencing F&L article as it offered some useful insights. This set off quite a discussion, but most of the objections center around money being a private issue,  shaped by the privitistic, individualistic culture in which we live. While not intending to answer the question about pastors knowing, I do think the discussion raises an even bigger issue.

As is often stated, Jesus spent more time talking about money than he did any issue short of the kingdom of God. Why? Because money is a big deal. Consider Matthew 6:24…

“No one 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” Matthew 6:24.

You cannot serve both God and money. They are at odds with one another. Only one can be that in which you hope and trust. Our money may say “In God we trust,” but, for most of us, it’s money we trust. We idolize and worship money, not God. Consider this cartoon…

Poignant, huh? It has often been said that “Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.” That is, there is no keeping your money out of the conversation. When our money is out of bounds, or kept unto ourselves, you are making a choice to serve money. And, again, as Jesus has said, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t serve both God and money. The real issue here is one of slaying idols and of sanctification. At some point in your sanctification, your attitude and approach toward money will be brought to the forefront. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Bring your money into the waters of baptism that you may be sanctified and Jesus may be all in all.

Interact: What money idol do you need to slay in order to set your heart on the Kingdom of God?

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5 Responses

  1. “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.”

    • This same verse came up in the discussion over on facebook as well. But can you honestly tell me that what that verse is talking about is not letting your pastor know how much you give? That is absolutely not the case.

      That verse (in fact, that entire passage on giving/prayer/fasting) is a warning against announcing your acts of righteousness “to be seen by them” (Matt. 6:1). That is, it’s a warning against giving out of pride and and seeking recognition for your giving.

      If we really want to take that passage that literally of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, shouldn’t we also all have cut off our right hands for causing us to sin, as it says just one chapter prior (Matt. 5:30)?

      No, that verse has nothing to do with whether or not pastors should know if their people are generous or not. It has to do with you, and me, giving for the approval of God, not of man.

  2. As an aside, don’t you report your giving to the IRS for the tax benefit? I certainly do. So it’s okay for your giving not to be in secret to Uncle Sam, but not to your spiritual leader?!?

  3. I give abundantly and with a thankful heart.
    But as far as the IRS goes, I believe we should give unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.
    I give unto God what is His.
    The IRS is going to reduce my debt because I have been charitable, which is a personal incentive. But what is the pastor going to do with the information? If my charity doesn’t measure up, will I be disciplined? If I exceed the standard, will I get some kind of earthly reward, recognition, or special friendship and acceptance?

    In this day and age of spiritual mistrust and fiscal abuse, I think we need to ask, “What does the pastor need to do to earn the right to look into his flock’s pocketbooks?” (Followed closely by addressing the question of what will access to this data be used for?).

  4. I think maybe your hermeneutic is off balance on this:
    “If we really want to take that passage that literally of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, shouldn’t we also all have cut off our right hands for causing us to sin, as it says just one chapter prior (Matt. 5:30)?”

    Yes, it would be better to cut off your right hand and be able to enter the kingdom of God than it would be to keep your hand and not be admitted into heaven. That is very literally true.
    However, since our since has been removed by the blood of the lamb because we have believed and trusted in Christ, no blood letting on our part is required. Our sins have been washed away, and the filth of our hands will no longer keep us from being in his presence eternally.

    But none of that really has anything to do with our conversation on whether a pastor should know what his flock is giving. I guess I figured that a lot of people assume that the pastor knows what they’re giving already. But if you were going to start anew and had the opportunity to set the groundwork, I think it would be better if the pastor saw everyone on equal footing with regard to their tithe.
    The deacons on the other hand might have a need to know, especially if they see someone’s giving drop off severely. That could be a trigger that the member is in need. But I think that falls under the deacons’ charge. I don’t believe it should be assumed to be discipline issue that a pastor, as a teaching or ruling elder, would first address. Therefore, it doesn’t seem to make practical sense for pastors to just know across the board what everyone gives.

    Merry Christmas!

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