The Church Is Always Asking For Money: True Or False?
I wish to read for you from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, just a handful of words from the lips of Jesus. But these few words are nothing less than the Word of God.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
I have to tell you, when I first saw it, I did a double-take. The headline in the newspaper read, “Church to oust members who do not pay.” Sacre bleu! Oh. My first thought was, “Well, that’s a new way to raise money in the church.” But my second thought was, “Surely, this is a joke.” It wasn’t a joke. The accompanying article detailed how the Noble Street Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, informed members of the congregation who did not fulfill their financial commitments that their church membership would be revoked. They in essence sent a communication out that said, “Pay up or find a new church.” It wasn’t a joke. And they weren’t joking. Oh my. Well, needless to say, the action of that church provoked a rather strong reaction. There was a lot of anger. There was some anguish. There was some cynicism. In fact, the cynics had a field day. The cynics began to carp, “Well, what do you expect? The church is always asking for money.” I got to thinking about that. The church is always asking for money. Is that statement true or is it false?
I came across an article in a newsletter from a church in Cleveland, Tennessee that helps to put this whole matter in a slightly different light. Listen. “Sometimes you hear people say the church is always asking for money. That statement is blatantly untrue. It is the world which is always asking for money, not the church. When did you last go to the supermarket and the checkout clerk failed to ask you for your money? And by the way, doesn’t your mortgage company continue to ask for money with unceasing regularity? If you’re like most people, each month brings a whole new large collection of bills all asking for money. None of those bills, not one of them, is from the church. And who withholds a percentage of every dollar we earn? The IRS. The Heavenly Father does not. So you see, there is no free lunch except at the church. We attend worship every week. There’s no admission charge. If we’re sick, the church will visit us in the hospital. Where else can we get free counseling when we need it? Where will our children be married? Several hundred people receive this newsletter regularly and none of them receives a subscription notice asking for money as with other publications. And what do we do when a loved one dies? What will it cost? Well, the funeral home will certainly charge for their services. The church will not. The church building will always be there for us when we need it, clean with a kitchen and a nursery provided. We make full use of it, never pay a cent. No one will ever know whether we contribute or not. We have to pay taxes to provide our children free public education. But our church operates a Sunday school which will give quality Christian education with absolutely no cost or obligation. The church requires no membership fee and no annual dues. Consider this paradox. Compared to the government and the bill collectors of the world, the church almost never asks for money. Yet of all the things our money could be used for nothing is more important than what the church provides. The church is here to share the love of Jesus Christ, and the church will continue to provide ministry in Jesus’ name to everyone who needs it, whether they contribute or not. Now, that is something we should all want to be a part of.” I say amen to that. So the statement, “The church is always asking for money.” Is that true or is it false? I would like to submit to you today that this answer correctly given is, it is both true and false.
It’s false if you compare the church with other businesses and organizations which demand money in exchange for services, but it’s true if you regard generosity as being a constant, consistent part of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. So the statement is both true and false. It’s important, I think, for us to remember that Jesus had no trouble whatever speaking about the subject of money. I mean, are you aware of the fact that of the thirty major parables that Jesus told, twenty of them have to do with our possessions and what we give to others in the world? Are you aware of the fact that the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that one verse in every seven in those four gospels has to do with our possessions and what we give and what we share of what we have with the world? Jesus clearly regarded money as being of eternal significance. Maybe he never said it better than he said it right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus, all those years ago, was the master of the sound bite. And here is one of his greatest sound bites. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where your money is, there your heart will be also.”
Well, as I think about it, it seems to me that there are lots and lots of people at MDPC who have taken that powerful Word of Jesus and incorporated it into their lives. There are so many people in this church who give so generously to the cause of Jesus Christ. And as I think about them, it seems to me that these generous givers of MDPC fall into two categories. Let me share the two categories with you and see where you might fit.
The first category is there many people at MDPC whom I would term as duty givers.
Duty givers. There are so many Christians here who believe that it is their heroic responsibility and duty to continue the great ministry of this church. They know all of those who have gone before us in this place. They know of all the great things that have been a part of this church’s history. And they believe that they have been put here. It is their purpose. They were made for this. It is their calling from God to help move the ministry of this church on into the future.
They kind of remind me of a little boy who one day approached his mother. He was in obvious distress. And he said to her, “Mom, you know that crystal vase that’s been in our family for many generations? Well, this generation just dropped it.” Well, there’s so many people here at MDPC who know the value of what has been passed down to us. And they don’t want to drop it. They believe that they are called to continue the mighty ministry of Christ in this place on into the future.
Back in the early 1920s, there was a very wealthy Christian man here in America, who was called by God he believed to make a substantial gift. It was a gift of $100,000. In that day, believe me, that was a very substantial gift. The gift was to be used to start a Christian college in the country of Liberia in Africa. Well, on the strength of that great gift, the college was founded and it began to grow. And by the time the 1940s rolled around, that college was producing hundreds if not thousands of young people who were receiving a quality education and who were being exposed to faith in Jesus Christ. The college decided that they would have a founders’ day celebration. It had been quite some time since they had heard from their American benefactor, and so they decided that they would search him out and invite him to come for the celebration. It took a while to track him down. And when at last they located him, they discovered that he had lost absolutely everything in the crash of 1929. He was now living, barely able to make ends meet, in a little three-room flat on the south side of the city of Chicago. But in the circumstances, they still invited him to come to Africa for the founders’ day celebration.
At first, he refused. They persisted. They insisted they would pay for his travel expenses. And so he finally relented and he traveled to Liberia. There on the day of the great founders’ celebration, as he stood looking out at the campus that had been built with the money that he had given and as he saw all of those young people receiving a great education and being called into faith in Jesus Christ, he was moved to tears. And at that point, he leaned over to the president of the college and he said, “It turns out that all I have left in life is what I gave away.” Tuck that away in your heart for safekeeping, please. “All I have left in life is what I gave away.”
There are so many people who are a part of this great congregation who believe that it is their calling, their duty, their purpose, to keep the ministry of this church going and growing into the future. And consequently, they give and they give so generously. And I thank God for them.
But then here at MDPC, there are those givers whom I would term thanks-givers.
That is to say, out of gratitude to God, these Christians at MDPC give generously, enthusiastically, joyfully, abundantly. All that God has given them, they are happy to return a portion to Him. And it’s an amazing thing to witness that.
Not long after the conclusion of the first Gulf War, a husband and wife one day were preparing to attend a memorial service at their church. The service was being given because another couple, some of their very closest friends, had lost a son in the war. And they were going to dedicate one of the stained glass windows in the church to the memory of their son. That stained glass window was worth more than $50,000. As this husband and wife were preparing to leave home to go to the service, the wife said to the husband, “Don’t you think that’s a beautiful thing that they’re doing in memory of their son?” And the husband said, “Yep, sure is. Very generous indeed.”
And the wife turned to her husband and said, “What are we giving?” And the husband replied, “What do you mean? We don’t need to give anything. Our son came home from the war alive and well.” And the wife, her voice barely above a whisper said, “That’s exactly what I mean. They lost their son, and they’re giving more than $50,000 in his honor to the church. Our son’s alive and well and we are giving nothing.” How can I tell you that once you begin to remember the incredible blessings that God has showered upon you, that you cannot help but be moved then to do wondrous things generously with the gifts and the treasures which are yours?
Would you permit me just a moment to tell you about a friend of mine? His name is Billy Crockett. In 1973, back then, I went to serve the Shandon Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Billy Crockett was a member of that church. That fall in 1973, Billy Crockett came to see me. He said, “Preacher, I need to get myself right with Jesus Christ. And I’ve heard you preaching about tithing and you say that Christ expects the tithe of His good disciples. Well, I want to be right with Christ, but I don’t think I can swing 10% of my income.” So I said, “Okay, Billy, why don’t you just start this year with 1% of your income and then each year afterwards, raise it by 1% until you reach the tithe? Billy Crockett took the challenge. For the five years that I was there, every single year, he raised his gift to the church by 1% of his total income. And then in 1978, I moved on to serve another church. That Christmas, I got a Christmas card from Billy Crockett. And he told me about some of the things that had happened to him in his life that year. And down at the bottom, he had a P.S. and the P.S. read, “Preacher, I want you to know that I’m increasing my gift to the church by 1% of my income again this year.” Every year, I got a Christmas card from Billy Crockett. And every year, the postscript is always the same.
Finally, in 1983, he reached the tithe. And the postscript said, “Preacher, you’ll be glad to know, at last, I’ve hit the tithe.” The problem was Billy Crockett couldn’t stop. He reached the tithe and he couldn’t stop. And so every year, I get a Christmas card from Billy Crockett. And he tells me what’s happening in his life. And in every instance down at the bottom, there’s a P.S. that says that he’s increased his giving by 1% of his total income. He’s hit 20%. He couldn’t stop. He hit 30%. Every year I get the card, I would be willing to wager that not very long from now, I’m going to get a card from Billy Crockett and he’s going to be telling me about the things that are happening in his life. And down at the bottom, he’s going to write, “Preacher, I want you to know that I increase my gift to the church by 1% of my income. And this year, that will mean 40%.” Amazing. You see what happens when you begin to understand all that God has showered upon us in life, and then you find yourself moved to respond to that generous gift with a generosity of your own.
Amazing things begin to happen. This church is filled with people who are thanks-givers. They know the blessings that God has given. And as a result, because of what God has given them—including, and best of all, the gift of His only Son—they respond generously, faithfully, gratefully for all that God has done for them. And I thank God for every single one of them.
So the statement, the church is always asking for money, true or false? Well, it’s false. Because I’ll tell you, this church will never do what that Baptist Church in Virginia did. We will never say, Pay up or find a new church.” Never. But the statement is also true. Because you see, God has given so much. We have the sheer joy of giving back to Him gloriously and generously. The church is always asking for money.
Well, let there be no mistake. Today, today, on behalf of Christ and MDPC, I am asking for your money to be freely, gratefully, generously given.
Let me finish with this. Dr. Harold E. Hyde was the president of Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. On one occasion, he delivered to the graduating class of that college what is undoubtedly the shortest commencement address on record, just three lines. Here is that address in its entirety: “‘Know yourself,’ said Socrates. ‘Control yourself,’ said Cicero. ‘Give yourself,’ said Jesus Christ.”
Amen and Amen.