Paul warns Timothy about the dangers of loving money:
“If we have food and clothing we should be content with that”
- I Timothy 6:8
The ‘should’ can be read as an imperative, “Be happy with the bare necessities!” Or, Paul could be making a more syndical comment, “We should be happy but were not.” Either way, the point is that some financial resources are necessary, but our quest for more easily leads us away from our spiritual path. Jesus stated a similar thing about bread and the word of God (Matthew 4:4). This is a great spiritual truth that needs to be considered as we plan our individual lives and as we do church planning.
How hard is it to draw a line between the essentials and luxury items? Food belongs on one side, sports cars on the other. But where does a food item like steak belong or a fuel efficient car that happens also to be eye candy? Things quickly get muddled and we must conclude that Paul was wrong. Having more money is always a good thing. Going with the higher priced item can always be justified, and usually without too much thinking on our part. The thing is, luxury is not the desire of our spiritual heart. Thinking about how to get more money often leads us away from our Christian vocation. Optimizing our budget so that we can buy what we want is not the same thing as following Jesus as the Lord of all things.
Jesus says that people are incapable of serving both their financial interests and God at the same time (Matthew 6:24). Indeed, we have all found that dealing with money and remaining spiritual is difficult to do. Money can mean so many things in our personal lives. For one person, saving money makes them feel secure. For another, spending it expresses the fact that they are successful. Still others, use money or the withholding of it as a way to exert power in their relationships. Not only do people bring differing attitudes about money into church meetings, the congregation as a whole develops a cultural habit regarding its finances. There are policies and unwritten agreements that lock churches into a narrow way of thinking about their material assets. Thinking outside the box is hard when it comes to money.
Any plan for congregational change will encounter its greatest resistance at the point where it involves rethinking our relationship with money.