Thursday, November 16, 2006

Heart and Money, Part 1 & 2

Part 2: The following excerpt is from an article in Saturday's Tennessean and originally from the Nov. 18, 2006 Los Angeles Times entitled "Study finds what money can buy you: a sting, selfish outlook" by Karen Kaplan. The article is directly related to our discussion. Independent, non-religion based research is proving what God and Christ have been trying to tell us from day one.
A team of psychologists has discovered why money can't buy happiness. Pictures of dollar bills, fantasies of wealth and even wads of Monopoly money arouse feelings of self-sufficiency that result in selfish and often antisocial behavior, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science.

All it took to discourage college students from contributing to a University Student Fund were 15 short phrases such as "a high-paying salary." Those primed by money-related phrases donated an average of 77 cents, compared with $1.34 for students exposed to neutral phrases like "it is cold outside."

"The mere presence of money changes people," said Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study. [Researchers] theorized that even subtle reminders of money would inspire people to be self-reliant — and to expect such behavior from others. A series of nine experiments confirmed their hypothesis. For example, students who played Monopoly and then were asked to envision a future with great wealth picked up fewer dropped pencils for a fellow student than those who were asked to contemplate a hand-to-mouth existence.

"Money changes people's motivations," said coauthor Nicole Mead, a psychology graduate student at Florida State University. "They are less focused on other people. In this sense, money can be a barrier to social intimacy."

Could it actually be that scripture is indeed a little bit more than man-made literature? Uummm.

Part 1:
Nov 17: I have posted an addendum to for clarification purposes. See the end.

I have been dealing with a few issues as a member of our church's leadership that have sparked the thoughts I share today.


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. – Matthew 6:19-20.

I believe many Christians today misinterpret Matthew 6:19-20 to mean we are to be responsible stewards our fiscal and physical resources. This is true in its simplest form. Taken a little further, it is a warning about riches. My study Bible has this comment: “The dangers of riches are often mentioned in the NT, but nowhere are they condemned in and of themselves. What Jesus condemns here is greed and hoarding of money.”

Even my study Bible provides the hint of an escape clause concerning material possessions. The ever-present, human qualifiers of “but” and “however” that allows us to skirt the hard issues about which Jesus spoke.

I feel the standard interpretations completely ignore verse 21.


For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I am not a scholar of scripture and language, but it seems to me that Matthew 6:19-24 is speaking about heart matters not about God's material resources bestowed upon us. If our hearts are with God, then where material wealth ends are up will take care of itself. We will put it where He needs it.


[22]The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. [23]But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
[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.

Interestingly, my Bible capitalizes the word Money (I look forward to your comments on this JMG). I feel strongly that materialism is one of the greatest threats against today's Christian. Too many of us are unknowingly practicing idolatry. If we love each other, then we will hold each other accountable on this issue, because the effect is not on church budgets, it is on the individual soul.

A common sentiment when you get into this area is, "I really resent church leadership wrapping money and the heart together just to increase contributions."

I do not think we should be ashamed of wrapping of money and heart together. Jesus did and he showed that the two have profound impact on each other. This is not about increasing collections; it is about challenging each other on where our hearts truly dwell. This is a tough question, which frankly many are afraid to address head-on because of what the question might reveal.

I know these are sensitive, complex, and serious issues. That is exactly what Christianity is: sensitive, complex, and ultimately serious.

Nov 17 addendum:
My beef is that we are not meeting budget with contributions will the median wealth in our congregations is astounding. My concern is that if everyone tithed, churches would have so much money to put into service it would not be funny. Just everyone giving 5% would likely blow church budgets right out of the water.

At the same time, there are areas of church spending that I feel need major attitude shifts. I want church leaderships (me included, being part of a leadership) to look very hard at their spending weeding out unnecessary expenses, self-serving expenses, and finding efficiences where ever we can.

But, the purpose is not to reduce budgets. The purpose would be to support agressive budgets in which the majority of dollars went directly to Kingdom work: ministries to the hurting in our congregation; ministries to strengthen and edify our spiritual being for Kingdom service; and most importantly, major external service (not evangelizing) to the world--both the local community and missions.

If churches do not do the above, what is our purpose? Where do our hearts truly lie? We must let the churches' external actions evangelize, not our words to our little social clubs inside our elaborate walls.

What are your thoughts dear readers?

21 comments:

JMG said...

The capital M on the word "Money" signifies that the word is being personified--like another god. The KJV uses the word Mammon which means "riches." You cannot serve both God and riches. If I own a lot of material possessions--have a lot of riches--then my main aim is going to be to protect those riches. Think about how much we pay for homeowner's insurance each year. We work to have a house (that house is very likely not paid for and won't be for a very long time) and then we also pay for insurance to cover that house and its contents if something should happen to destroy them. Our main aim in working is to be able to afford riches so that we can maintain a lifestyle.

The church building is the same way. It isn't paid for, and you have to pay insurance costs not only for the structure and its contents, but you also pay liabilty insurance in case somebody gets hurt on the church property. Insurance guarantees that the church congregation can maintain its "lifestyle" as well.

We spend most of our time working to pay for our riches and to pay for insurance to protect our riches. As I write this I am sickened by the entire concept, but I know that I won't likely be selling my stuff any time soon.

Just imagine if we didn't think we had to have all these riches. We would be free to do more meaningful work--work that actually places our treasure in heaven, work that entitles us to the reward that Jesus will bring when he returns to set up his kingdom.

If Christians actually lived this way, the churches would go out of business because people would be using what money they had to help each other instead of contributing it to pay the church's operating expenses.

Be careful when you ask for my comments, Tony!

Tony Arnold said...

I love your comments! Spot on!


You cannot serve both God and riches. If I own a lot of material possessions--have a lot of riches--then my main aim is going to be to protect those riches.

Big guns take big bullets -- unknown

If Christians actually lived this way, the churches would go out of business because people would be using what money they had to help each other instead of contributing it to pay the church's operating expenses.

Yeah, but wouldn't that really be the church, the way Christ described it....oh crap...someone put a lid on that can, the worms are escaping!

Tony

JMG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JMG said...

You know, it's probably time that somebody opened that can and threw away the lid. The churches today bear little resemblance to the church of the early Christians.

jettybetty said...

This probably is not gonna shock you all--but I agree with you--the thing that rather bugs me is something JMG says (and I am not picking on her). "As I write this I am sickened by the entire concept, but I know that I won't likely be selling my stuff any time soon." That's pretty much how I feel--and that's so confusing.

BTW, did Lee say marketing stuff to someone who doesn't need it is the same as prostitution on Sunday? (Don't want to get my quotes wrong.)

Tony Arnold said...

I missed his class on Sunday due to other duties, but sounds like something he would say. I kind of like it myself.

One thing I want to make clear, having re-read my post. My beef is that contributions have not met budget. If everyone tithed we would have so much money to put into service it would not be funny. Just everyone giving 5% would likely blow budget right out of the water.

At the same time, there are areas of church spending that I feel need major attitude shifts.

I want church leaderships to look very hard at their spending weeding out unnecessary expenses, self-serving expenses, and finding efficiences where ever we can. But, the purpose is not to reduce the budget. The purpose would be to support an agressive budget in which the majority of dollars went directly to Kingdom work: ministries to the hurting in our congregation; ministries to strengthen and edify our spiritual being for Kingdom service; and most importantly, major external service (not evangelizing) to the world--both the local community and missions.

Let the churches' external actions evangelize, not our words to our own social club inside our walls.

Tony

JMG said...

As someone who is not in church, I should probably keep my mouth shut, but I'll say something else anyway. It seems that people want inappropriate things from church. What I mean is that they want Sunday school classes that cater to each and every age or social group with plenty of activities. They want audio/visual stimulation during the worship service. The TV generation can't get enough entertainment in the world; they have to have it at church too. And we expect someone else to pay for it. Yes this stuff is nice, but is it necessary for building relationships between people and strengthening their relationship with God? Our constant desire to be entertained has deceived us into believing that if we don't get it at church, we aren't having our spiritual needs met. And we feel that we need to be more like the world in order to reach unchurched people. Therefore, in order to keep people coming to church, churches spend more and more on entertainment, drawing in more and more people who want the free entertainment and thus falling further behind.

I don't know that that's the case at your church, but whenever I visit churches, it seems that it's more about entertainment than discipleship.

Purgatory Penman said...

Penman's Mom says,

Oh, how you convict us all by quoting these verses. No, the churches today do not resemble the New Testament churches. However, is it possible to return to the poverty and simplicity of those Christians, in the world of today, and still be effective?

Our culture is so very different. As jmg says, many of our expenses come from our efforts to entertain. However, the children of the Electronic Age must first be attracted before we can teach them. And, since the children alone guarantee the existence of the church tomorrow, we MUST devote much of our budgets to getting them into the church assemblage.

There are other ways that we might reach them--going to THEM comes to mind. This, too, is an important expenditure.

It is my belief that our churches don't have to be such magnificent edifices, but those who disagree with me say that we must operate like a business and compete with the world's businesses to attract the nonbelievers. They say, "Who wants to attend a church building that looks poor and rundown when they have so many options for spending their time with people who are obviously well-to-do and attend services at a place that is beautiful and comfortable?"

I've heard of many unassuming, simple congregations that worship in small, ungilded buildings but do more toward helping their fellowmen and sending missionaries to the lost than their more obviously affluent neighbors.

I, too, have been grappling with this issue. No, I don't give to His work from my riches the way that I should. Additionally, I'm moving to a new city soon and must join a new congregation of worshippers. Do I join a huge church with elaborate buildings, or do I search out a small, unassuming group? Which will be using the meager monetary contribution that I give to its best advantage?

Tony, I believe a large majority of Christians today have "sinned and fallen short" in this particular aspect of out worship. I do pray that we can change.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG, I think there is much truth in your thoughts about church. I really hope some others weigh in on your thoughts, pro or con.

I want to hear what "church people" think of the comments.

We may have created a machine we serve rather than it serving others. Much like the law.

Tony

Phil said...

What if we did a reverse tithe, as Rick Warren has done?

90% to outside the church and 10% to inside?

Tony Arnold said...

That is a good question Phil, but it does not tell me your thoughts.

I want to know what you think. We need to hear the opinions of those directly involved.

Also, I would need more elaboration on the reverse tithe even though a reverse tithe to me sounds like 90% of income to charity, 10% I get to keep which would be awesome.

But, do let trying to explain Rick Warren get in the way of providing your thoughts on the matter.

Tony

DB Carden said...

It is interesting to think about "church" as a charity. Who gives to a charity without first seeing where the money is going, or is that just me. If a charity is spending 75% of its revenue on upkeep and management, it would not long be considered a charity. However, many churches frequently spend that percentage and more on buildings and staff. Now, I know it can be argued that those things are being used "in the mission of the church", but that is hard to see when hard, concrete ministries struggle to find funding. OC Kindergarten = Exhibit A.

Tony Arnold said...

Good point DB. However, the note for a new Kindergarten building will be funded by Kindergarten tuition, not church contributions.

However, more to your point is debt service on buildings which most large churches carry.

For me, I firmly believe church leadership has to continually push and manage so that an ever greater portion of budgets go directly to service to hurting and needy people.

If I understood Phil's question, it would be great for a church to have 90% of its budget going directly to outreach and 10% in supporting the fixed cost of the church. And outreach does not mean scripture inlaid clubs to beat people into salvation with in the name of evangilism.

Phil said...

Tony, I think you know me well enough to know that I agree with you on this. Sometimes I wonder if people don't give to their church because they're not convinced that how the money is being spent is the best way to spend it. I have no proof of that whether hard proof or anecdotal, but I do wonder.

Tony Arnold said...

Well, I think we have some proof. We can all point to situations where true suffering has been relieved and dire needs met. But for the most part, I agree, church members are trusting in God and leadership to use the resources wisely. I am glad of this trust.

But leadership must communicate better so that members do know that the money is being used to serve the Kingdom best. Rarely do we communicate the small day-to-day services to hurting, needful people, but we make sure we present the budget.

More importantly, however, is even if members agree that money is being spent in a manner that satisfies them, that is no guarantee that the money is being used in a manner that serves the Kingdom best.

If the members' hearts are not aligned with God, it only assures the money is not going to Kingdom work although they are all blissfully happy with how it is spent. Examples might be:

* I love our new building, all the new decorating and parking, the gym.

* The audio-visual in church is awesome and the worship makes me feel so good.

* I really enjoy all the fellowship activities we have. I love socializing with my church family and the catering is top-notch.

None of these sentiments say anything about serving the Kingdom. Are those the true purpose of the church. They are wonderful things and provide some level of minstry to the body, but are they changing the world? Are they bringing the Kingdom to earth in this aeon?

Yet the majority may say that, "I am very satisfied with the way my contributions are being spent", because they are being served.

One might argue that the only true sign that a church is using its resources wisely is if the membership is restless because the physical and social areas of the church are suffering at the hands of external uses.

Wow, I just realized I might know of a church in that situation a year or so ago.

I guess I am challenging both individuals and church leadership. If I am not tithing, does God really have my heart? If we are spending more on ourselves than the community around us, are we serving the Kingdom at the highest level?

I truly believe that if the majority tithed, we would not be making either/or choices about infrastructure verses ministry.

Tony

Phil said...

I think what you mean, Tony, is that if OUR church body tithed, we wouldn't have to make those choices. Other congregations would still have too.

DB Carden said...

I had a great conversation with one of my older friends who lives in the northeastern US. He forgets things, so he asked "with what congregation do you serve?". It was a striking question because of the mindset behind the question. It is an expectation of connecting with other Christians to do Kingdom work. it wasn't "member" or "attend", it was "serve". Of course, this is also a guy that wanted to start a new congregation in another part of the state by renting space and growing organically but was resisted by the minister of his current congregation because the minister did not want the church base (ie. money) to be split. My friend was and is totally Kingdom focused, the minister was wallet focused.

On another note, if the Kindergarten supports itself, how can it be called a ministry of the OC congregation? That has puzzled me for some time. Not trying to make waves, just curious.

To answer some of the speculation, I will say that we split our giving between OC and other causes because we feel we can have a greater impact by directly giving but also feel obligated to "sustain" our church family. There is an uneasy tension between the two that I can't resolve.

Also, just for reference sake, give.org tracks charities and has a 65% minimum criterion for money going to the main focus of the charity. I would be happy with that at church, but I doubt it would ever happen without intent to do so.

Tony Arnold said...

DB, very good insights.

Phil, uou may be right, but based on my experience and information at hand, most congregations would have few tough choices to make if everyone that "serves" them tithed.

I know of several congregations with smaller memberships than OC but comparable budgets and they do run short each week. However, I do not know if they are supporting a large capital campaign at the same time. To be fair, the campaigns combined w/ weekly giving might meet budget.

Tony

JMG said...

Wow, that article that you referenced is something! Proof positive that it's hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Amy said...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Tony!

Tony Arnold said...

I posted this comment on Wed, and it showed,but is gone now. Blogger has its problems sometimes.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you too Amy, and I wish all my blog friends and readers a wonderful, safe Holiday weekend.

Tony