Results tagged “money” from Reformation21 Blog

Identical Equity?


The battle cry of "equity" serves as a summons to action, or at least outrage, wherever a person feels an injustice, or a passing over. The trouble for Christians is, in a field of politically charged verbage, words like "equity" or "individualism" tend to get obscured by the broader political tapestries these terms are woven into. Thus the politically conservative Christian will hear and react against a demand for equity without necessarily having a clear reason why, or knowing what they are reacting against.

God declares that He rules with infallible equity, and that His kingdom is one of perfect justice, righteousness and equity (Ps 67:4; 75:2; 98:9) The great promise of Christ is that He will not judge by appearances, but rather make his evaluations of all people, including the poor and meek, with righteousness and equity. (Is 11:4). Equity, or fairness, is deeply rooted in God's character, and one of the central pillars of His kingdom which Jesus establishes, and which Christians are called to testify to and display in our lives.

But what do we mean by equity? Is equity an echo of God's declaration that what matters is the heart-- the reason why He passed over Saul and chose David? Is it the desire to set up a fair competition where David the underdog can still triumph over Goliath? Is it taking up Jesus' imperative to the Pharisees: to stop judging by appearances, but to judge rightly? These are goals which Christians should cherish.

If, on the other hand, equity means identical existence and reality, God is the most inequitable being we could imagine. Taken in that sense, He is not equitable in whom He sets His love on: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom 9:13). He is not equitable in whom He gives power to. He raises up kings and puts them down. (Daniel 2:21). He is not equitable in assigning race, or gender, or athletic prowess, or intelligence. Nor is this the sort of equity we would want.   

Surely no one imagines that equity is some sort of nightmarish carbon copied cul-de-sac, where everyone lives in the same type of house, wears the same clothes, drives the same car, and goes to the same schools? We recognize that a proper celebration of diversity celebrates the expansiveness of who God is, and what only He can hold together perfectly through His Spirit. No sane person would argue that establishing equity means to jettison, rather than accept and celebrate differences.

What most often lies at the heart of debates around equity are views on socio-economic differences. As the world's riches increase, so does the wealth gap, studies say.[1] It's questionable that a medieval serf working the land for his feudal lord would have agreed with this comparative historical assessment, but the question remains what are we to make of the issue of wealth inequity? This is where everyone has room to get a little uncomfortable.

God warns those who are rich in this present world not to set their heart on riches, but rather to be rich in good deeds, generous, and ready to share. (1 Tim 6:17) Followers of Christ cannot shelter behind hard work and a free market as grounds to do what they wish financially. Rather, wealthy Christians have an obligation to share and help those who cannot help themselves. We also must guard our attitudes toward rich and poor. James makes it clear that when we see a rich, well dressed person, and treat him better than a poor, homely person, that we are making distinctions which God does not. (Js 2:1-7)  

On the other hand, having wealth, even massive amounts of wealth, is not evil. Privilege is not something to be scorned and rejected, but rather stewarded. "Happy are you O land, when your king is the son of the nobility." (Ecc 10:17) Daniel rose to power in Babylon because he was born into Israelite royalty. Moses received the best upbringing and education in the world. Jesus submits to and does the will of God the Father.

We recognize the necessity, even goodness of inequity every day. A manager at McDonald's gets paid more than a front of house cashier, though within a given hour or day, the cashier may have the much harder work. But if we insisted on paying them the same amount, the restaurant would soon go bankrupt and no one would have anything.  

Christians should fight the hardest for equity of opportunity; Jesus did precisely that when he died on the cross to offer salvation free of cost or condition. The real danger comes when we view money or prestige as the indicators of our worth, and therefore become either arrogant or envious. Equity among humanity comes from our created endowment, bearing God's image. Yet differences of rank have always existed, and will always exist. Jesus says many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Mt 19:30) Our goal should be to use our gifts to serve each other, each according to the measure which God has assigned (Rom 12:3), and, whether poor or rich, to boast in the equity we have as sinners in need of God's grace.


Justin Poythress (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the assistant pastor of student ministry at Christ Community Church in Carmel, Indiana.

The Cost of Leadership


In the business world, there's regular talk of building the right team and how to woo the right people in order to steer the ship when current commitments seem to be hindering production. With the right relationships and the right amount of money, business gurus tell us that it's possible to put together a team of leaders that is equivalent to the five starters for the Golden State Warriors and their entire bench! Sadly, the same logic is applied by many local churches. Though it may not be evident at first, the fall out of such an approach is detrimental to the life of the church. People will overlook a man's angry rants in the boardroom or vitriolic attacks on co-workers because of what he offers in a fortune 500 company (after all, isn't that what makes him successful?); however, God will not allow the church to thrive in a spiritually healthy way if its members overlook a lack of biblical qualifications because a man possesses some other seemingly valuable gift set.

The Bible gives exceptionally clear guidelines as to what qualifies a man to hold the office of elder or deacon in a local church. In his letters to both Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-13) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9), the Apostle Paul set out very clear character and leadership qualities that mark a man off as being fit to be set apart to fill the office of elder (pastor) or deacon.

Although the biblical qualifications are quite straightforward, there are two ways that many churches have abandoned what God has said about biblical order and leadership and have inserted worldly qualifications into the equation.

Show Me the Money

There is a pastor of a very large church that has a monthly meeting with the church's top 50 financial contributors. In those meetings, the pastor asks them to comment on the current trajectory of the church, solicits their opinions on future plans, and reminds them how important their continued financial commitment is to building their brand. Regardless of who the church has put into formal leadership, this group of men and women are ipso facto elders. Their qualification is that they have money and they have been faithful to give it. While generosity is always commendable, holding places of influence and privilege in the church on account of wealth cuts across the clear teaching of James 2. 

Money buys access; and, access often provides far more influence than holding the office itself. We see this in politics in a fallen world. We assume that those with a financial platform will use it in the shrewdest way in order to meet their own wants and needs. The entire Political Action Committee (PAC) system is built on this premise. The church, however, must not be concerned with what people want. It has been tasked by God to identify the needs of God's people--spiritual needs that can't be remedied by worldly or financial means. 

If You Like It, It's Yours

About ten years ago, I sat in on a church growth seminar. Everyone in attendance was enamored with the main presenter. In the course of his presentation, this man recounted a story about how he had wanted a certain man on his ministry team, but the man was serving at another church on the other side of the country. He continued conversations with the man, gathering information about his family and hobbies, and eventually boarded a plane for a visit. Learning that the man he was pursuing loved baseball, this church growth expert brought that man a ball signed by his favorite player, along with gifts for the wife and kids. "This," said the presenter, "was the thing that sealed the deal." The take away? You can purchase church leaders if you are willing to fly across the country and deliver a well-researched gift.

Most local churches aren't flying their pastor(s) around the country to build a dream-team; but, the principle is no less applicable in less extravagant contexts. Pastors often "sheep steal" from other local churches by telling the potential new member, "You know, we really need some deacons right now. Is that something you have any interest in..." or, "I really can't understand why your church hasn't made you an elder or deacon yet. We would love to have someone like you with us." Proverbs 17:8 says, "A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers." For some, buying church officers is as easy as offering the office to someone who has been deemed to be unqualified by another congregation. The subtlety of this approach can also occur after a man joins a local church. In order to keep him, his family and his financial commitments in the church, the current leadership places him in office. Such an approach appeals to the flesh by telling a biblically unqualified individual that he is important and capable. Stroked egos are easily purchased. 

Bribery is a wicked and deceptive tactic. The Preacher tells us, "A bribe corrupts the heart" (Ecclesiastes 7:7). The pastors/elders who will essentially bribe men with an office in the church are the same men who will operate on worldly principles in other aspects of ministry. The church that approaches God's offices in a worldly fashion will functionally operate by asking, "How can we get what we want" rather than "How can we do what God wants?" Every church is working to build one of two kingdoms. The important question is, "Which kingdom are we building?" The way in which the local church identifies, calls, and installs officers goes a long way in answering this extremely important question.

Sex, Power, and Money: Be Careful Who Owns You

"If you want to know who rules over you, find out who you are not allowed to criticize" - Voltaire

If the three sisters of grace are faith, hope, and love, we may also say the three sisters of the flesh are sex, power, and money. 

Years ago, I was warned about these sisters of the flesh. 

We are all constituted differently in body and soul. And our natural constitutions fuel particular lusts, since the soul and body bear an organic relation to each another. Moreover, the social standing of a person also has implications for the types of sins he commits: those who are wealthy are prone to certain sins; those who are poor are prone to other sins. Those with great intellects are also prone to pride. Parents should be careful before they dub their child the next Einstein. 

Certain sins are more prevalent at different stages of life. A child possesses a heart that will be prone to certain sins only later in life. Moreover, the lusts of individuals are drawn out according to their various callings. Judas stole because he was a sinner, but also because as treasurer he was presented with an easy opportunity to steal. 

To answer the objection that certain sins are contrary to each other and so men are not given to all types of covetousness, Thomas Goodwin explains that people are inclined to different sins at different stages in their lives. So the prodigal youth may become covetous in his old age. It is also true that some people have an antipathy to certain sins, but this antipathy is not moral but physical, "either because their bodies will not bear it, or for some other incommodity they find in it" (Goodwin). A hypochondriac may not visit a prostitute for fear of disease, instead of fear of God.

The temptation for David to have Bathsheba was heightened by the fact that he could have Bathsheba. That temptation for lust was obviously different for David when he was old and dying. If we could have any woman we wanted, we would probably struggle a lot more with sexual temptation than we do. The good-looking quarterback at University usually has greater temptations with women than the assistant captain of the chess team. 

Perhaps we should thank God right now that we aren't particularly handsome or beautiful; we might thank God that we haven't enjoyed too many successes; we may find out one day that he kept us poor (or relatively average-looking) in order to save us and keep us from many sins.

We may not think money is a temptation until the door to money opens just a little bit. Soon, like a lion tasting blood for the first time, the door has swung wide open, our pockets begin to be filled by those who want to control us, and we are helpless to stop the rot that has taken place. All of this is to say, we don't know how much we love money until it actually becomes a real temptation. Be warned: those who give you money are likely also to control you in some way. And then you are quickly unable to criticize them in any way, shape, or form. You become increasingly blind, like the idols you serve (Ps. 115). I am glad that my employer is the local church and that no organization has control over me because they pay me a lot of money. 

We may not think we love power until we get a taste of power. Everything I've seen so far in Reformed circles has only convinced me that not only does money corrupt, but power corrupts even more. Indeed, the more money the more power. Those in power can quickly cultivate a culture of fear. As Voltaire said, "if you want to know who rules over you, find out who you are not allowed to criticize." I think some of us might find that a very uncomfortable examination. 

M'Cheyne once said well: "The seeds of all sins are in my heart, and perhaps all the more dangerously that I do not see them." Imagine having friends who will actually challenge you and tell you that you're being stupid! 

It's been a while since I've quoted Nacho Libre, but I think the honor in this clip goes to Esqueleto. 

As a church planter, numbers can often be a consuming topic. Without numbers, or "butts in the seats" as some say, you cannot launch a church plant. Therefore it is a constant prayer of mine, as well as those in our church plant Bible study, that God would bring those into our midst who need to be there.

So far so good...

Why else do we need "butts in the seats"? Is it simply to begin our church plant or even sustain existing churches? According to numerous conversations I have had, the answer is "no." Numbers are important not simply to begin, or sustain, a church but also to ensure budget is met. Without people willfully and freely giving financially to the work of the church, local congregations will struggle. In other words, "butts in the seats" is also a money matter.

When you notice the trajectory toward end-of-the-year giving is likely going to fall wholly short of expectations, "butts in the seat" can evolve into a new meaning. On the one hand, to observe numerical growth can suggest that God is adding to his kingdom. Most, if not all, pastors I know desire a sort of Pentecost experience (i.e., thousands coming to faith under the preaching of the word). But when that does not occur, and the pastor begins to notice the congregation shrinking, worry can set in, especially if one's budget is already a concern. 

"Money talks," as the saying goes. And when times are tough financially, there is a potential danger for people to turn into dollar signs. More people means more money. How do we avoid this? How do we avoid allowing money to take a position in our lives where it should not? People should not morph into dollar signs. Yes, we trust God, but due to the weakness of our faith sometimes it is hard (Matt. 6:25-34). (By the way, presently I am not struggling with this, but I know other ministers who have or are).

What do you think? Reverends Pruitt and Fluhrer: do you have any suggestions?