A number of years ago I attended an ethnic church in my neighborhood in Queens. It was a wonderful experience, I love the congregation and the clergy, and it had a strong impact on my spiritual life. It also came with it’s challenges, mostly in the way of communicating with others my age since they were all immigrants whose first language wasn’t English.
One year the church undertook a project to transcribe the Bible. A deacon coordinated the project, assigning different books of the Bible to different members, who then transcribed their respective book(s) onto beautiful gilt-edged paper. I was invited to participate and ended up transcribing I and II Peter. It was quite the challenge in that my language skills were nominal, my writing looked like a child’s, but nevertheless I proceded with the project and completed it.
After the project was over the deacon presented this Bible to the senior minister which, to the best of my knowledge, still sits atop the altar. The church asked different participants to share the story of their experience transcribing the Bible with the congregation. When it was my turn, I posed a question: why did God entrust the continual publication to human scribes from the start. Did God not know that humans are fallible? Weren’t there more efficient ways of doing it? Why didn’t God simply deliver new scrolls when needed? It’s been long enough since I spoke that I forget what my conclusion was about that topic, but it does lead me to a new question that I’ve been thinking about recently:
Why does God require his people to use money?
Why do churches need people to give? Why do churches and ministries need to budget? What is the purpose of finance committees and boards? Wouldn’t it be easier and more efficient to drop money from the sky, or every Sunday let the minister wake up and see crisp new $100 bills in the aisles–moolah instead of manna, so to speak?
As with many things I have more questions than answers, but I am going to suggest two reasons.
First, I find that my relationship with money says a lot about what is going on in my heart. If I’m consumed with a financial issue, then it means that I’m putting my trust in my bank account instead of on God.
And this leads to my second conclusion: trusting in God for provision leads to better ministry. I’ve worked with a number of ministries over time, and two examples come to mind that demonstrate the contrast. In the first case, a Wall Street type gave a significant amount of money to the ministry. They went all out with advertising, hired a bunch of new staff, created new programs–the works. About a year afterwards they let a bunch of people go, closed down a major program, and cut costs. In the second case there were some substantial gifts, but not to the extent of the first ministry, the staff relied on prayer and careful budgeting to manage finances, and the ministry grew significantly.
Now, there may have been other factors that were in play that I didn’t know about, and I don’t have the knowledge that God has about what happened. But it was always my perspective that the different outcomes were greatly influenced by where trust was put.
Why does God require us to use money? We’ll ultimately know in the end. But I think that we have some decent clues for now.