The start of a new year often gets people thinking about money: budgets, financial planning, spending habits. We do it personally, we do it in the church (God bless the treasurers preparing for Annual Meetings!); we look at ways we can (hopefully) balance the bottom line. It’s not usually fun, but it needs to be done.
So, especially in the time of budget setting and financial planning, I would challenge the whole church to be aware of its finances. Not to suggest that we all become financial wizards, but to at least have a working knowledge of our parish budgets. How much money do we bring in? What are our expenses? Do our expenditures reflect the values of the people?
Of course, discussing money makes many people uncomfortable. It can feel awkward, it goes against our cultural norm of greed and want. And we don’t need to broadcast who gives how much; but we do need a broad understanding.
And perhaps we need to be reminded that talking about money is not a strange thing. We all do it in our homes, many of us do it in our work, why not do it in the church?
Despite the discomfort, though, we should remember that money is not separate from our faith; it is a part of the journey. Jesus talked about money – a lot; the only thing he spoke of more was the kingdoms of heaven and hell. The bible references finances some 2300 times.
And how we spend our money shows where we put our priorities.
For many of us, our biggest expenses are housing, food, clothing. We want to be safe, warm, dry; we want to have good nutritious food in our bellies, we want to have adequate clothes on our backs. But how we meet those needs, and how we spend the rest of our money, is our decision. We can choose to be thrifty, we can choose to be extravagant. We can opt to carry large debts, we can opt to have large savings accounts. We can carefully follow a budget, we can carelessly lose track of where our money goes.
What we do with our money says a lot about who we are, and what our priorities are. But as the church, we are challenged to see the ministry opportunity in how we spend our money. Money ought not be simply an instrument with which to buy things, but an instrument through which we respond to God’s grace and love through our own generosity. That generosity should not be determined because someone else told us to give, but because (through our prayers) God had invited us to take part in God’s great works.
We, God’s chosen people, are encouraged to give, to tithe if we are able. While 10% is a lot, a friend of mine once said “God has given us EVERYTHING, in profound abundance. And God wants us to keep 90% of it.”
So as you consider your personal budget for the year, please also consider the budget in your place of worship and ministry. However you give, whatever you give, this needs to be talked about: not with the clergy, not with the treasurer, but with God. God has invited us all to be co-creators in God’s work, through the church. Please pray on how you will respond to that invitation in your own context!