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Money and the church

"Budget" Some rights reserved (CC BY 2.0) by Sourced from FlickrThe 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!

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I'm a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I'm passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.
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6 Responses to Money and the church

  1. I heard it once said Tithing is not Gods way of raising money but raising children. God does not need our money if he wanted he could get everything that needs to be done without any help from us .I also think that we have to be careful of saying that we are co-..anything with God That give way too much importance to man. A hammer is not co-builder with a man. It is a tool as we are in the hands of God. It is God who saved us,God who taught us and it is God working through us that gives us the ability to do anything for the Kingdom of God. It is ALL God ,He is the potter we are the clay .He decides what vessel we will be.

    • True, Tony, God does not need us humans to help, but we are invited into the process. I’m not keen on the example of the hammer, a blunt instrument without sentient thought. Perhaps a better analogy might be like baking with a child – the adult doesn’t need the child to be there, but invites the child to be involved – thereby providing a relational activity to build community as well as a learning experience for all involved.

  2. Some of us need to understand what responding to God’s love and grace means. For other people, who do not have much money, they respond to God’s love and grace through their time.

    • Georgia, absolutely. I know of very few people for whom money is not a matter of concern. I know of very few churches for which money is not a concern! That’s why we budget, and re-budget, etc.
      I know of many people with limited finances who give their heart and time and talents to the many ministries of God’s church – and may they be celebrated and blessed for what they give! But I think money also needs to be part of the discussion – no matter how small the amount.

  3. Kyle Norman

    I think so often we talk about money in terms of practicalities – what we spend on, what we can save, what we can give. Yet we never really speak about the spiritual dimension of how we understand and associate with it. Money can have a very idolatrous hold on people – and simply charging people to plop an extra twoonie in the plate does little to uncover this.

    I used to be very stressed about saving my money. Money was that to be saved and not used. I would be feel guilty for everything I spent. I remember thinking feeling like this was unhealthy and decided that I needed to put $5 in the plate every Sunday. Nothing miraculous happened, expect that the hold of money began to loosen.

    I know of people who have an amount they put in their tithe every week – yet if they buy someone a coffee they say something like ‘Well, Lord, This is part of my tithe’ – Really?

    I think the church needs to spend time talking spiritually about our economic system, and how our views of money pertain to spiritual matters. As you said – the issue of money is not separate from our faith.

  4. As Episcopal we give by the commandment of the Saints we lay aside tithes that don’t cut in on our daily expenses this is what Grace means in giving.

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