Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Money, Morals and Ministry

It's pretty easy to name some high-profile ministers who have scandalized Christianity through abuse of money and disregard for morals. But what about everyday Christians who don't think that they have a ministry, who aren't careful about their money, and who don't pay much attention to their morals?

The big-name preachers are a big embarrassment to the Church, they get flashy news-coverage and we all wince. How is it really worse than believers who don't use their skills and gifts to serve in the name of Christ, who don't give their money generously to the needy, and who don't mature their moral life as part of their hard work to love their neighbor? Which is more embarrassing?

The Apostle Paul was traveling from Corinth to Jerusalem, via the Egnatian Way through Thessalonica, then by boat along the coast of Troas and Lesbos, skirting Cyprus before they get to Syria. Along they way their cargo ship harbors to load and unload and make repairs. We read in Acts 21 how Paul and company would visit with the hospitable believers in town.

Through a prompting of the Holy Spirit they warn Paul that violence and arrest await him in Jerusalem. They plead with him not to go, to choose a safer destination. But the Holy Spirit has confirmed in Paul the need to go to Jerusalem, despite the danger. So which is it - is the Holy Spirit sending mixed messages? Does the Holy Spirit prompt a man to walk into risky situation?

Paul needed to go to Jerusalem as part of his ministry. He wanted to share with the elders of the Jerusalem church what God had been doing through him amongst the pagan villagers, the sophisticated Greeks and the tough Romans. God was clearly doing some amazing work through Paul's ministry, and everyone wanted to celebrate that.

Paul had also been collecting money from the many churches he had started or visited - money that was to go towards the poor and destitute in Jerusalem. But Paul had also been the subject of some nasty rumors, that he was promoting immorality and blasphemous ideas. Paul needed to clear his name and share the truth about his money, morals and ministry.

Does the Holy Spirit ever talk to you? Do you ever receive a prompt from the Holy Spirit? If not, here are some observations taken from Paul's story: the Holy Spirit will most likely have something to say to you about your money, your morals, and your ministry. As a Christian, all your money is God's money. So obviously God's Spirit is going to have some instructions for you on what to do with HIS money. As a Christian, our defining characteristic is to love God and love our neighbor - love is a moral, so do you think God's Spirit might have something to say to us about our love, about our morals? As a Christian, we have a ministry to go and make disciples - can we do this ministry without guidance from God's Spirit?

What needs to happen next in your life when it comes to your money, your morals, your ministry?

To discern an answer, I suggest you first pray about it, talk to God about it, and then listen for what God's Spirit reveals to you. He may reveal it to you while you are conversing with a friend, it may be while your at work, it may be while you are falling asleep at night.

To prompt some reflection on what God wants you to do next with your money, morals, and ministry, here are some suggestions:

MONEY: it's not your money, it's God's money. If He asks for at least ten percent of it back, don't you think you could do that? Maybe for some of you He's now asking for twenty percent? This is called tithing. When you tithe, you give your money to God. You can do this by giving it to your local church where you are involved.

You might worry that your budget can't afford ten or twenty percent going to God. From personal experience, when you tithe, things always work out for the better. When you trust God with your money, He makes sure you always have enough. It's a very beautiful thing.

MORALS: it's not your heart, it's God's heart! The best gift you can give to others is love. God wants to use you to lift up others, to help them grow and mature and blossom and make a lasting contribution to the world. God has saved you from the power of sin, he has made your heart clean, he has enabled you to help others break free from the enslavement of sin.

So why do you coddle your precious sins? Why do you not want to do what it takes to break those ugly habits that ruin and taint your love for those you care about? What are the ugliest, most common sins among Christians? Greed (Yuck!). Gluttony (Ugh!). Anger (Ack!). Pride (Blech!). Envy (Ewww!). Laziness (Yikes!). Lust (Argh!). Which ones are yours? No, really... which ones?

Until you are disgusted by the sins in your life, they'll stay there. Until you are under deep conviction to give a more powerful kind of love that leads to transformation and redemption in others, you'll let those sins keep their claws in you. 

MINISTRY: it's not your life, it's God's life! You are a gift from God to the world, to your family, to your church. Let God be the one then to direct your skills and gifts, your passions and interests, your personality and experiences towards bringing the whole gospel to the whole neighborhood. Jesus demonstrated what ministry could look like. He taught us how money and morals make for a powerful ministry - or a lousy one.

The way of Jesus showed us what our way of life could look like. We have to adapt to our culture, our century, our city - but our ministry flows out of our understanding of Jesus, our desire to follow in his steps, our following the prompts of God's Spirit. How you serve will be unique, it will be an expression of you and your obedience to Jesus in your world.

But you already have a ministry - you are always communicating something about God. If you are not intentional about your ministry, you have no idea then what you are sharing about God - and odds are it's not very good stuff. So learn what your ministry ought to be these days, embrace it, and live it.

No comments: