Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The love of money...

... is the root of all evil in the church?

I had a fantastic discussion with my fellow interns last night about money. How much are we beholden to money in parish ministry? We worry about the building, the ministries of the church, the future of the community.

"It isn't money that's evil. When we love it, yeah, that's the problem, but money's a useful resource. Without it can we really do ministry?"

That's an unjust paraphrase of a friend's comment last night. On its face it seems absolutely reasonable. It's the reasonableness of it all that makes it that much more dangerous.

No, I'm not arguing that the church needs to sell all it has for the poor and oppressed. I think Jesus taught us that lesson in rebuking Judas for wanting to sell the ointment instead of 'wasting' it on Jesus. It's not a waste if it's done properly, 'properly' being an awfully vague and unhelpful modifier.

What concerns me is that we forget the real reason the Church can exist at all: the Holy Spirit. A friend of mine always says her favorite holiday is Pentecost since it's the birthday of the Church. The Church in Acts did not have endowments or capital campaigns, yet it survived. It flourished!

The same friend protested: "But the world has changed a lot since then. You can't seriously think that we should go back to that model?"

No, not at all. What concerns me is that our attachment to the status quo is what endangers our relationship with God. We all like having money saved up so the church lights can stay on. It's not an entirely ignoble want. I just wonder if people from the cathedral here could walk away from the stained glass, the beautiful altar, the sanctuary hallowed by a century of prayer and still feel God. And maybe even rejoice while walking away!

In our saving and building up of church finances, do we try to insulate ourselves from a desert fasting experience which could build up the church even more?

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