Money – it’s called filthy lucre for understandable reasons. It literally passes through many hands…so I’m sure it’s bacteria laden (though most of us have no reluctance to take it in hand – disease risk or not!).
But I doubt that literal contamination gave rise to this expression. Money – its actual possession and the striving to get it – can easily corrode the soul. We all know that, even if most of us believe ourselves resistant to its corrosive effects.
Some folk think the Bible condemns money as the root of all evil. That’s a distortion of what it really says. In I Timothy the writer says, “The LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil….” and in its pursuit some have “pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Life is abundant with anecdotal confirmation of Paul’s warning.
But it’s also true that money can be used to accomplish great good. From the feeding of hungry people, to the building of great institutions of learning, to the commissioning of stunning works of art – money has been and is used to enrich the welfare of humankind.
It can also be used to underwrite life-transforming ministry.
So why does it seem there is never enough for this last ennobling purpose?
I think there are many reasons – far too many to list here. Partly, however, persons and organizations in Christian ministry find themselves (ourselves!) underfunded for a reluctance to ask in a legitimately persuasive way. In church we are frequently given to a dreamy sort of naiveté in which we imagine that God will provide without our agency in the process. It’s as if we imagine ourselves as too pure to involve ourselves in “filthy lucre” business – so we leave it to God….which really means that we hope it takes care of itself.
It’s not true, of course, that the Bible ever says that “God helps those who help themselves” but like many human adages, this one contains a germ of truth.
To a stunning extent, life in contemporary America revolves around money. We spend countless time every week hearing and thinking about its acquisition and its use. It’s no exaggeration to say that we are immersed every day in money-messages. Well….every day but Sunday morning! To attend a typical church is enter a money-talk-free zone – and I think that’s atrocious. The claims of the gospel – of Jesus – assert relevance to every aspect of life, including money. I think that if we as church got serious about talking about money – not so much the need of the church to have more, but rather thoughtful and faithful teaching on its uses and abuses – we would find our “relevancy rates” to soar.
Even though I don’t think church talk on money should mostly be about our own needs, we do need the courage and conviction to appropriately address those needs. On March 2 and 3, Rev. Steve Gray, recently retired Conference Minister from the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the UCC will lead a seminar in Ames entitled “More Money for Your Ministry.” This 24-hour long seminar promises to be practical and realistic. What it won’t do is offer easy answers – because there are no easy answers to legitimate fundraising. If you and your church have a vision for ministry for which you require more funding, then you – pastor and lay representatives – need to come to this event. Effective fundraising requires a real partnership between pastor and lay leaders, so we are requiring that all participating churches come with both their pastor and at least one layperson.
I hope to see you in Ames next month!
Rich Pleva, Iowa Conference Minister