Monday, January 12, 2015

I Would Like An Order of Self-Service with Extra Guilt and a Side of Fear

Wow.

It takes a lot to take me aback these days, having developed a pretty high level of tolerance for religious shenanigans and schemes, but once in a while I read something that is just jaw dropping. Maybe you won't see it this way but I read this article Should We Leave Our Children Inheritances? by Randy Alcorn and was aghast.  I like Randy, I have some of his books and he seems like a decent guy. This article however smacks of so much fear-mongering and not-so-subtle self-serving manipulation that the part of the message that makes sense gets lost. The essay starts out with a lengthy exposition of a) why the Bible might not really be telling us to leave a financial inheritance to our kids and b) why an inheritance in some cases is bad for kids. Finally, after ten paragraphs recounting the potential perils and pitfalls of leaving your kids an inheritance, we get to the real point of the article (emphasis mine):

Of course, besides preventing harm to our children, there is great good we can do by leaving money to God-exalting ministries (my note: the unspoken addendum "Gold-exalting ministries.....like this one! The donate button is right on the top!). Any family members who would pout about or fight over what belonged to their deceased parents or who respond negatively when we decide to leave most of our money to the cause of Christ instead of to them prove they’re unqualified to inherit in the first place. Such children need prayer and guidance. What they certainly do not need is more money.

If parents decide to give most or all of their estate to God’s Kingdom (my note: i.e my ministry!), they should explain their plans to their children. This will prevent false expectations and free their children from later resentment. It will also alleviate present guilt feelings stemming from what children might imagine they have to gain by their parents’ death. Even though they know they shouldn’t, grown children commonly find themselves thinking about and looking forward to all the money and possessions that will be theirs when their parents die. Some go into debt now because they expect to, so to speak, win the lottery through their parents’ deaths. The sooner these attitudes are defused, the better.

Don't give your kids and grand-kids the money you have saved and earned, give it to ministries like this one to keep the lights on and pay our staff! I am all for giving to ministries that actually minister to people in need. I also don't consider "ministries" that are largely in the business of providing teaching material to qualify for that. Having said that what I actually object to is the way this seems to be a heavy-handed way to scare parents into leaving their money to this "ministry", in the same way that sermons on "tithing" always come across as self-serving, delivered as the they by the very men who depend on the offering plate to pay the mortgage and feed their family.

Absolutely parents should teach their kids wisdom when it comes to financial matters, especially when it comes to generational passing on of wealth. I have seen what happens when someone without wisdom gets a windfall of any sort. Back when I was a bank manager I saw first hand people get large sums of money from inheritances or legal settlements or even from trust funds for an Indian tribe and they ended up burning through all of their money in no time with nothing to show for it. Money can make people go loony in a hurry. On the other hand I have seen people get an inheritance from their parents that make a huge financial impact to the positive. The vast majority of people don't inherit a huge sum of money, they get a modest amount after the government takes a chunk but the amount isn't really the issue anyway. It isn't the inheritance, it is how they view money that matters. Too many of the professional religious people in the church view the money held by Christians as something that they have a claim to because they are the financial gatekeepers, to quote Randy, of "God's Kingdom". Guess what, you don't. Christians are accountable to God for their stewardship, not Randy Alcorn or the pastor of your local church or anyone else that claims a position of authority by virtue of ecclesiastical office or web-page hits or books sold. I got more than my fill of religious leaders making claims on my money and declaring themselves as financial gatekeepers to God's Kingdom when we were mormons. Should I receive an inheritance when my parents pass it will go to paying off any existing debt on our home so we can pass that property to our kids some day as well as being invested in ways that will further benefit my children or others like orphan care ministries or crisis pregnancy centers.

Bottom line, we have way too much crass manipulation going on in the church, manipulation that misrepresents Scripture and makes the church look exactly like the money-loving religious charlatans that the world expects to see. It needs to stop. If you can't distinguish between God's Kingdom and your own "ministry", you need to stop asking for money and get back into the Bible, because as highly as you might think of yourself and your value to the Kingdom, it can and will get along without your unique ministerial contribution.

3 comments:

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

"aghast"? You've spoken a mouthful!

Mattress said...

Heh the post implies that you not only are your children not ministers of the gospel, but that you have completely failed to raise your kids to be ministers. Thanks, I totally want to give my money to people who presume I'm a terrible parent with worthless kids.

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

The cod's wallop this fellow regurgitates is designed for, as you say " fear-mongering and not-so-subtle self-serving manipulation", with the INTENDED result of guilt induced giving.

In this country I have ministered among many people whose families were badly affected, if not wiped out financially. Many of those, like the one in which I grew up, had very little, if anything, of monetary value to pass on.

Such preaching and writing, of which you have written is certainly lacking in love and understanding of what Biblical giving is about, and is essentially self-serving.