Monday, February 01, 2010

What would our church budget look like if Jesus was on the Budget Committee?


The aftermath of the crisis in Haiti has led to a renewed concern for orphans, which unfortunately has also led to the ill-advised incident of a Baptist church group moving 33 Haitian orphans into the Dominican Republic without going through the admittedly chaotic channels. In a few months from now though, when the impact of the earthquake wears off and a new crisis springs up (like Brangelina breaking up or other earth-shattering news), by and large we will forget about Haiti except for those missionaries who were there before the earthquake. I am afraid that we will go back to our sedate, comfortable lives and feel satisfied that we “did something” because we gave some money to an aid organization or even sent ten bucks via text message. Meanwhile, there are going to be a ton of orphans left behind in a country that under the best of circumstances was dysfunctional and now has ceased to even function like a rudimentary sovereign nation.

This is not an issue we can brush aside as God’s people. That is not merely my opinion.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1: 27)

What is James saying here? Pure religion is not to spend untold millions on buildings and silly programs. Pure religion, the essence of the Christian life and faith, is mercy shown by those who have received mercy. How could an orphan be more afflicted than the ones in Haiti? This is also not something we can subcontract to “someone else”. James is not writing to pastors or missionaries. He is writing to the people of God, the “twelve tribes in the dispersion”.

I have already said this in a half dozen posts and I am going to say it again. It is grossly sinful to build yet another building, to spend money on unnecessary redecorating and refurbishing, to spend money on all of the throwaways that we spend it on while orphans here and overseas languish in heartbreaking conditions and Christian couples in America are willing but simply unable to afford to adopt them. Instead of the latest and greatest modern day temple, what is pleasing in the sight of God?

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6: 6-8)

Why do we insist on trying to please God in ways that He has expressly rejected and refuse to serve Him in the ways He has commanded? What a wicked and rebellious people we are!

As a people, we need to learn to make do with what we have. God is not honored by nice buildings that sit empty most of the week. Your local church is not “the house of God”, no matter how nice the accoutrements are or how famous your preacher is. God does not desire us to have the latest and greatest audio-visual system. He is not honored by churches going into debt for buildings or hoarding money to expand their buildings later on. He is pleased with humble, sacrificial living by His people. How would God be more honored in 2010 by the spending of $25,000: in some sort of building improvement or by helping two Christian families adopt a child from Haiti? I can think of several families off the top of my head that would take in orphans from Haiti right now if they could afford it, including ours.

As I mentioned, I have said this before and I am going to keep on saying it. Hopefully a local church will decide that they can do without a repaved parking lot that gets used a couple of hours a week and use that money to bring orphans from overseas to Christian homes. How much more would God be glorified by a church with a cruddy parking lot, uncomfortable pews, a cracked mirror in the bathroom, a heating system that doesn’t work quite right but full of children who once were orphans but now are in loving homes?

I thank God that He did not treat us the way we treat the orphans of the world.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

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Anonymous said...

Very good thoughts, Arthur. This issue has definitely been on my heart and mind lately, as I'm sure you're aware.

Aussie John said...


How right you are! I have spent a large part of my life of seventy years as a member of those about which you write.

Without doubt. the material, earthly accumulations, have been the greatest focus of attention, cause of division, and the inability to truly serve the community in which it exists. They have often been the proud weight which drowned the congregation causing them to disintegrate.

To oppose such endeavors was tantamount to heresy.