Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Double Sin of Pyramid Preaching . . .

Besides getting rich off the TV tithing of poor people, the real crime of these scammers is the diversion of funds away from the duty of Christians: To give to the poor.

The Bible teaches us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked . . . basically give to those less fortunate than us regardless of our own situation.

But I don't see this burden in the Christian community. What I see is a burden for Christians to prosper their churches or their pastors. How much money does it cost to build the 80 ft. crosses that are becoming popular in front of the mega-churches. How much did it cost to build the Crystal Cathedral? How much food could that have purchased? Clothing? Rent? Transportation? Health care?

How much does the sets on TBN cost? The globe behind Joel Osteen's pulpit?

Far be it for me to speak for God, but He must be displeased to watch us spend millions of dollars supposedly given to Him, on monuments to our own egos.

I believe God would rather my church spend less money on decor and more on food and care for the poorest among us.

Don't get me wrong, we're all guilty of this. I played golf yesterday to the tune of $50. I could have and maybe should have given that money to my local food bank.

This is my main problem with jewelry. Instead of someone buying a $5,000 watch, did it ever occur to them to help someone pay for an operation? Help roof a poor person's leaking house? Help an elderly person or a child pay for their medication?

I am often reminded of the closing scene of Schindler's List. Oscar Schindler is grieving over the fact that although he saved many Jews from the ovens, he could have saved more. He starts listing the items he should have exchanged for lives. In one example, he throws his watch to the ground and yells out the number of lives he could have saved if he could have parted with it. The true reality of the value of things compared to lives became a vivid reality to him.

Is there anything in your life that you have valued over obeying God's command to give to those without? (obviously, you don't have to answer here.)

What does your church do with your money?


Nicole said...

Supports a large amount of missionaries throughout the world.

Contributes to the community food bank and has a food bank within the church.

Took an offering to send every age kid who wants to go to camp. Camp is not just fun--it is deeply, actively, spiritually focused and always changes lives of those who go.

Offshoots of different groups/Bible studies within the church support battered women's shelters, ministry to the elderly, pro-life pregnancy shelters, etc.

Just to name a few.

Kay said...

This topic has been much on my mind lately. And I am slowly learning to make some changes in my own choices and spending. I can only be accountable for that. We have just started a new church, so I'm not really sure what they do. But I can't be responsible for that, I guess. Only for myself.

The Road to Reality by K.P. Yohannan is a wonderful book addressing this. It is very eye-opening and gives some great, practical ways we can make a difference with our money.

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Glad to hear it, Nicole.

Thanks for the recommendation, Kay. I just want to clarify that we can't beat ourselves up too bad, we need to enjoy life. It comes down to our definition of excess.

But if a Christian buys a $60,000 car instead of a $26,000 car, that concerns me. They should ask themselves if the comfort difference between a Camry and a Lexus is really worth passing up a chance to do God's work? A Camry is a very nice car.

Mark H. said...

Boy, have I struggled with this issue in regards to my home church. I think they would argue that they have a plan in place to reach more people with the gospel and need to spend the money in order to put the infrastructure in place. A fair point, but then when I get an email saying we "need" recessed lighting under the balcony...that's when my blood starts to boil.

Todd said...
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Todd said...

I really liked your opening here Dayle. I had never thought of it in those terms. Profiting from the poor is the polar opposite of caring for the poor. Good point.

Also, I have never understood how gaudy accouterments bring anyone to Christ. I have seen seekers either repulsed by it, or seduced into the prosperity message by it, but brought to genuine repentance and new birth ... ?

I believe that a certain amount of spending on church aesthetics is fine and people are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But, each church and each individual, knowing that God will call us to account for our usage of the resources entrusted to us, should carefully and prayerfully weigh where the balance is in that.

Seems to me that a lot of what I see of "ministries" these days is exactly what you described it as - a monument to ego.