Money or Ministry?

Dan over at Cerulean Sanctum is about to go on hiatus for a month (which, if you are in a position to need a freelance writer, you might be able to help him come back sooner.) Before he leaves, however, he's promised some hard hitting posts. Yesterday's lived up to it.

Related to my post yesterday on our pursuit of our own wealth instead of sharing it, and this quote from Soren Kierkegaard, he wonders if we're really willing to pursue ministry over money. He says:

the response [to the cross] is EXTREME. It means death. The cross says, Now here you die, here and now. All your desires, all your hopes, all of you. It also means real life. Have we tasted it?
That hits me where I live for sure. America is a money and possessions oriented culture. We are surrounded by stuff, stuff and more stuff. We are told incessantly that we need it and deserve it. You cannot avoid it and it pulls at you. Even if you resist it you cannot be sure that all you are accomplishing is slowing the tide's pulling you out to the sea of materialism.

I wonder a lot if I am too immersed in this culture of wealth, even if I stand at its fringe, to recognize how far I am from the cross? It's scary indeed. Go read Dan's post.

24 Comments

Agreed try cleaning your house for a garage sale and see how much stuff you don't need that at one time you stood in the store holding a credit card or cash saying it is a must have. People in Africa can't get a clean drink of water and we drink bottled that we pay for. Just skipping Starbucks or where ever and putting the cash in a jar might help to drill water wells.

I did read Dan's post yesterday (per order of the Thinklings) and it totally ticked me off. (That's pretty hard to do, actually.) I won't go into why it did here because it is not important in light of your post.

I will freely admit that the one sentence you picked out of his post was the one thing that I felt was right on track. It is a challenging sentence to grapple with, that is for sure.

I think his article, along with the internetmonk.com article he references, pinpoints one of the real killers of the "ICOC Thing" you and I have in common: our evangelists were (are?) worldly. They became just like every other Evangelical Pastor and, instead of setting the pace (some might call that "leading") in sacrifice and love for God and others, they became hypocrites, sitting in their big houses wondering how to inspire their congregations.

Yea, it's a Pet Peeve of mine. I realized how much it bothered me the day we had a meeting at the ACES office and we office workers were given a chance to offer our opinion on how to inspire folks to give more money. I blurted out something like, "*Show* us how to sacrifice by doing it yourselves." Some of us still remember how our ministers were happy to live on Ramen Noodles and how we were not embarassed that some of them "garbage picked" the couch in their living room...

Thanks for pointing these out. Just two nights ago, I was confessing to Laura about feeling sorry for myself that my career never has really taken back off post-ACES. When we got home, she pointed to the homemade sign we have on a wall in our home:

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

Mark

Money or Ministry is a biblical distinction that is strongly made throughout the scripture. Jesus requires that we surrender our income and embrace Him. Think of all the brothers and sisters that sold land in the first century in order for all of the Christians having their needs fulfilled. Have your sold your home in order to meet the needs of other Christians?

Having said that, Paul, in Romans 12 writes, "3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." If you are giving, do so with liberality. But, have no doubt, there is a need within God's people for those who have money. It is very important. (Notice that this scripture is followed up by the "Love each other and your enemy" message, which is the true point, for according to Psalm 51:16-17, which says, "16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise."

This point is what our heart towards God is, is what is important. The do not love the world scripture in 1 John 2:13, which says, "15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." This is precedented by our sin confession and the love we have for the brotherhood. The Lust of flesh, of things, the self importance that blocks our ability to give as Christ gave.

Sure we need to not only die to ourselves, but put sin resistance to the point of shedding blood a standard in our lives? I like this Psalm scripture because it lay's it out. It is so not about evangelism, but yet it is completely about evangelism. It's not about sacrifice, but yet it is completely about sacrifice. What it really is about is loving people as much, if not more than you love yourself. I think we seek to water this down. The truth of the matter is that our true self must be put aside and made room for God and his will. I know through God's faithfulness in my life that I live, at least to some degree, in a way that is pleasing to Him; and so do you (not just Doug, but the reading Christian), and you know it. But that still doesn't mean we don't have a long way to go. I've said before that the bible is infinitely revealing, but it is all up to where we are that makes the difference. I think that you Doug are having a major breakthrough, I don't know if I have made it myself.

I have been making plans to open a bookstore. I am doing this for several reasons, and one of which is so I can provide my family with a "better" life. Of course at this point in life we have everything we need, and then some, but when I see what others have, I want my family to have those things too. And here is the dichotomy/ironic/hypocrisy aspect of the whole thing; this is exactly what the scripture talks about. Are we supposed to live in poverty in this country so that I can be Godly and lead my family to heaven? Am I supposed to look at those "African" people (by the way, there are as many rich people in Africa as there are poor, you just don't hear about the well to do Africans), or Afghanis', or whomever and think, "Well, since they don't have anything, I shouldn't either"? I don't know, should we? I know the reason that they do get what positive things they do get is because somebody with money gave it to them, or sold it…you get my drift. Loving each other and meeting each others need would be a lot harder if we didn't have any way to do that.

So, I think that it is a heart issue. But truth be told, if you are a family of four or five, and only two drive, and you have three or more cars, our a house that is too big for you, or you are throwing money away on useless items just because you know there is a surplus in your income, then you probably aren't doing what you need to be doing for other Christians.

I don't have the statistics to back this up, but I'm willing to wager that if everybody who claimed to be Christian gave 5-10% or their income to poor countries and people, then the poverty issue would decrees greatly.

I have two more thoughts. One is that there are tens of thousands if not more people in our own country who don't have clean water, and so much of helping the poor is political and inhibited by the world. It is so complicated, but yet not at all…

Paul - I've gotta say, that was great. It certainly put things in perspective. Yes, it's not about the quantitative measures (how much we have, how much we spend or how much we give) but the qualitative measures of where our love lies. We may have a lot, but have a great heart. We can have nothing and be far from God. Thanks.

Jeff - I'm interested in what go under your skin about Dan's post. What is offensive or convicting? Email me if you'd like or leave you comment here, I'm genuinely curious.

I posted it on Thinklings' site. I'll just copy and paste it here. (That will give me an opportunity to fix a couple of typos...) Keep in mind that it is irrelavent here because you picked out the one thing he said that was dead-on:

OK…Dan did say that this was going to be incendiary. But cotton-pickin!!! This is just wrong!!

"God's taken His Spirit elsewhere…"

Huh? Am I not part of the Church in America? You mean I should just stop what I am doing here and go back to my old ways because God's Spirit has left me and everyone else?!?!

I think the main point that Dan is making is pretty on track. But please, folks, rest assured that God's Spirit is very much alive and well here in the US. He is working just as powerfully in me (and through me) as He ever has. And I am sure that many here can say the same.

Besides, is God not able to work through sinful man even when greed is part of the mix?
When did that stop?
Is it now impossible for God to work through a group of people just because we are sinful?
Since when?

My understanding is that God works through our FAITH, not our purity and perfection! Have you removed your faith from Jesus? Ok…Dan's shoe fits. But if you still have faith in Jesus, then you are still crammed full of Christ and are just as much an heir with Christ as you were the day you were saved. (Read Colossians again and you will be more than a lot encouraged by this fact!)

What kind of scare tactic is that? Honestly!

Dan also says:
"You can't read a blog by Christian women and not stumble upon the criteria they use to judge a man to be a proper Christian husband, the first being—always—that he be a good provider."

What!?! The first being-ALWAYS-…??

I know many, MANY Christian women who would be offended by such an accusation. (Or perhaps the writer is ONLY referring to those women with blogs!) My own wife, though she appreciates the paycheck I bring home, has always wanted me to lead spiritually first. That was the criterion on which she based her judgment of me regarding marriage. And it is the same one she uses now! (Though I fail time and again, she always extends the hand of grace and inspires me to get back up.)

I also know Christian women whose husbands are NOT leading spiritually but make well into the six digits yearly. Those sisters are praying for their husbands to be spiritual leaders even at the expense of all the "security" their husbands now bring home.

He also says:
"What scares me is that for all those Christians who choose ministry over money, they won't find support from other American Christians because other Christians can't understand their rejection of money."

I say, "Poppycock!!!"

I, personally admire every Christian man who sets his priorities to line up with the Scriptures. And I know many, MANY other men who feel the same way.

Sure we fail! Sure we are inconsistent! Sure we are always needing to double check our priorities in order to realign them. But please, don't accuse me of not appreciating sacrificial brothers!

Ok…I'm done.

I agree with Danny Kaye on those points.

Milly - Danny Kaye? Who's Danny Kaye? :-)

Jeff - First things first, I understand your point. Taken at face value, what Dan says is over generalized, but I would bet it's done to make a point. I think he feels that way (he defends the 99.9% thing in the comments), but on some level I bet it's done on purpose to drive the point home. If that's the case, then nit picking the exaggerations distracts from the larger point.

Another thing is to recognize the environment that Dan operates in. You and I were raised in an environment of high expectations and of challenging those who didn't meet them. That's what defined the ICOC, both for good and bad [and there was plenty of both, but that's off point here and I'd rather not go down that tangent.] I'm not here to start a debate on all that produced nor to defend all that lead to, but one thing is for certain. Folks in the ICOC understand that Christianity is to be a consuming fire and are not afraid of commitment and high expectation. So, it's not surprising that you'd see less of what Dan sees.

In the broader world of "Christianity", that's the absolute minority. He may have the percentages off, but the point remains, Christians are in large trying to serve both God and money and you can't have it both ways. To debate the specifics is to miss the point.

The other thing I'd point out is that I find Dan to be a sort of kindred spirit. he and I and others like Greg KB and Pinakidion are cynics and the church needs them. You, I'd say are not, you stand up for what you see that it good. The church needs both its cynics and its defenders.

Now, recognize I said cynic, not critic. Greg KB once wrote about understanding cynicism which helped form my thoughts here. The critic takes joy in finding fault, he cares not for the church, only seeks to tear it down and portray it as failed. The cynic looks and sees the good, but also sees what might have been. His expressed disappointment lies in the dreams unfulfilled, the visions unrealized, the good left undone. It's all right before his eyes, and he desires to shine the light on it that more might see and that the church might become more.

So when Dan says 99.9% or that God has taken His spirit elsewhere, he means it based on what he sees. In other words, he sees an enormous problem; far, far bigger than anyone else is acknowledging. You can dismiss his exaggerations, or you can let them push you to step back and wonder why he sees things that way and you don't.

Doug,
Thanks for bearing with my ranting. I don't do it often.

I will admit that I don't know Dan from Adam's housecat. So I read what he writes without bias and without filter. So you are correct that I, understandably, take it at face value.

However, it was not the 99.9% comment that got to me. It was the all-inclusive 100% statements that got my goat. Why? Because those statements are simply not true. Reading his words again, I cannot see any hint of hyperbole.

I am not blind to the status of the American Christian masses and the worldliness therein. At times, I am guilty of it myself. And please understand that I am not trying to lift myself above anyone. God knows what a sinful man I am...and it has been made clear to me as well. But God has not left me...nor has he left the Church in America. (I don't see how his statement about that could be taken any other way than at face value.)

But your points are well taken and I will try to read him differently from here on. I do appreciate anyone who can paint a picture of what they see as reality without watering it down to placate anyone. And he apparently does that well.

(By the way. You have pegged me correctly as the eternal optimist. And may it ever be so...)

I know this leads off-topic, so forgive me, Doug.

Jeff: I have found that cynicism is rooted in eternal optimism. I almost always believe that things 'will work out for the good' and look for it in times of doubt.

More on topic, a false dichtomy of money/ministry is as the post claims, incendiary. The wealth / ministry, I understand and may have been Dan's intent. There's no reason to forgo a 401K to have a ministry.

As to a good provider, I truly believes that it is a God-created trait to care for our wives and families well. In Eph 5, it says that the husband should care for his wife like his own body - provide care and nourishment.

Besides, the generic item at Wal-Mart has its own issues. Buying anything there presents a moral dilemma to the American Christian is a person looks hard enough.

In any case, I come from a church where the upper level of ministry had wealth either through high salary or from posh neighborhoods. We talked about taking public schools for God, but few ministry couples would send their children there. We talked about helping the poor and sending millions overseas only to discover we sent millions to administrative costs and former staff middlemen. We gave less than 1% in some places to our own members, but begged for money to hire another intern. Peh.

It is tempting to find poverty noble, but it isn't noble, it is simply poverty. A rich man can be generous, a poor man can be a miser. Examples in my life have chosen money over ministry, but it doesn't make Dan's own false dichotomy true.

Are we concerned with wealth, yes we are. Do we spend too much on luxuries, yes we do. Will the lack of spending create ministry? No, it will not. Ministry creates ministry. Money creates money. In a real dichotomy, the lack of one would build the other. Maybe Dan needs a month off to take all the pressure off himself.

Jeff - I would like to gently remind you of James 1:19-20 which reads, " 19Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires." It is obvious that somewhere in you, Dan tripped a chord. I agree with Doug, the pettiness seems uncalled for. I don't understand why you, or anybody would get defensive other than something hitting home. It's important that we are extremely patient and meek with one another. I say this only out of what I myself have gone through. Too often I have been quick to speak and slow to hear or understand (jumping to conclusions in my "zeal" for God). Bearing with one another is core Christianity, and your "attack" on Dan seems out of line. Often my zeal will splurge through my vains and want to burst through my heart, but after the decade and a half of my Christian walk, I have come to realize that the peace, patience, and a meek spirit IS the will of GOD.

And I do love you, in case you were wondering...

P. Allan Fredrick,

First let me say that I am not doubting your loving spirit. I detected no harshness in your words whatsoever.

Now...at the risk of sounding defensive, which apparently you think I am being anyway, I need to address your comments.

If someone preached a powerfully delivered message in a public forum, and in that message he says things with all conviction that not only are horrible, but are incorrect accusations aimed at you and those you love, do you just stand by and let the people believe the message? Of course not. You will rise up and speak what you believe is the truth. This is all I have done.

I do not, personally, consider it petty that someone is preaching that God has left me and all the brothers and sisters whose faith is still in Jesus.

I do not, personally, find it petty that someone is preaching that every Christian woman blogger, without exception, holds more dearly the paycheck from her hubby than she does his spiritual leadership.

I do not, personally, find it petty that I am accused of thinking that a Christian man who lives a sacrificial life is wasting his time.

These were the major points of Dan's post.

These were the parts of the post over which many people are praising Dan.

And I simply, whole-heartedly, and publically disagree with him.

I am not usually one to spew rants like this. So yes...you are correct that it struck home. But not because of the truth of what Dan said. But because of the false accusations against me and those I love.

I guess if that is being defensive, then yes, I am being defensive. I do not hold anything against Dan. He speaks his mind and I hold in high esteem anyone who does that without holding back what he sees and feels is truth. I pray he continues to do it with all of the passion of the Lord.

I'm missing something. I read it yesterday or the day before looking for something that might make me mad and I didn't. Usually stuff can get me going and maybe I wanted to get going and when I didn't was suprised..I don't know. Maybe that's why I'm missing something. Maybe it's too deep for me. Basically it says to me that we're worldy, our ministers are worldy and something needs to be done. We've waited for the examples to come from the leaders and it hasn't. Time to be a David and have the heart God is looking for, you know, when he was chosen and before he got worldly...

BTW. Mark, Pinakidion, P Frederick, Salgoud good stuff.

every Christian woman blogger, without exception, holds more dearly the paycheck from her hubby than she does his spiritual leadership.

That statement makes me angry. My husband standing up and deciding to join me at church, to take the lead and be a leader in our church is a very important issue and I've said so many times. Heck no I don't want a man who sits around watching soaps all day instead of working. As for his paycheck we find the need for both of our checks to pay bills. I don't want to raise children in a slum while he does nothing to contribute financially. Not all women look at a man as a paycheck but I was looking for one who wood help to support me spiritually and financially wouldn't you want that for your daughters?

P.A.

I detected some harshness and a lack of love in your last comment. ;-)


Mike Cope and Patrick Mead have had similar, if somewhat tangential, articles regarding materialism recently.

"...the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful."

Wow, touched a nerve, eh? :-D I was kinda hoping Dan might pop in and comment at some point, but if he gets this far he might not want to. He's pretty thick skinned and not afraid of controversy, however.

Jeff - I guess we will have to disagree on this. I could not take what he said personally because it was, as you said, delivered in a public arena. Much the same way that I would not take a blanket statement made by a minister from the pulpit personally unless he mentioned me by name or my church, family, groups, etc. Dan, in my view, did not do that. He spoke of broad groups and of his experience, at least that's how I read it.

In those scenarios, I often find that the speaker lumps me in a category I don't belong. I can generally overlook it to get to the broader point. Not always, but generally. Milly, I suppose if I was a Christian woman blogger like yourself, I might take offense at his words there and feel differently and I understand why you do. I certainly haven't experienced what he's talking about there, but yours and Kristen's are the only women's blogs I read. :-P

Again, I think much of this debate misses Dan's larger point, which stems from Luke 16:13:

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
There is a dichotomy here, but, as Pinakidion pointed out, it is not between wealth and poverty. It's who or what we serve. We cannot serve the American dream and God's. (Although I suppose one could serve something else altogether - Power? Image? Fame?)

The thing that scares me is somewhat related to where this comment thread has gone: Are we so immersed in the American way that we can't see how much it really drives us? Do we stand and cry "That's is not me!" but are not really able to see that it is us much more than we would want. Our culture (any culture) is pervasive, we cannot escape it, how can we claim to not be influenced by it or a part of it?

Just so you know, that's not directed at anyone personally, but at all of us in general. I wonder about this kind of stuff for me all the time. HOw do I live as a Christian when surrounded by such materialism? I just wanted to state that because this thread has gotten a little close to the line of personal remarks. No worries, I trust everyone's hearts, just a couple things made me twinge a little. It's a personal subject, though, I shouldn't be surprised if a few feathers get ruffled. :-)

There were a lot of things that struck me wrong in this post too, Jeff. Not just the things you named, but also the whole money/ministry dichotomy. I agree with Pink that it's a false distinction, for an additional reason: he seemed to contrast ministry with the rest of life. The rest of life -- working, taking care of your family, even worship (as much of the American church worships) -- seems to fall into the "money" category for him. And ministry is the opposite -- it is moving to a foreign field or the inner city to take care of the poor and spread the gospel, while subsisting on the meager funds raised from wealthy American churches.

Not that there is anything wrong with the latter -- I too admire and respect that. However, CS made it sound like doing anything else was incompatible with ministry. But isn't all of life supposed to be worship? Isn't it all supposed to be ministry? (Romans 12:1, Colossians 3:23). If our lives don't reflect this (which they often don't), maybe a better post could have asked or offered suggestions about how to transform our everyday lives so that we glorify God and serve others in greater ways.

Hey y'all.

At this point, I believe I'll let this go. I know that I am coming from behind the 8-ball here because I have never read anything else written by Dan and therefore lack Dan's historical thought processes that lead up to the post at hand. Many of you have and you are able to see his points as he intended them to be taken. (It's not unlike Doug talking about the UP. He can pretty much say anything he wants about it, and I will understand it in perspective of his own wrestling and inner debate about it.)

I appreciate you putting up with my perspective, even if it is skewed by a lack of history. And I hope this hasn't caused a riff between me and anyone else. If so, email me ( dannykaye7@gmail.com )and we can squawk. Dispite how I came across here, I am usually much more inclined to work toward unity and joy.

Mark - Sorry, I missed that your comment (above my last one) had been moderated. Got caught in the "3 or more links" moderation thing. I've gotta look into changing that.

I had read Patrick's article (and appreciated it) but not Mike's. Both good stuff (links above in Mark's comment). I loved these two quotes that Mike used from that Shane Claiborne book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical:

"While the ghettos may have their share of violence and crime, the suburbs are the home of the more subtle demonic forces — numbness, complacency, comfort — and it is these that can eat away at our souls."

"As I've heard my old mentor Tony Campolo say, 'If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the Beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airwaves of North America.'"

The overall good thing about Dan's post is that we are talking about this. I think that many of us here agree that American culture is consumed with the acquisition of wealth. As such, it is tempting for an American Christian to miss their call to ministry and get caught up in the pursuit of wealth.

Unfortunately, this good point gets lost in poor execution. Proving a point with a bad premise is no better than having a bad point. In other words, the ends do not justify the means. (And I am guilty of this quite a bit.)

I do not think there is anything noble or gracious in letting ignorant statements about some women's need for financial security stand unchallenged. I also do not think it beneficial to ignore naive attitudes towards American poor. Had he made his point differently, our discussion would be different. As it is, when I test the spirits on this one, something comes up stinky.

And its a shame because I agree that American Christians need to be challenged over their pursuit of wealth.

Bibilcal perspective is amazing. Doug, I read almost the entire book of Luke last Friday, and it brings much clarity. So often we look at a scripture and read it, and then apply it to our hearts (amen!). I like the scripture that you quoted in Luke 16. That scripture follows the parable of the unjust steward, followed by this (Luke 16:9-13):

9 "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?
13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

To me this reads like money is the acid test as to where our hearts are.

Interesting dialog here!

It all boils down to love. Love my neighbor as myself (that means be like the Good Samaritan). Love my brother as Jesus loved me. Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.

Perhaps the passage that captures it best for me is Phil 2:1-13

It's not easy, but it's really not complicated. It is definitely challenging. But don't forget about grace!



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  • The overall good thing about Dan's post is that we are talking about this. I think that many of us here agree that American culture is consumed with the acquisition of wealth. As such, it is tempting for an American Chri...

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