Dollars and Sense: a Broken Storehouse in a Broken World
by Chris Jones
I’m aware that this type of article costs people friends. We become particularly sensitive when people talk about our financial and related lifestyle decisions. I challenge those with an open mind to read to the end, and hear what God might be saying through this. Asking your forgiveness in advance, I just couldn’t find a way to keep this brief.
Have you ever heard someone say that the love of money is the root of all evil? What does that mean? How is it even possible? If you’re not aware, it’s from the Bible. 1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Reading the direct translation in the Interlinear version is particularly sobering to me.
Some scoff at this notion, quipping that they don’t love money, only the things it can do for them. The sad reality of their deception is witnessed in a very public pursuit of empty possessions. For some, it’s a controlling desire to elevate their apparent social status, at any cost. For others, it’s a compulsion to surround themselves with every modern comfort and convenience, seemingly unaware that lasting happiness can’t be found under that rock.
Have we missed it?
Even if this isn’t our conscious attitude, how can the church of America not confess that we represent a culture that spends a far disproportionate amount of our time and financial resources on selfish pursuits, relative to our calling? It yields a dynamic in which our habits as consumers testify to a lack of dedication to our faith. What is our reaction to hearing Matthew 6:19-21, where it says, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
In our pursuit of “more”, do we horde Kingdom resources, storing them in the many luxuries that serve little purpose other than accessorizing an existence wasted on personal interests? Meanwhile, we criticize our government and other social institutions that struggle to fill the void left by our disobedience and ineffective stewardship. You’re right! The System is broken! Yet, we place the wrong systems at the center of any discussion. Remember, God established a storehouse to meet all needs. Still, if the method for supplying His plan is plagued by unfaithful participants and careless stewards, the demand for provision will forever remain unsatisfied.
So…what’s the potential strength of the storehouse?
The image of cattle on a thousand hills doesn’t touch the vastness of those resources in our modern context.
Let’s consider statistics from 2013 year-end. For example, did you know that there were a little more than 317 million people living in America at that time? They represented roughly 122 million households. Since the United States Census Bureau provides data that helps us estimate a 2013 average household income of roughly $68,000, we can calculate that American households collectively earned almost $8.3 trillion in that period. If the 83% of Americans who identify themselves as Christians contributed a standard 10% to God’s storehouse, something like $689 billion could have been contributed in that year alone.
Let’s not get crazy though.
Taking a more conservative approach, consider this article. In it, Mike Holmes walks his readers into seeing how tithes could generate an additional $165 billion dollars above current giving, just from those who already at least partially participate in this model. If my math is correct, according to the statistics Holmes provides, that’s a surplus of three times everything that was tithed during the prior period. For those who I may have just lost, let me say, “that’s a lot!”
Then…what’s the potential global impact of a well-funded storehouse?
Since we don’t see numbers like this on a daily basis, it’s difficult to accurately gauge the potential impact of that increase in giving. For some perspective, consider the most recent estimate that just $30 billion dollars a year could solve the world’s hunger problems. Other sites place similar estimates on remedying the world’s literacy, water and sanitation needs (all totaling only $27 billion a year, according to www.generouschurch.com).
Sadly we’ve grown somewhat def and blind to major worldwide needs like these. Consider, then, this example, a current lightning rod for conservative christianity’s criticism of society’s attempts to solve the problems the church leaves unattended.
A recent Washington Post article estimated that Planned Parenthood’s total annual funding is somewhere just short of $1.2 billion. This includes government and private donations, fees, service charges and other fundraising efforts. While Planned Parenthood provides some needed, low-cost health services to a reported 1.2 million women (650,000 who might otherwise be left without that help), many Christians justifiably believe those benefits aren’t worth the hundreds of thousands of abortions also executed at Planned Parenthood and their affiliated providers every year.
There’s pretty clear irony, however, in the fact that many people who argue for the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood, are simultaneously and willingly (albeit, unwittingly) participating in the “defunding” of the one institution God established as the solution to this and the rest of the world’s failing attempts to provide any answers to otherwise impossible dilemmas.
Faith In Action
What might happen if we took this charge seriously, understanding it as a mandate rather than a suggestion? What if a fully-equipped church engaged these issues, on a level of people serving people? What if our desire for a better car, more living space, increased comforts and all the other carrots the world might dangle before us, were sacrificed in the interest of seeing the Kingdom of God advancing, in love and service towards humanity?
Whether we like it or not, our faith is on trial. What defense do we have if the example of our lives doesn’t match the instructions in God’s Word? The profit Malachi not only tells us about God’s storehouse system, but warns of it’s broken components when he writes,
Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, “What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?” You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. “If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:8-12)
Root Of All Evil?
So, can there be truth in the belief that the love of money is the root of “all kinds of evil”? Perhaps understanding this reality requires a shift in perspective. Instead of seeing it as a direct personal cause and effect, it may be more accurate to recognize how our disobedience to this simple instruction allows the many evils that persist across a broader spectrum than just that of our personal experiences.
No further evidence is needed, to prove that Kingdom objectives will never be fulfilled through political persuasion. There’s no criticism to be more deservedly placed than that for our lack of obedience. If we’re responsible for representing the love of God to the people of this world, our greatest potential for breakthrough just might be found when the use of our dollars makes sense.
So, I’d love to hear the thoughts this triggers in you. Be sure to leave a comment below, or follow us on Facebook to join the conversation.
Posted on September 27, 2015, in Chris Jones, Christianity and tagged 1 Timothy, Church, Evil, God, Hunger, Illiteracy, Kingdom of God, Malachi, Matthew, Obedience, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Storehouse, Tithe. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.