We're in the midst of a capital campaign at our congregation. Which means that we're talking a lot about money in the church. I'm personally and professionally sensitive to this issue. Personally, because I grew up in a culture where money was a private thing that you managed privately. "Don't ever ask someone how much they make. Don't ask people for money. Don't tell people what to do with their money." Professionally, I'm very mindful of people's perception of the church as a "money-laundering religious scam." Thoughts of Jimmy Swaggert and every other televangelist come to mind.
Last week I heard someone make a comment on money that I've heard before, but forgotten. "Money has godlike qualities." Like security, power, and the ability to change a circumstance. So people seek money in religious ways - yearning, longing, serving, trusting. I don't think that people worship the currency itself, but rather what the currency can do.
Which gets me back to the capital campaign. The church's call for resources confronts my idolatrous tendencies with money. I live a rather modest lifestyle, and yet I sense areas where money is flexing it's godlike muscle. "Will we have enough? What could we do if we didn't tithe? Imagine if we had that . . . or this . . . "
So is the answer to take a vow of poverty? Denounce money altogether? The task with any idol is to subject it to the one, true God. This is the call of the first commandment, "You will have no other gods before me." Its like God is saying, "Trust me. Look to me and no other."
So here comes the capital campaign I'd rather not do. Why? Because it confront me. It reminds me of the task of subduing an idol. I must bring this idol into full submission. I have to beat it into subjection to a greater authority. I must be a responsible manager of it for the sake of the One who gave it to me. I must leash it, control it, and wisely direct it. I don't serve money. I make it serve my Master.