Saturday, November 2, 2013

Instructions to the Church # V

"Keep From the Love of Money."

 Bishop Eric Menees
We continue with our study of Hebrew's 13 and God's instructions to the church.  So far, we've looked at the need for the church to: Continue in Brotherly Love (13:1), Show hospitality to strangers (13:2), Remember those in prison (13:3), and Honor Marriage (13:4). This morning we continue with a scriptural imperative: Keep from the Love of Money (13:5-6).  

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

I write this Bishop’s Note from Nairobi, Kenya where I have been meeting with Anglican Leaders from around the world at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2. There are 331 Bishops and Archbishops, and we've been meeting in a separate workshop on Leadership. I have been so very struck by the constant refrain from bishops in the Global South that the Love of Money is as difficult a burden and as great a sin in their churches as it is in the wealthy West and North. I should not be surprised since St. Paul warned his apprentice Timothy that, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." (1 Timothy 6:10) And Jesus himself was quick to point out that "You cannot serve God and money" (Mt. 6:24)

St. Paul was clear to say that money is not evil, but the Love of Money is a root for evil.  As Christians, we are called to be countering culture and not be in love with money or the power that comes with it. The love of money makes us fearful - believing that we will not have enough - and that hurts our stewardship. There is no question that if everyone in our congregations followed the biblical principle and tithed 10% of their income, then there would never be a question about being able to provide for the poor, the children, our outreach programs, or providing for our clergy. That fear is what Satan exploits in us when that little voice in our head says "there is no way you can do great giving 2% - that's a heck of a lot better than the other people are doing."

When Florence and I were first married, I struggled with this. I was making $1,800 a month before taxes, Florence was a full-time student and not working, and I wondered how we would make ends meet. When it came time to fill out our pledge card, I put down $100 a month. Florence looked at that and asked if that was a tithe (knowing full well it wasn't). I said, "Well no, but with our bills how can we make it if I add another $80 a month to the church?" She responded that God would be faithful, and that, if we were obedient to God and returned to him, we'd be fine. Well, my wife was absolutely correct. Since 1990, we have given 10% of our income to the church, and more beyond that to outside organizations. In that time, we've never hurt, never been without, and  - most importantly - we’ve learned to be content with what God has provided us as individuals and as a family.

How tragic and beautiful it has been here at GAFCON, to hear Bishops speak of the incredible pressures that they are under and the temptations that they receive from the liberal churches in the US and England to accept money to assist their diocese, but in accepting that money the strings of supporting a false gospel are attached. Likewise, how inspiring it has been to hear how they have remained faithful to Christ and rejected those offers. One bishop from Tanzania told my small group that he had been tempted, but that he believed in Jesus' promise that God's desire is to provide for his children all their needs (Mt. 6:25-34). While they rejected that support, God has provided for them, their diocese has grown, they've built a Cathedral and Diocesan Center, and built 14 Churches in the last 7 years. When I heard of his faith and God's provision, I was humbled at the times I have worried for the diocese and myself.  

These African Bishops have learned, as have Florence and I, that God is good and faithful - that he desires to give to his children, always providing for our needs, though not necessarily for our wants. The problem is that we confuse our needs and our wants.

In our own diocese, we have seen demonstrated again and again that we have a faithful God who provides. We stepped out in obedience and separated from the Episcopal Church (Ephesians 5:7), and we have now come very close to raising the needed funds for our trial. In the mean time, it has been rough with our monies frozen, but we've learned to be content with what we have and to trust in The Lord! And to that I say AMEN!

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