P1030504The questions asked throughout this series on Christian giving have been along this line: “Since Jesus taught that riches are deceitful and actually make it extremely difficult for people to enter His kingdom, why do our churches present themselves as prosperous? Isn’t that a dangerous thing to do?” These are very good questions and should be asked. After all, James asked a good question himself about wealth: “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5).1 This gathering of wealth is a peculiar response for God’s people to make in light of these biblical truths, and it becomes more peculiar the deeper we dig into Scripture.

Last week, for instance, we saw that Jesus taught that if we accumulated wealth for ourselves so we could “…relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19), we were fools because we were not “rich toward God.” We also noticed that Jesus had very little regard for money and possessed very little of it Himself.

So, why do we need to raise money today to bring into our churches a commodity that is deceitful and dangerous, for which the Lord Jesus had so much disdain and very little need? Why do we require so much of it?

The reader may answer, “So we can get things done. Spread the gospel. Make disciples.”

However, we know that Jesus had amazing ministry in His brief time on earth, in spite of His poverty. Why didn’t Jesus attempt to raise money for His ministry so He could more effectively spread the gospel and make disciples? You may respond, “He didn’t need to. He was God.” Ok, but why didn’t His disciples raise money for their ministries so they could “get things done”? However, they indisputably “got things done.” They “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Yet, the only offering taken in the New Testament was to help the starving saints in Jerusalem during a time of famine.

Another response may be, “We need to collect money in order to pay for a building so people can have a place to go to church.”

This answer implies that church is a place, a geographical spot on a map. Where did we get that idea? As you probably know, the word translated “church,” in the New Testament is the Greek word ἐκκλησία, or ekklesia. The word basically means “a gathering of people.” When Jesus said He would build His church, did He mean He would build a lot of structures? No, He meant that He, as Lord of the Church, would build a gathering of people who were to strengthen, love, and encourage one another. The Church met in many places in its early history. It didn’t begin to build structures until the reign of Constantine, around 300 years after Jesus walked the earth. How were they able to spread so quickly and be so effective without funds, even under persecution much of the time?

Please note that Jesus left behind no organizational structure before He ascended to heaven. The only structure I can find in the New Testament is the appointing of elders in the churches. This is a relational, eldership leadership, not an organizational one.

By now, you may be asking, “Well, Jim, what’s your point?”

I’ll respond with two questions of my own. If wealth is deceitful and spiritually impoverishing, if the poor are rich in faith, if Jesus didn’t collect offerings and neither did His disciples in spite of their stunning success, why do Christians give to churches? Why do our churches need it?

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society