It was unique in the history of telephone calls. She asked the ministry assistant if she could talk with the pastor and we connected.
“I won’t give my name,” she said, so I conversed with this unknown person for some time.
She explained she was married to an area pastor, and her husband thought he and she ought to be blameless in every regard. No argument from me. Then she further explained how her church received offerings.
“At the end of the service, a deacon reads the envelopes or checks and tells how much everybody gave,” she said. “My husband gives more than we can afford because he knows we have to be exemplary. What should I do?”
Well, only one of many times I filibustered while trying to think of a rational response. Granted, it was unusual to talk with anyone who felt they gave too much to the Lord’s work. In fact, I’d never heard this before. Nor had I heard of a church following this procedure. I thought this would happen in our church only once!
Jesus had much to say about religious people who “practiced their piety before men” (Matthew 6). He spoke of three spiritual pursuits. The first is “alms,” or as we would say, charitable giving. This is the origin of the famous saying, “Let not your right hand know what the left is doing.” The point is we give to God’s glory, not for our own.
Then Jesus spoke of public prayers and fasting. Both praying and fasting are good but should be done to draw us closer to God, not to win praise from others.
Back to the caller, I told her that I didn’t see any value in the way her church announced individual gifts, and I’d recommend she have a serious talk with her husband about budgeting.
In another place we began a building campaign. Our consultant explained that I, the pastor, was expected to announce our over-and-above monthly pledge to encourage others. I thought of this clear teaching of Jesus and struggled with what to do. I ended up telling the congregation that we would give the equivalent of what we’d pay for lunch every day. I guess it worked. The pledges came in and the building has been used for many years, though it could be argued I violated scripture in telling others about money and fasting!
The question we must ask in every decision of life is why do we do what we do? If we do it to gain the praise of others, we do it wrongly. The best course is to try to please God first of all and to do so with thankful hearts. -30-
Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.