When I first came to the West I was so blown away with the massive and intricate church structures with very small congregations—how do they maintain these buildings? Then in an inconspicuous corner would be this giant demijohn with the label “alms”. Alms??? Is the church in such a lowly position to beg for alms (or do I have a different inference for the word ‘alms’?), and it does seem not to ask for anything more given the slot in the bottle which is just big enough for your spare change. To add to my confusion, full-time ministers drive big flashy cars, and live in big houses with very big gardens (okay, after some time it finally did sink in that in this country the majority of its citizens are middle class). I have never seen such things before! But praise the Lord–this must indeed be a very blessed place where God’s workers are well provided for—despite the small congregations and the alms jars. (With the contradictions I’ve cited above, the whole thing remains a puzzle for me to this day. I could only assume that there are very generous members who skip the demijohns, or an efficient church “organisation structure” wherein church incomes—through gifts, businesses and maybe even state funding–are shared equally among its workers.)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…. Our congregation of street peddlers, labourers, tenants and subsistence farmers faithfully place their tithes and offerings in envelopes provided. There is much concern among the members that if they do not mobilise, the minister and his family will go hungry. Of course, in a country where 80% of the wages goes to food, everybody is in need–but better share and be half-empty, than the minister going completely hungry. I do not recall Harvest Sundays very much, as every Sunday seemed to be one–grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, live chickens—anybody brought them in at any time for God’s workers. There were no food banks to give them to—aside from it being non-existent, the givers themselves could very well have been the beneficiaries as they were very much in need too.
Forgive me for being straightforward, but I would like to challenge us all, wherever we may be in the world:
Church, is what you give to the Lord’s work out of your excess or what you have to live on? How do we treat our servant leaders? How do we help God’s workers beyond our church fence, beyond our country, beyond our region? Quoting one of our village ministers before—for us who do not spend our time knocking on every door and introducing Jesus to every household, isn’t it only right to provide for the needs of the people who do this to free up our time? And by so doing, we also become partakers of the ministry.
Ultimately, we know that it is not the church council whom ministers are accountable to, nor the ministers whom the church members are serving. Minister or church member, we are accountable to and serving only one Master.
The Buddhists believe that the noble way to give is by giving beyond the point of comfort (i.e., when it starts to hurt). Shouldn’t it be more for us, Christians, to whom Christ gave his very life on the cross so that we could be ransomed from eternal death?
May we take the time to reflect on how we use the resources entrusted to us–time, money, talents and strength to advance the Lord’s kingdom by blessing those He anoints.
Lord, today, help me to remember those who are suffering for your Name.
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it….” – Psalm 24:1