Many of you have been there…leadership positions at your church where you have to participate in making financial decisions. I have been to many church council meetings where the largest chunk of meeting time was devoted to hand-wringing about church finances.
I have even been to intercessory prayer groups where discussion drifted to attendance and finances instead of prayer.
I guess it is bound to happen. People worry about how to keep the church doors open. It is a real world problem.
But think for a moment about Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler, the way he challenged him to “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, take up your cross, and follow me” [Mark 10:21].
The rich young ruler walked away in sorrow at this challenge.
I can hear it now, those money minded church trustees or council members “Pastor Jesus, Your church’s attendance will drop if You keep treating eager men and women like this, especially wealthy and influential ones. Go after him and soften the message; surely he will embrace the whole truth after a while!” [Bevere, 68].
Jesus did not do that. He did not run after him. He just let him go. He spoke the truth to him. The rich young ruler could not accept it and made his choice to leave.
What has happened to the truth in today’s world when we are more interested in putting people in the pews than telling them the truth? John Bevere* says “We’ve fallen into the trap of doing almost anything to get a convert and create a following. We employ accommodation techniques to build church attendance, gain followers of Twitter, increase our fan base on Facebook, or get people to read our blogs. This is nothing less than communicating to God that our wisdom is sounder than His. Again, it’s choosing the good over God” .
Maybe Jesus did not beg the rich young ruler to follow Him, but he could have employed another strategy.
I have seen so many television evangelists preaching about planting seeds. I think of one [who will remain nameless] who always talks about investing in his ministry and the rate of return on the investment. He could have approached the rich young ruler like that because I am sure he was a successful businessman. I can hear it now: “You can position yourself for a huge blessing, a harvest of financial success. If you would just plant a seed in my ministry, you will receive a harvest that is tenfold your initial pledge!”
The Word tells us that when we give, it will be given back to us. Look at the wonderful news in Mark 10: 28-30: what you give up will be returned to you a hundred times and in the world to come you will have eternal life.
Why did Jesus not pull out this investment enticement and use it on the rich young ruler?
The answer is simple: Jesus did not use the benefit and reward payoff to get people to follow Him. When He called His disciples, He said simply “follow Me.” Follow Me because I am Jesus, Your Creator, the Master, and King of the Universe.
That was enough for Peter, James, John and Andrew. They left their business even though on the day they left, Jesus had just told them how to bring in two overflowing boatloads of fish.
They left and Jesus accepted them because they would do anything for Him and He knew it.
Maybe, today we have calculated what people can stand to sacrifice to follow God and the honest answer is they won’t sacrifice much. Bevere says this “is the root of America’s failing spiritual condition.” We have so many in churches who think they are following Jesus when they are really not. “Let’s be honest, if this rich young man came to many of our cutting-edge churches today, he would have been ‘saved’ and before long he would be considered a prized member and perhaps asked to join the church board.”
I have a friend who would be saying right now “Bevere has gone from preaching to pure meddling.”
But has he?
As he closes Chapter 5 of his book, he says “for the strength of the church, and for the sake of truly walking in the blessings of God, let’s forsake the inadequate, “good” gospel message and return to the tree of life [not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] the biblical message of salvation.”
Is it good or God?
*author of Good or God?