“That’s the whole meaning of life, trying to find a place for your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. That’s all your house is, it’s a place to keep your stuff, while you go out and get more stuff! Sometimes you gotta get a bigger house. Why? Too much stuff!” ~ George Carlin
“We are living from pay check to pay check. We have so many bills, and expenses, we just never seem to get caught up. Money is a major source of anxiety in our family. We have more than our parents did, but we have so many more expenses. We would think that we should have enough, especially when we work so hard to make money to support our family.”
“Our church has been struggling financially for several decades. Every year it seems to get worse. Our members are good people. But our members say they can’t give more. Of course they have to take care of their own expenses first. So there’s not much money left over for the church after they pay for all of the things that they need. There’s just not enough money to support the church’s ministries.”
In my 22 years of assisting churches with their fund-raising needs, I have heard the above lamentations many times. Millions of individuals continually struggle to pay their bills, and millions of churches struggle to fund their ministries and programs.
But there’s really no shortage of money. Even with the financial losses of 2008, Americans are over 500% wealthier (adjusted for taxes and inflation) than we were 50 years ago. Americans’ homes are twice as big and we have twice as many cars. We go out to eat 3 times as often as we did 50 years ago, and we take more expensive vacations. Many Americans now have garages that are as big as middle-class homes were in the 1950s, and we own more extravagances, have more expensive pastimes, and have more possessions. Due to the spread of capitalism in developing countries like China, Brazil, and India, millions more around the world have the opportunity to have more possessions and far more wealth than previous generations, and many are aspiring to have the “American lifestyle” to own more possessions and to have nicer homes and other conveniences that Americans have.
To fight the Global Recession, governments around the world have poured trillions more dollars into the world economy through “stimulus packages.” And more billions of dollars are “sitting on the sidelines” un-invested by those individuals who are waiting for a clear sign that the present stock market increases are dependable, and by those who will “never invest their money in the stock market again.”
There’s really no shortage of money; there is rather a glut of misperceptions and misplaced priorities about money. Consequently, millions have unfulfilling lives and churches struggle to fund the programs and ministries that are vital to our communities. During these same past 50 years, as Americans have become more and more wealthy compared to previous generations, giving to churches has been a steadily declining percentage of incomes. Yet many Americans are unhappy despite our significant wealth.
The Great Recession of 2008 occurred because as millions around the world collected more “stuff” they had to build bigger and bigger homes to house their “stuff.” Governments deregulated financing requirements, banks offered adjustable rates mortgages and developed intricate forms of leveraging, and credit card companies increased borrowing limits to enable more individuals to own homes and buy other possessions that they really couldn’t afford.In the 1950s Americans had minimal amounts of personal debt, but just before the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008 personal debt had reached 102%, and nations and corporations also had taken on huge amounts of debt. And then the debts came due!
Now millions are trying to recover what they lost, others are struggling to make ends meet, and others have lost their jobs, homes, and hope. Yet there is no shortage of money. Rather there is a great inequity and inequality of distribution of resources. The gap between the very wealthy and everyone else has also grown dramatically in the last decade. Yet many of those who are very wealthy are unhappy, unsatisfied, and consumed with having more.
So even though millions of individuals have more abundant lives than previous generations, they are unhappy. Having more money than their ancestors has become more of a burden than a blessing for millions of individuals. They have become seduced by the belief that having “stuff” can bring happiness. We are constantly bombarded by infomercials that tell us that we need to buy this “stuff,” or the “stuff” we have isn’t good enough, so we need the “new and improved stuff.”
Churches can play a key role in helping to overcome this malady, by reminding our members of Jesus’ teachings about money and possessions, and the blessings of giving for the giver. Yet many pastors hesitate to talk about money for fear of upsetting some members. But to censure a topic that is such a source of fear, upset, discouragement, and worry to so many, is to neglect their physical and more importantly their spiritual well-being. The Christian faith has a message of wisdom and hope for times like these. The Bible is replete with stories of communities who endured tough times, who did with less, and yet who shared more generously with each other and with others in need. I cannot think of a better time to ask members to give more generously to their churches, so that our churches can provide the vital ministries and the programs for those who are truly struggling in our communities and in the world.
Moreover, in asking members to give, we are providing hope and guidance to those who are being seduced by possessions. You help them to re-examine their priorities, and to realize that God does provide abundantly of what is really necessary for healthy, happy, whole, fulfilling lives. Asking members to join together in giving generously to make a difference in the world helps them to realize that they have more than most and that they are truly blessed. Asking them to give for good causes brings meaning to their lives, builds self-worth, and enables them to be role models for their communities. In this process churches will also find that they can raise the funds they need to provide their essential ministries to members and their communities.
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may be able to share abundantly in every good work. II Corinthians 9:8
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