The parish budget is not a matter of eternal importance
Matthew 25:31-46 is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It describes a scene at Christ’s return. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats..” The story then goes on to relate how Jesus distinguished between those who will go away into eternal punishment and those who will go away into eternal life.
Funny, but nowhere in this story is there a mention of giving to the church budget. You would think that, for all the talk in churches about giving, and tithing, and pledging, and supporting the church budget, church finances would receive significant attention in this passage. Yet it doesn’t. And it doesn’t because God does not need our money.
Think about it. God is the creator of everything. Every single thing you possess, every relationship you have, even every breath that you breathe comes from God. If he needed money, he would create it.
In Psalm 50 verses 12 to 15, we hear God say, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Earlier, in verse 5 of Psalm 4, we are told to, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.”
This whole giving thing gets pretty confusing. On the one hand, “I don’t need your sacrifices.” On the other hand, “Give sacrifices.” Elsewhere, throughout the Old Testament, we read specific instructions from God regarding the construction of altars and temples. There are even specific instructions regarding the nature of sacrifices. Just what is it that God wants?
Indeed, what is it that God wants within all this talk of sacrifice, and tithing, and building temples? It is our dedication and faith in his goodness that he desires. A further clue is found in Matthew 6, verses 25 and 26, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
When we make a pledge to the work of Christ through our parish, we say “I believe” in a most profound way. We spend most of our lives concerning ourselves with succeeding and having. We focus on doing well so that we can have nice clothes, a nice home in a good neighborhood, a nice car, a good computer, a quality television with all the right cable channels, and so on. This is so much the nature of our society that it is difficult for us to keep God at the forefront of our consciousness.
By taking our first fruits and giving them to God and his work we remind ourselves that Christ is at the center of our lives, that Christ comes first, and that we acknowledge and give thanks for the fact that all we have comes from God. We show our trust, faith, and priority by giving to God first, knowing that he will provide whatever we need.
Pledging to support the parish budget is a way in which we clearly remind ourselves of what is the priority in our life. In so doing we reorder our priorities in a very conscious way to put our faith in the love of Christ first.