The Church & Money: Plasma TV or Feed the Poor?

May 10, 2006 by

It’s an age old debate—where to spend the church’s money. Is our money better suited going to the poor or to a new website? The AIDS crisis or a coffee bar?

Let’s take a look at a story in Matthew 26:

When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. “That’s criminal! This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.”

When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me.” (Matthew 26:6-10 The Message)

Does the disciples’ response sound familiar? So often we look at the money churches spend and think, “What if we used that money for orphans, or the poor, or the homeless…? Do we really need another plasma screen/coffee bar/glossy brochure?”

But that’s not the issue for Jesus. And that’s where I have often failed to understand Christ’s perspective. Creating an appealing environment that includes things like comfy—and possibly pricey—chairs or designing marketing pieces that hit their mark—and don’t come cheap—can be very similar to what this woman did for Jesus. Now, before you start sending hate mail or screaming blasphemy, let me explain.

As the woman was serving God with humility and thankfulness, isn’t it possible for us to do the same with our communication efforts? Let them be significant statements of what Jesus means to us. That doesn’t mean we throw cash around. We still need to make wise use of the funds available. But we also shouldn’t have guilt for buying a state of the art projector or top-notch signage for our facilities.

In Church Marketing 101, Richard Reising writes, “Your church might not have Solomon’s budget, but you can still shape what you do have into an instrument that glorifies God.”

For the woman in Bethany, that instrument was a bottle of expensive perfume. For those of us in church marketing, our instrument is how we present the church’s message to those around us. In either case, we shouldn’t cheap out or do it halfway in order to save a few bucks. The gesture only works if it’s total and complete. A half-designed brochure is a failure.

In Matthew 26, Jesus isn’t condoning extravagant waste. What the disciples were missing was how deserving Jesus Christ was for such a beautiful display of service. As communicators and as Christians, we are charged with representing how worthy the message of our Savior is to a culture that demands excellence and relevance.

Post By:

Anne Jackson

Anne Jackson is a writer, artist and coffee addict who lives with her husband in the Nashville area. In her free time she enjoys badly impersonating foreign accents, photography and eating anything chocolate.
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50 Responses to “The Church & Money: Plasma TV or Feed the Poor?”

  • Rich Kirkpatrick
    May 10, 2006

    Fantastic perspective. I get the point, I think. But, I think we should still address the presented concern.
    How about a “both and” in dealing with the poor-verses-nice-things-for-God’s-ministry issue. Why can’t it be that we “both” have nice chairs and support relief work? If we never feed the poor, our ministry is empty and our marketing, chairs, and plasma screen are useless.

    • AJ
      May 25, 2011

      The point is, His disciples did not understand the purpose behind this woman’s action, that’s why they asked “To what purpose is this waste?” then Jesus help them understand” Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me” For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial”
      The irony in This is that even this good deed was not for Him to enjoy but to prepare Him for His burial.

  • emergingblurb
    May 10, 2006

    I also don’t see why it is pitted as an either or, we really are blessed enough to have both. But the real issue for me is why we do what we do, so if we spend the money to be cool and attractional, then we won’t be fostering Christ-like transformations anyway.

  • kevin
    May 10, 2006

    I don’t think Anne is saying it can’t be both. Her point is that people should stop freaking out that the church spent $XXX amount on new computers. Jesus’ comments certainly weren’t saying never help the poor. He said to do both.

  • Anne Jackson
    May 10, 2006

    Allow me to be lame and comment on my article :)
    The intent for this isn’t a question on how churches should spend money, but instead tackling the very common complaint some have when they see churches spending money on things they deem “unnecessary.”
    Investing money in missions is a given – this is more stating that spending money on quality marketing and environment pieces isn’t evil – which some sadly think it is. :)

  • Sam DeSocio
    May 10, 2006

    You only look at the first part.
    Matt 26:11
    For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.
    So which is better? the TV or the orphan?

    • BGDadof6
      July 5, 2010

      Poor little orphan child, you can sit at the coffee bar and enjoy the plasmas…but we do not have additional funds to feed you and your little friends. You see, the senior pastor and the 6 associate pastord have to be paid and we haven’t finished paying for all the nice things you see around here. But, let me pray for you. Now run along and be a good little boy or girl!
      Sad – it appears that the creature comforts are more important. If you’re able – listen to Matt Friedeman on A comment he made was that we are tithing to ourselves…for the new building, for the new flooring, etc. The cost to convert 1 new believer in Africa is a little over $19k. In America, it is over $1M. Why is that? Oh, the coffee bar, the plasma tv’s, the glossy brochures, the 6 figure salaries…all in the name of Christ.
      Thanks for letting me speak my mind (if anyone reads it) – I could go on with so much more.

  • sharibrown
    May 10, 2006

    I believe to be effective stewards, we as the church have a responsibility to manage our funds well. So if our budgetary guidelines indicate that we have the funds for the technology that may appeal to many, after we have met our other obligations, go for it. It is all about balance. Feed the poor well, but do not only feed the poor if God has also called you to minister to the college age people at the local university. Whatever he has called you to do, do it well.
    with love,

  • Rich Kirkpatrick
    May 10, 2006

    I have had this conversation many times, unfortunately. I have purchased projectors, video cameras, slick mailers and cool printing machines. So, I feel it. Indeed, people should stop freaking out. What helps people is to teach them that our local communities are a mission field.

  • Scott Andreas
    May 10, 2006

    Thanks for submitting this article. I have to say though, I’m afraid that it might come off a bit flippantly.
    I certainly agree with you that the purpose of the church is to glorify Jesus Christ. As stewards of the community’s resources, it is our responsibility to use them wisely.
    Which, of course, implies the question:
    What is the wisest use of these resources?
    Other CMS articles argue that it’s far more important to build the community and support its ministry than it is to advertise something that isn’t there. For as in design, the purpose is not beauty but communication of content.
    I suggest that the question of the plasma TV and the poor is a bit more complicated. The account of Matthew 26 does not answer this question — instead, it reinforces the point that our resources must be used to glorify God above all.
    Thanks, Anne!
    [disclaimer: I work in advertising and am the pro-bono web designer for a local college ministry ]

  • [rhymes with kerouac]
    May 10, 2006

    I’m a cook at a homeless shelter. About a year ago a guy came to the kitchen door and asked for a plastic spoon. We seldom have them, but today we did. I gave him the spoon and jokingly said, “Here, now don’t say I don’t love you!” He looked me square in the face and said, “Oh, I know you love me.”
    It was Jesus.
    Another manager – a Godly woman I trust – had aa similar experience and gave Jesus a cup of tea as he sat on the front steps on a cold winter morning. You know, I’ve been going to church my whole life. I’ve crossed all kinds of denominational boundaries. I’ve lived through bus ministry and music wars, youth retreats and church hockey leagues. I’ve seen old hymnbooks replaced by new hymnbooks replaced by overheads replaced by PowerPoint. I’m old enough to remember Flannelgraphs. But in all my church life, in all those churches, in all those thousands of sermons and strawberry suppers I’ve never once met Jesus. Not once.
    I’m thinking about Allan, the old man who came to the shelter to die, and about three months later did just that, with six thousand dollars in an envelope on the windowsill beside him, and a sister who wanted us to bury him and send her whatever money was left. There’s guys we’ve saved from suicide, and guys we haven’t. There’s guys that have left us for crack, for jail or for parts unknown, and some we’ve led to the Lord and seen baptized and discipled. There have been times when I’ve prayed like a man out of his mind and then had to live with the answer God gave me. I have faced everyone of my failings in harm done to others and I have learned to forgive.
    And you know what? I’m done with church. I’m through with it. I just can’t live like that anymore.

  • jeremysdemo
    May 10, 2006

    This ointment was upon His head.
    even in the hour of betrayal.
    She had done a good thing to our Father, and it honored Him.
    As He hung on the cross this oil still in His hair, He could feel a small blessing of humanity on Him.
    There is so much spiritual signifigance to this one act.
    Talk about aroma therapy!
    Anyway I fail to see a comparison in these two things.
    I have nothing against churches spending the money to glorify the Lord. A huge cross, laddened in gold. Wood work, furniture of quality, that will last. That’s a smart economic move IMHO, rather than be trendy and buy stuff that’s not real wood and falls apart. The larger front end cost is justified by the lesser later cost of having to replace and replace things. But I would hate to see newer evangelical churches go the route of the classic cathedrals.
    With all their decadence and huge spires, the pews gathering dust as the old members die off, and no new ones to be found.
    Anything is OK in my book if it glorifies our Lord.
    So if the church and Glorify the Lord with a huge plazma TV, let it.
    Let that TV minister grace to a generation of children who rely on that medium for it’s truths.
    As far as the marketing goes.
    I prefer the in house approach to that in churches. That is a service industry and most churches have people in those feilds that can donate their time to such things.
    Not only that, it’s best to keep the focu of the message from within the body of Christ rather than outsourcing the marketing efforts to “other” people.
    The church is the body and should be itulized as such, let’s not let our arms grow limp.
    Peace be with you Anne,
    jerm :)

  • Stephen
    May 10, 2006

    I disagree with your interpretation of this scripture.
    The point of the scripture was: don’t miss me, Jesus. I AM the point. Doing good things isn’t the point. I AM the point.
    Creating a comfy environment follows the text-book marketing approach of catering to the “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) consumer mentality. This is opposite of What’s In It For Jesus. Jesus is the point. Trying to get people into church with the WIIFM approach and trying to teach them into the WIIFJ approach is foolish.
    Christ’s ministry and outreach is characterized by two things, serving and loving. God set up people to be ministered to via servant-hood and love. Those are enough to pack out any church. Creating a consumer friendly environment puts the focus on the creation rather than the Creator. No wonder so many churches (especially big ones) have a difficult time getting people to “plug in.” If it’s all about me, why should I??

  • Anne Jackson
    May 11, 2006

    Stephen –
    Maybe I am wrong in my interpretation of the verse – I will be the first to say I am no theologian. Please know this is a verse I have meditated on for literally months.
    Where I actually agree with what you say about service and consumer mentality, I do think that people can do things for Christ by doing them for others – it’s undeniable that our culture is highly consumer driven, and some people ARE called to meet them where they are at.
    IF that is all they are about, there is no substance to their message – if it’s just a plastic presentation – then having all that stuff doesn’t matter.
    But if it is evident the people within the church do care and continue to serve them in their actions once the big screens are shut off, more power to them.
    I don’t believe anyone can judge every big church by the cover, nor the leaders in any church who make the decisions to purchase these items. I don’t think anyone but God will know their motives in why they spend money on quality things: if it’s just for show or to serve those in their community. I used to think exactly like you and I worked in a big church. I’d get ticked off whenever I’d see something “unnecessary” purchased. Once I started hearing how lives were being changed in what I percieved to be this consumer-driven environment, I shut up. I was wrong and even though it didn’t fully make sense to me, I could tell my leaders were serving God by serving others and He was ultimately being glorified.
    And that was all that mattered.

  • Anne Jackson
    May 11, 2006

    One more thought and I’ll shut up:
    Jesus IS the point, and it is our job to point people to him.
    Thanks for letting me rant.
    Good day.

  • Janna
    May 11, 2006

    YES YES YES!!!!
    We are in the middle of a $12 million building campaign right now, and at first people FREAKED…we’re building an awesome community youth center, an amazing kids facility, etc…
    God took me back to the Old Testament and showed me where His specifications for building the temple were. They didn’t use crappy materials. They used the very best, they used gold and precious jewels.
    Because God is worth it.
    And environment matters.
    Do you want to send your children to a school that might have great teachers, but the ceiling is falling in and there’s no air conditioning? I don’t think so.

  • Janna
    May 11, 2006

    AND (sorry i forgot…)
    I think it falls more on the individual to help the poor. Stop blaming your church and sacrifice some of your own time and money to help the poor.
    :) that’s all.

  • grahambot
    May 11, 2006

    Wow….sadly I must say that “the individual” up to this point has been doing a lousy job of taking care of the poor. This is something the church used to do, but we fail at it now. Even the author of this post mentions giving to “missions” as the primary means of giving to the poor. Missions money usually goes to support missionaires, but only a fraction of it actually directly affects the physical needs of the poor. A lot of it sends missionary kids to private schools and pays mortgages back at home.
    Don’t get me wrong here…we need to continue to support missionaries, and the church also needs to reclaim its proper role in feeding the hungry. People used to tithe to the “storehouse” which was used in times of famine, need, or to feed the hungry. Nowadays, we tithe to the store catalog. We need to learn again the discipline of sacrificial giving.

  • pete
    May 11, 2006

    I think it’s a good post and that the intention to point the worthiness of Jesus is exactly what we all ought to be doing all the time. Money, or even service, isn’t the issue — it’s the condition of our own hearts that muck up our ability to make wise decisions.
    And it’s not about balance… it’s about OBEDIENCE. And part of that is offering the BEST we can in EVERYTHING with the resources we have with wisdom and purpose. But, again, it’s our selfishness that hampers our ability to obey and wisely give of our time, money, resources, energy… heart.
    We always intend to “do the right thing,” but we will perpetually fall short if done of our own accord. If we’re not praying through and wrestling with, “WHO can I show Jesus to today?” then whether we build a “state of the art” church, or volunteer to feed the homeless, we’ll miss the point.
    Am I wrong in thinking that our charge is to tell all the world and make Christ-followers?
    Point to Jesus — always point to the one who saves us and restores us to a right relationship to him. Use what you can with what God has blessed to you glorify him! So, build the bestest church ever and love the snot out of, not just the homeless, but EVERYONE!
    I’ll be the first to admit that I border on hypocrisy when it comes to sacrifice and obedience, but by his grace I am able to persevere and make strides to loving others with my time, money, and other ways.

  • Darin
    May 11, 2006

    This is the reason I am not currently attending church. I can’t give 10% to see it being used on church beautification. We just spent a month’s worth of tithe money painting the sanctuary, something that the men could have done for the cost of paint on a Saturday afternoon. Add in the cost of having the nicest lawn in town and it just doesn’t add up. We send missionaries all over the world for two weeks, but we fail to serve our own communities. I don’t believe this is the church that was intended. Something needs to be done, and sitting here talking about it isn’t enough. We need to get back to what church is supposed to be. This is only going to be done when people like us start doing something about it.

  • Anon
    May 11, 2006

    Darin – you should be going to church and giving out of obidience. You aren’t responsible for how people spend the money.

  • Darin
    May 11, 2006

    I completely disagree. So if my church wastes money, I should just keep on blindly paying. No way. That would not be a good steward

  • Mike Wagner
    May 11, 2006

    Darin, in my opinion it’s not up to you to judge what or where the money goes, it’s up to God. I used to feel the same way about the guy stading on the corner asking for money. I would think, he’d probably just spend it it on booze or drugs…why enable him? Then I began to think, well if I pass him up, who knows what the impact would be? Would he then mug someone for their money because he really DID need it? It’s up to God to work on that person. It’s not for me to decide, it’s up to me to have faith in God that he will be faithful to me for doing the same.

  • Anon
    May 11, 2006

    No, you should confront them in love and truth, ask other church members to help intervene, or ask them why they do what they do and talk to them about it. If that doesn’t work, find a church who uses their money wisely.

  • grahambot
    May 11, 2006

    Here here. Now, I’m all for good marketing. Let’s do everything we can to get people to come and hear the good news. But then let’s focus on equipping those people to serve their community and reach out to the poor. Let’s be innovative, let’s use technology, let’s make a good first impression. But, above all, let’s make sure that the people are chasing after God’s heart. God abhors people who do nothing in the face of poverty, sickness, injustice. To often, we focus our prayers and our tithes on bettering our own situations, while ignoring the need of the people who are desperate for help. By choosing not to tithe to your church, don’t leave out meaningful financial assistance to “the least of these.” Also, make sure the staff at your church understands why you have chosen to support other priorities in God’s Kingdom. If enough people raise their concerns, then the church would finally begin to align its priorities with those of its members, and it would become a more generous place.

  • grahambot
    May 11, 2006

    Mike, that’s a pretty bad parallel you drew. If you really want to help the guy on the corner, get to know him, even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t give him money…buy him a meal. Give him a hotel room for a night, help him find a shelter or work. Are you really giving him a buck because you think that will help, or is it to make yourself feel better about continuing on your way? What about the money you’re giving to God?
    Darin’s situation is more clear, and I think his discontentment is coming from a place where his conscience is forcing him to act. He knows in his heart that his church just wasted a few thousand dollars on a paint job. There is real reason for concern there. It robbed the church community of a way to actively participate in ministry to the church, it stuffed the pockets of a local painting business, and neglected needs that are clearly more urgent elsewhere. I would only encourage Darin to continue going to his church, and to begin work to change its culture from the inside.
    We could all quit our churches just because we disagree with certain expenses or fundraising efforts. But then the church would be devoid of people of that type of conviction. Instead, do the hard work of talking with your pastors and showing them cases where they could and perhaps should do better work with God’s money. If your pastors won’t listen and respond in humility and truth, then maybe it’s time to move on.

  • Tim Yeager
    May 11, 2006

    I love the diverse comments that this site always produces.
    I would have to say that my opinon on this subject lies someone where in the middle. I think their is a balance. Although the scripture used might not be completly applicable, I do think that we can glean some light from it. I think the major issue at hand, and will always be, is the fact that at the center of our Christian life, is our heart. The problem with this, is that motives aren’t always black and white. I can’t tell if our numerous coffee carts outside our church our to encourage fellowship of the saints or cheap way to get people to feel more comfortable, more alert, and happier and in so doing give more in offering. I can’t tell if the three huge screens in service (when honestly one would have been fine) are meant to encourage an atmosphere of worship or entertainment. The motive of the heart is the key here. Which was the same with the lady pouring the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Unlike you and me, Jesus could see the motive of her heart. Her motives were pure. I am sure some churches motives are not as pure as hers, and some are. I say all this to say, that honestly I don’t think we can answer this either way. I am sure we can look at the fruit of the ministry but even that is very diffifult to do. All the plasma tv’s and cool marketing will mean nothing if they are not used out of love, like a clangin symbol.

  • Tommy Watson
    May 11, 2006

    This article and the responses remind me of the story of “The Fishermen.” The fishermen became so proficient at fishing that they filled their schedules with conferences on fishing and promoting fishing that they neglected fishing. The point is not in the marketing but what we do with the marketing. If we have all the bells and whistles but never touch people for Christ then we have failed. And yes, I do think there is a dollar limit to how much we spend on temporal things. After all, its not our money!

  • jeremy
    May 11, 2006

    Anne, thanks for the thoughts. Everyone else, thanks for the great discussion.
    I want to respond specifically to the idea that Darin shouldn’t be responsible for where the money goes. Of course, it is ultimately up to God, but when God’s will is being implemented by humans (and that’s most often the case, no?) there’s always a lot of room for error.
    Tithing is definitely about obedience, but God gave you a brain and eyes and ears for a reason. You’re supposed to give HIM your tithe, one way or another. If you give it to a church and that church isn’t doing HIS will, I think you’re not just able, but responseable to do something about it.
    Darin, if you’re unsatisfied with the way your church is spending your money, the way I see it, you’ve got many choices:
    1. Leave the church forever. Never tithe again.
    This will be tempting if you scrutinize every dime your church ever spends, because there’s no such thing as a church that deals with money perfectly. But that’s the thing. There’s no perfect church. There’s no perfect Christian organization.
    And yet, you must tithe. It’s such a critical part of being faithful to your creator.
    2. Leave the church. Find another that you feel is more responsible and tithe there.
    This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but again, there’s no perfect church. If your standards are too high, you’ll just keep on moving from church to church, without ever setting down roots, and without ever learning how to give deeply of yourself to a community of believers. Fellowship is only possible with time.
    3. Ignore the church’s waste. Just keep on truckin’.
    This isn’t any better. If you do this, consciously, you’re basically throwing your money into an empty well. Be responsible for your tithe. Release it, but release it wisely.
    3. Stay in your church. Advocate for a different use of resources. Establish a volunteer corps.
    This isn’t a bad idea, but it depends on what kind of resources you’ve got. And by the way, the real return on investment of resources spent is a lot more difficult to discover than you might think.
    So your church spent a bunch of money on painting instead of asking church members to do it instead . . . what if the time of those church members could have been better spent? What if you’ve got a marketing specialist who would rather spend 4 hours on Saturday designing an excellent campaign to reach your community? What if you’ve got a professional caterer who would rather spend 4 hours on Saturday cooking a great meal for the local homeless population and regular church members? Sometimes, it’s better to hire professionals, who will do the job quickly and correctly; members who are willing to give their time might be able to give their time in much more valuable ways.
    And by the way, a professional painter qualifies in the same way . . . why have him/her help in the kitchen, when 4 hours of their time might be better spent painting the church?
    Hah. No solutions, really. But I just felt like thinking out loud a bit.

  • emergingblurb
    May 11, 2006

    Its interesting to hear all this talk about tithing. Tithing is an old testament institution that provides funds for a church that has too heavy a reliance on money.
    I’m one of those who thinks we pick and choose what’s relevant from the Old Testament. I read something similar at another blog
    “Exegetically and thus dogmatically and ethically the New Testament is against tithing as a regulation in the new covenant. Desire for more money also for more money in the church and for the church must not blind our eyes to the ways employed for getting more money? Jesus does not want to be misunderstood”.
    I find an overwhelming directive for Christians to give as inidividuals not only as free will, but to serve human need, rather than ‘in the plate’.
    Ok that was a little provocative, but I do wonder whether church services and infrastructure are a little luxurious these days. And if the argument is that the mega church has certain needs, then there are a lot of smallish mega church wannabes that would enjoy economies of scale as a corporate entity. But they are generally busy building there own kingdoms to be bothered “joining forces”.
    Isn’t the idea behind tithing a source of revenue for mission and welfare? I also wonder whether enforcing Old Testament theology is just a little controlling. Perhaps it’s a trade off for moving away from the early church model of community and toward a structured and organised event.
    I remember when my old church regularly used the money from our Opportunity Shop (public donated clothes for welfare purposes) to not only supplement the church bills but also purchased the central air-conditioning for both the shop and church. Now plenty of people have no problem with this, but I reserve the right to at least say it don’t sit well with me.
    So I see a problem with both our collection and spending. Interestingly, I have found that the early church model, has little to no need for finances itself. The emerging church (in Australia anyway) often has no paid pastor, no company car or residence, no building to rent or equipment. Now while this is on the other side of the spectrum it remains an observation rather than a suggested improvement. I find myself in a situation where I have the freedom to give and campaign for causes I feel a burden or passion for, and indeed entertain some form of involvement if I wish.
    I think there is a sterility with the traditional collection plate that seems to further alienate us from the need we are supposed to be giving to.

  • emergingblurb
    May 11, 2006

    Here’s a cartoon to bring a laugh to the subject at hand

  • Kevin
    May 12, 2006

    Tony McCollum has a good post on this: Penny-Pinching People to Hell

  • Travis Seitler
    May 12, 2006

    Anne, I really don’t want to nit-pick… but in verse 12 (same narrative) Jesus explained why the woman’s extravagance was justified:
    “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.”
    What does a plasma TV (or a coffee bar) do for Jesus? Jesus said in Matthew 25:
    “Then those “sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me–you did it to me.'”
    It would seem that we show “exravagant devotion” to Christ by how we treat the poor, despised, rejected and downtrodden.
    After speaking about money (and what to do with it) in Luke 12, Jesus said this:
    “Let me ask you: Who is the dependable manager, full of common sense, that the master puts in charge of his staff to feed them well and on time? He is a blessed man if when the master shows up he’s doing his job. But if he says to himself, ‘The master is certainly taking his time,’ begins maltreating the servants and maids, throws parties for his friends, and gets drunk, the master will walk in when he least expects it, give him the thrashing of his life, and put him back in the kitchen peeling potatoes.
    “The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!”
    The things you’re commending to us here (new website, plasma screen, coffee bar, glossy brochure)… are they more “feeding His staff well and on time,” or “throwing parties for our friends”? James sharply rebuked the church for showing preferential treatment toward the wealthy… isn’t that what we do when we pursue the “Plasma TV” demographic?
    “Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name–“Christian”-used in your baptisms?” — James 2:5-7 (The Message)
    We need to be careful, because it’s really easy to claim something is for God’s glory, when it’s really just for our own.

  • Anne Jackson
    May 12, 2006

    Thanks for your comment. Two quick things – one, I am no theologian. This is not my literal intreptation of the scripture, rather something that God impressed on my heart as I meditated on the area of scripture I quoted. I was the cynical onewho thought churches were horrible when they did all those things before, and I was shown that a) I don’t know it all and b) God is worthy of our best (whether it costs a lot, or a little, the cost is not important but the motive is.)
    Two – I can only speak for the church I currently serve at, which is a large church. We are in a lake community with a high median income so our building and all that comes out of it is done with excellence.
    At the same time, we realize it is not an either/or commission. We have over 100 international and national mission trips every year as well as serving the poor and homeless in the DFW area. We partner with churches around the world financially, and realize a big concern in our area is unplanned pregnancy, so we have pregnancy resource centers.
    I say all of this not to boast of our church’s “doings,” rather to show it is possible for a church to spend money in a variety of ways. seeing the fruit of this and how God has multiplied the money we do give, I see God glorified in this on a daily basis. Is this typical? I don’t know – I’ve only worked and served in two churches. It is easy for us to claim things as our own, but it’s also easy for us to assume the worst of churches that spend money instead of hoping for the best.

  • paul
    May 13, 2006

    i don’t see how anyone who disagreed with anne’s view could in good conscience have a computer or access to the web.

    • Randy Brock
      October 17, 2011

      Paul, this is the most inciteful comment of all. Don’t they care about the poor! Everybody wants to draw the line for someone else. Jesus warned us to be careful about that.

      • Chris
        October 11, 2015

        Wow…you must find a lot of things insightful…

  • Travis Seitler
    May 13, 2006

    Anne, thanks. =) I read your “A Nagging Question” blog post, and I see better where you’re coming from. To clarify my own view, I just don’t think such things are what “serving Christ with excellence” is about. (I’m a closet house-churcher, methinks!)
    As to paul’s comment following yours, what I’m mainly talking about is what is a proper use of tithe/offering money. That’s my main concern…

  • Dr. Lori
    May 13, 2006

    Nice article, Anne. I wouldn’t haver thought to apply that story of Jesus to this situation. Thanks for making me think.

  • Tony Dean
    June 6, 2006

    I think the author has missed the point of Mary’s sacrifice entirely . . her offering was not an outpouring of indulgence but sacrifice. That expensive perfume represented all that was precious to her in the world and when she rightly poured it all upon the Saviour’s feet it was a demonstration of what is properly more important – it is a beautiful demonstration of surrender that leads to salvation. As for the world demanding exellence . . who gives a toss what the world demands, the believer’s commission is to preach the Gospel to the lost not entertain goats in comfy surroundings.

    • BGDadof6
      July 5, 2010

      Tony Dean, you have hit the mark and I could not have said it better myself.

  • Chalupa
    June 10, 2006

    If you would read she said this wasn’t an intrepetration of the scripture but something god revealed to her through scripture. based on your website, you are probably just looking to pick a theological war…we are also called to love and by giving people cynical awards when you are just as closeminded as they are is completely hypocritical. you need help.

  • JF
    July 13, 2006

    If you folks truly want to help the poor, I suggest you donate to your local social services committee rather than an institution that has other priorities, namely itself.

  • Alex
    December 18, 2006

    :O our preist just brought $16,000 worth of plasma screen TV’s for our chrurch. im from australia, and where we live, WE are the ones effected by the drought. we’re having to kill hundreds of animals…and some farmers around here have even committed suicide, things are so bad.
    Not to mention bushfires! i live in a state, where at the moment, bushfires have nearly taken over! people have died.
    Should the preist…right now be spending so much on TV’s? NO! geesh. its annoying.
    ha um. yeah…i just thought this related to the topic :D so i’d tell you.
    – alex.

  • Anthony Ingram
    January 2, 2007

    Jesus said “the poor you will have with you always”. Some people are poor because they choose to be – they prefer to live off of others rather than to work. The Bible addresses this category of “poor” with “if a man will not work, neither should he eat”. Now then – there are the true poor – those who have been so beaten down by circumstances or events that the ONLY way for them to rise up from the ashes is with some significant help — the key here is that they are WILLING to rise up and learn to stand on their own feet.
    Sometimes it is hard to discern between the two groups — so there may be times that the church’s charity may be taken advantage of. This does not mean that we should stop giving – not does it mean that every penny we have should go to feed or clothe or house the poor.

  • Nick Truscott
    January 19, 2007

    I just found this article and it was hugely encouraging for me. Maadi Community Church here in Cairo has a wide range of significant development projects among the sudanese refugee and displaced peoples community. We recently developed our first fundraising / awareness brochure – HQ design and production and there were several criticisms about cost / quality / why are we doing it? etc – and I confess that some of those comments hurt. As part of my day to day job I REALLY feel that what I am doing is glorifying God; but congregations are funny things aren’t they!

  • Glen
    April 12, 2007

    Just stumbled upon this blod and want to quickly share what my chruch does. We had our grand opening for our new building recently and inside included 3 brand spaking new 42″ plasma (unfortunately they got stolen a few days later – I pity the soul who stole from God). Our church is involved with a lot of community projects and on several occasions have won awards from our state government. Simply put our attitude is to constantly bless others and God returns his favour on us. I’ve given in times of need and in times of prospering and you can never out give God. We have to face the fact that technology is a part of life and we have to use it to appeal to the new generation. We need to be God centered…not religious.

  • sd
    October 11, 2007

    I have looked over this discussion with a fair bit of interest. I think their is too much black and white on the issue and a bit of commen sense could go a long way. In as much as a churchs job is to teach it is to serve- God and his people (all his people, not just those in the church) It is not necessary to have the latest gadgets to teach you only have to look at a public school to see that the job can get done fairly well on a tight budget. Realistically do you really think it is morally correct to see people in your community struggling without hope and put beutification in front of that as a priority?? Sometimes the poor people in your community will teach you more than any preacher delivering a message in front of a church. After all Jesus didnt spend all his time in Church he was out with the people doing his thing. Do as Jesus did And does I say.

  • LateComer
    September 30, 2010

    I’m late to the blog, but I’ll just say: Give generously, anonymously, if possible. The debate over tithing, obedience and before or after tax is moot, even to the point of being annoying. You don’t have to debate this if you just give of time, money, and talents. If you give sacrificially then you don’t even have to debate first fruits. You’ll be well beyond that beginner’s step. We should always be careful who or what organization we donate money, too, though. Money can do harm if it’s in the wrong hands. Sometimes people ask for money when it would not solve their underlying issues, only delay them or make them worse. We are to be good stewards. With that said, I think the individual and small house churches can accomplish much more without the overhead. A house church is far more efficiently run and welcoming than a traditional church. (Try it.) My church is practically empty 70% of the time … it just sits empty. That’s a lot of space sitting empty, expensive, expensive space that we’ve not even paid the bill on yet. Where’s Jesus in all that? I’ll tell you — nowhere.

  • Kevin
    March 19, 2016

    Jesus was going to be with the disciples for a little while then go back in heaven and the poor will always be with us so as the pastors.
    “Remember I will say to you I was hungry and you fed me,I was naked and you clothed me.” Who should be sought first ?
    a) one who had breakfast
    b)one who had his last meal two days ago

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