Don’t Be Greedy

“Stick ’em up!  Put all the money in the bag!”
Does this define your experience in church?  Everybody always wants more.  Right?  I confess, I’m always pushing the congregants to give more.  While I don’t hold them at gun point, I do lay it on pretty thick at times from the pulpit.  “Give God all you’ve got!  If you’re not giving everything, you’re not giving God all He wants!”
While I would never pressure someone to give money, in the back of my mind, I know that money is a part of “everything”.  I’m not after a raise.  I’m not after a new office chair (which by the way, mine is getting pretty sad…Bad timing?).  I’m not even after a bigger church budget.  Honestly, I just want others to have what I have; a meaningful relationship with God.  The more you give God, the more fulfillment you find in Him.  Sure, I’d like more material wealth, but I’m learning to be content with what I have.
As I write this, I know how hypocritical this message can sound,  “Don’t be Greedy!”  Which, I confess, I am good at being hypocritical.  I hope I never lose sight of that truth.  But also, I hope I never lose my hearing.  God is teaching me to listen to the world around me; to genuinely listen to the complaints that unbelievers and the “De-churched” have against those who attend Christian Churches.  I may push the envelope at times (no pun intended), but I consider it a win when people can walk away from one of our services saying, “Wow, that’s not how I remember church being…”
I want people everywhere to understand how relevant the Resurrection of Jesus is to their lives; how relevant church can be to them.  Every Christian has heard complaints about the church; they might even be the ones complaining.
“The church is full of hypocrites…”
“All they want is my money…”
“I’m tired of feeling judged…”
Once a person is convinced of these statements, it takes a lifetime to convince them otherwise.  Often people never recant and carry these beliefs with them to the grave.  This is why it’s especially important for followers of Jesus everywhere to use wisdom and discernment regarding the messages we’re sending.  Are we making attempts to change people’s minds?  Or are we sending messages we don’t intend to; messages Jesus wouldn’t be on board with?
I would argue that on many occasions, we fall in to the later category.  Recently, I was in a Christian bookstore and was looking at a Bible I was considering purchasing.  A man walked up beside me and began looking at the Bibles too.  I’ve tried to practice living in “code yellow” to determine whether people around me are a threat, especially while I’m in a city.  So, I confess, I sized this man up.  He was an older gentlemen; well kept and looked as if he could have afforded to purchase several of the most expensive Bible’s in the store.
He called over an attendant and asked for a specific brand of study Bible and she helped him find what he was looking for.  He asked as she was looking, “Are they on sale?”
She responded, “I don’t think so.”
“Of course they aren’t…” he replied.  “Can I have my name imprinted on it?”
“Yes sir,” she said.  “It takes a day to do since we do them all at the end of the evening.”
“Is it free?” he asked.
“No sir,” she answered.  “It costs $5.”
“Why do you charge money when other stores will do it for free?”  He retorted.
“Do other stores do it for free?”  She asked gracefully.
“Yes they do.  But I don’t suppose you will since you’ve already told me it’s going to be $5,” he jabbed.
She responded by shaking her head solemnly and said, “Yes sir.  I’m sorry.  It’s an additional $5…”
I managed to keep my mouth shut and stay out of it.  But, as I stood a few feet away hearing the exchange, my blood pressure started rising. Who does this guy think he is?  I thought.  I began responding to him in my mind.  A Bible isn’t an expense,  it’s a sound investment.  I would invest in a good Bible even if it cost double that amount because it’s worth it!  Think about what kind of message you are sending when you complain about how much something costs when, it is not only reasonably priced but, many people in other parts of the world would commit crime to get their hands on one!
When I was on a mission trip in India, I sat across the Table from two Indian men with my Missionary Guide.  We were negotiating prices for a huge supply of prescription medication they were selling so we could hold a medical camp and get people help who needed it.  We did this in the middle of a restaurant in broad daylight.  The same scenario in America would have been highly illegal.  The next morning they dropped off the supply of prescription medication in front of our hotel with people walking in and out from several directions.  Later that evening we met with another man in a back room at night asking how many Bibles we could purchase for a women’s conference we wanted to hold.  He kept his voice down and asked us to do the same.  Two days later we scheduled a pick up of the “contraband” as he had organized a “secure location”.  I felt like a criminal.  In India, I was.
Because of how sensitive the material was, there was no negotiating.  This man was risking his life to bring us these Bibles written in Telugu.  We paid him whatever he demanded to do the job.  The next day we handed out the Bibles.  We could only get 100.  There were over 200 women there.  They called the women out by name one at a time.  Spirits and hopes were high at the beginning of the distribution.  But as we got down to the last 5 or 10 Bibles, many of the women began to realize most of them weren’t going to get a Bible.  You could see the insecurity wash over their faces as they began to ask to themselves, “Am I going home empty handed?”
When the last name was called the woman jumped up with exhilaration,  joy, and adrenaline.  She almost ran to the front where she picked up her Bible.  Simultaneously, however, other women in the room began to weep.  One woman in particular ran out the back with her hands covering her face.  I remember that feeling well; tremendous disappointment and shame.  It’s the feeling I felt when I was cut from the 8th grade Basketball team.  Except, there was always next year for me.  Some women came forward and offered everything they had, an entire month’s wages, just to leave with a Bible in hand.  Unfortunately, however, there were no more Bibles to give away, much less charge for.  I don’t know how we selected the women we did.  I do know how extremely guilty I felt about all the Bibles I had at home and didn’t even read.
What do you think these women would say to  someone who, not only had the means and opportunity to buy a Bible whenever they wanted but, complained about how much it cost and probably seldomly ever read it?  We’re always after that “Christian Discount”, aren’t we?   I heard a guy say one time, “If you see a Christian Fish on a business card, It means you’re about to get cheated…”
“I love Jesus and try to serve him, so how about cutting me a special deal since I’m trying to make the world a better place?”  (Substitute “we” for “I” and now we’re talking about organizations).
Considering the message we consistently send about money, is it really a good idea to ask for a discount?  Shouldn’t we as believers be willing to pay MORE than everyone else to send the message that money is temporary but the condition of a person’s soul is eternal?  Sound a bit extreme and foolish?  Think about it this way.  How much more progress could we make in the world if we weren’t asking for a discount because we know Jesus; especially in a world where people constantly accuse us of being greedy?  Who knows, maybe they are right…
What if we could sacrifice a little extra money to change someone’s mind about God, the Bible, and the Church?  A hundred verses come to mind, but I’m going to settle on this one:
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ…” – Philippians 3:8 (NIV)