Thursday, March 26, 2015

Financial Transparency in the Church

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. –I Timothy 6:10

It’s a sad, but familiar story. Someone passes away, an estate is disputed, feelings are hurt, and relationships are damaged, often irreparably. I have witnessed this scenario played out many times as I have ministered to families in times of grief. Some of what I have observed falls into the realm of the unbelievable. The family who settles a loved one’s estate without hard feelings and legal disputes is rare these days.

One example that comes to mind is the estate of the late comedian / actor Robin Williams. I read recently how his family is in court contesting his will regarding various items of memorabilia and jewelry. It is painful somehow to read in news reports his family going to court to make sure they get whatever he left behind. And we all leave everything behind, don’t we? But, that’s for another blog post. The truly sad irony of Robin Williams’ death is the man who made millions of people laugh was unable to overcome his own inner demons, which drove him to an apparent suicide. I have no idea whether or not he was a person of faith and I have heard rumors he was an atheist, but I would never presume to know what’s in a person’s heart. Regardless, the desire for money is a dangerous force.

Money causes problems in families, but improperly handing money also causes problems in the church. Transparency is a term used in recent years well applied to churches. God calls us to do all things in the church, especially how we handle finances, well above reproach. Sadly it does not always happen this way. Most of us have heard the news reports of televangelists and their money issues. People begin asking questions about where the money is going, the televangelist is either unwilling to answer or provides a false answer, and a controversy erupts. Ultimately, Christianity is further tarnished. Transparency in the church means that we keep a careful accounting of how we spend donated funds. We then make those records readily available. This principle should apply to a church with membership of 50 or 20,000.

I can only speak for myself, but something I never do is stand in the pulpit and plead for money. In fact, I rarely mention it. My prayer is that churches and ministries everywhere would strive for financial transparency. This is a positive witness for Christ in the world. Sadly, mishandled funds in the church has left a bad taste in the mouths of many people. Has this created problems for you? Have you left a church or been disillusioned over money issues? I would love to hear from you. I would like an opportunity to pray for God’s grace and presence in your life.

Perhaps something else is bothering you today. Know that God cares and people will pray for you. Feel free to share your comments.

God bless you.

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