Nehemiah 5: What you’re doing is wrong.
The work Nehemiah and his team is doing is physically challenging and time consuming. Not only are they working very hard, but they’re working with defense against an attack in mind so there’s also mental fatigue. Meanwhile, life goes on. These men have families to feed and bills to pay. The work on wall is vitally important but there’s no income from it. To make ends meet, they go to the local business men for loans. In spite of the fact that the restoration of the wall is to everyone’s benefit the loan sharks take advantage of the problem faced by the workers. When Nehemiah learns what’s happening he’s furious. He calls for a meeting and reads the riot act to these financial predators. Both the fear of the Lord and fear of Nehemiah takes hold and the gouging of the workmen stops immediately. What a situation! The workers face the challenging task of rebuilding, the threats of their enemies, and the greedy business practices of their fellow Jews. In some ways, this is the unkindest cut of all. Yet it often happens, even within the church. As many pull together to accomplish some worthy goal there are those who can’t see the big picture because they’re blinded by their own agenda. When that happens those doing the real work are distracted or discouraged from their task. Nehemiah dealt with this problem head on. Our tendency is to just try to work through stuff like this. Sometimes that’s probably best, but not always. I pray that the Lord will give us wisdom to know when Nehemiah’s course of action is necessary and then help us to follow it.
Take Away: If we ignore some problems they will go away, but not always. Sometimes leaders have to deal with issues head on.
2Kings 12: Why haven’t you renovated this sorry-looking Temple?
The sample we’re given of Joash’s leadership of Judah is his faithfulness to repair the Temple of God. Any building will deteriorate if it is not cared for and Joash realizes that the Temple is overdue for some serious work. He orders the priests who serve there to use offerings for that purpose, but it never happens. Instead of being used on the building, the money is absorbed in the everyday operations at the Temple. When Joash sees this, he changes tactics and creates a system by which money can be given for this specific purpose. The people respond and during his reign Joash sees the Temple restored to much of its former glory. So what do I see in this incident? First, I’m reminded that the building where worship takes place needs regular attention and that the Lord gifts some people for this task. The church needs to recognize that and both finance and empower these people for their work. Second, I see that without leadership things gradually fall apart. In this case, not only is the building deteriorating, but the plans for financing the renovations also come apart without Joash’s leadership. It isn’t enough for him to have the vision and then put a plan together. He has to be sure that the plan continues to completion. Third, I see that the best way to finance such an operation is with money specifically given for that purpose. The expenses of the Temple continue even through the building project so the money has to be given above the regular offerings. Finally, I see that people are willing to give to such a project. People don’t have to be brow beat to give if they see the need and that something is really happening. Clearly, these are good principles for today even as they were good so long ago.
Take Away: Leadership not only provides vision and plans. It also stays engaged as the vision is made reality.
1Timothy 6: A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.
The final chapter of this first letter to young pastor Timothy is about money. Paul’s concerned about church leaders who see their position as a way to make some easy money. Timothy’s warned to identify such people as quickly as possible to keep them from infecting the whole church with their “germs of envy, controversy…” and other equally bad stuff. Timothy, himself, as a man of God, is to pursue, not money, but “wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy.” Finally, Paul addresses how Timothy’s to deal with those who are already wealthy. He’s to warn them to not be money centered but, instead, to handle their riches in the same way the Lord handles his: with extravagant generosity, helping others out of their bounty. Even though this is a short course on the topic of money and the church we find here a well-rounded treatment of the subject. First, watch out for church leaders who are in it for the money. Second, the pastor must be careful to not get caught up on the pursuit of money. Finally, those who do have money are to handle it with care, letting the generosity of the Lord, himself, but their example.
Take Away: Money doesn’t have to be a curse – rather it can be a way in which we reflect the generosity of the Lord.
You get what you pay for
2Corinthians 11: My needs were always supplied by the Christians from Macedonia province.
One reason some of the members of the church at Corinth don’t value Paul’s ministry as much as they value that of others is that Paul served them free of charge during his time with them. Others have come their way with hard luck stories and claims of greater enlightenment. They’ve asked for and received offerings from the church there. Now, when Paul writes to them in authoritative tones they tend to discount his ministry to them because they didn’t pay for it. Paul’s about to join the traveling preachers in stating his credentials and sharing his hard luck stories, and both are much more impressive than those of the traveling preachers they’re listening to. The Apostle wonders if he cheated them by letting churches elsewhere support his ministry during his time in Corinth. He thought he was doing them a favor, making it clear that he wasn’t in it for the money, but now he wonders if they’d be more inclined to listen to him had they supported him during his time there. Paul makes it clear that he’s not sorry he ministered to them as he did, so I don’t want to make more of this than is there. Still, it’s a point worth consideration. Generally speaking, people value that which costs them something. If it’s just handed to them, they think it’s worth what they paid for it. In this passage, I see that, on one hand, sometimes it’s best to just give our ministry away, making it as easy as possible for people to receive it. On the other hand, though, it’s fair and right that people support those who minister to them and, in fact, their doing so increases the value of that ministry in their eyes.
Take Away: We tend to value that which costs us something.