“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 This week’s assault on Facebook is 2 Timothy 4:3-4, with assorted memes and photos (one is a shot of the verse, in situ, […]
Too many Christians have a thing about the word “free.”
When it comes to the free gift of salvation that Jesus willingly hands us, we’re convinced that there’s a catch somehow, and it seriously can’t be as easy as it sounds.
Yes, we’re saved, but in order to “prove” that we are involves a lot of work, and what that work is depends upon the denomination to which a person belongs. Across the board, church attendance seems to be mandatory; I ran into one man who quoted Hebrews 10:26, the verse immediately after the famously misused “forsake not the assembling of one another,” to justify that Christians who don’t go to church are going to hell instead.
Well, that’ll fill the pews.
Another Kind of “Free”
On the other hand, when it comes to services and products that do cost money, the concept of “free” becomes well understood indeed. Regardless of what you do, it’s highly likely that you have been obliquely yet firmly requested to provide your service, skill, or product to “the church,” without charge, because
1) You’re a Christian,
2) Christians are supposed to support “the church,” which generally means the particular group and its subsequent building that we are involved in,
3) A Christian’s “ministry” is wrapped around what leadership of the attended congregation says it is,
A Bible Verse That Isn’t in the Bible
4) The Bible tells us to “be good stewards of God’s money,” another one of those verses in the book of Obligations, often attributed to Luke 16: 10-13 (look it up, the term, “good stewards of God’s money,” does not appear), and generally applied to extract more money from church attendees for — not orphans, widows, the poor and downtrodden — but additional church programs.
If you’re a plumber, and the building you find yourself in on Sundays has a bathroom, you know where you’ll be on Saturday.
Unskilled labor? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of work for you.
Even artists, normally considered the most useless of God’s creatures, have a purpose. At one church we attended, the Norwegian Artist created, for free, a logo, letterhead, and business cards for the pastor, who wanted a more professional, businesslike look.
Business? Or Ministry? They Can Co-Exist
Unfortunately, the businesslike attitude did not extend to offering to pay for professional services, although I’m sure that the pastor did not expect his dentist, his doctor, or his auto mechanic to work for free.
(Interestingly, years later the pastor contacted us, via his secretary, and wanted to know if the Norwegian could “do a few updates and changes.”
“Do you know that the Norwegian Artist hasn’t set foot inside of your church for three years?” I asked the hapless mediator. “It looks to me that the CEO is far more interested in the Norwegian’s work, as opposed to the Norwegian himself.”
We never heard from them again.)
I know. Churches are non-profit entities, and if they paid everyone for what they did, they’d never make it. But if all Christian business people are expected to provide free services to all Christian entities, as part of “the Lord’s work,” then we won’t make it either.
“The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5: 18)
Giving, at Our Discretion
Every time a person provides, for free, services to an organization, it takes away from services he could provide, for free, to a widow, an orphan, or a person in financial need. As far as ministries go, I would much rather invest my time and skills in people, not programs.
And as far as ministries go, the local church congregation can lead the way by placing a value on the work done by its members, and severely limiting the amount it asks its people to do for free. Church members have families, jobs, household chores, and lives — all of which they regularly subvert when the pastor, or the elder, or the improvement committee, calls upon them to do “the Lord’s work,” as if the lives they are already living do not represent that work.
Salvation is free: a beauteous gift bountifully bestowed on humanity by a generous and loving God.
As recipients of this gift, let us be known, as well, for our bounteous generosity — not our parsimonious cheapness.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity where I seek, through essays, to distinguish between Christianity, and our culture’s interpretation of it. The latter is a substitute for the real thing — a form of idolatry, actually — and it is part of our journey to find the real Christ, the real message, the real road to God.
This is an individual journey, my friend, taken with Jesus leading the way, and while we can learn from others — sermons, books, teachers, even essays like this — we ultimately learn, one on one, at Jesus’ feet.
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