Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrubbing New Jerusalem's Toilet's, Part 2: The Bad Stewards

I had to take a little thought to decide what the exact subject of this post would be. “Rich Christians” came to mind at once, but that didn’t quit capture the nuances I wanted, because there are many rich Christians who use their resources wisely. Acknowledging that led to the more nuanced subject: “Bad Stewards.” And best of all, Jesus had already said plenty about such people ending up as heaven’s toilet-scrubbers.
Okay, not literally. But it’s the same principle.
This is not a very controversial one to posit, admittedly. It won’t get much disagreement from anyone out there, except maybe from the people who think they don’t belong on the list. Like who? I’ll give the example that hits me first: Joyce Meyer.
In the E-Block, I commented on her teaching over three articles, and will sum it up here just by saying that I’ve had Cream of Wheat that was thicker. Meyer missed her calling as a pop psychologist and handles a Bible the way Wile E.Coyote handles ACME products.
But the issue for this post is the sort of conspicuous consumption Christians like Meyer perform. She’s not the only one, so I won’t mention her name again. I also don’t want to expand this post into something I don’t know well, which is economics. There are all kinds of arguments that could be made here:
“So and So shouldn’t buy a luxury yacht, it’s poor stewardship. That money could be given to the poor.”
“Yes, but that yacht-making company employs hundreds of people, to say nothing of all the people employed in side businesses like the harbor it is kept in. If not for the buying of that yacht, there’d be more unemployed people who are poor.”
And so on. The financial navel-gazing isn’t my bag; let’s just keep this at a simpler level, because let’s face it, when So and So the Christian buys a yacht, they aren’t usually doing it with the intention to keep people at the yacht company employed. They’re doing it in order to consume conspicuously, and in order to please themselves. And that’s what Jesus is going to look at when rewards in heaven are (or are not) handed out.
We’ve all heard about the critic who cruises church parking lots and sees all the luxury cars. They have a point, though I might add that they’re not exactly riding a tricycle themselves so that they can give their car payment to the poor. Most of us could do more, theoretically. If resources were used more responsibly in the world at large, there’s a good chance our giving wouldn’t have to be that sacrificial.
But that’s not the point when there are still poor people even in the church itself.
Admittedly part of the problem, as I have written elsewhere, is that we don’t follow the early church’s model in Acts as well because we’re more concerned with the individual than with the greater good. But there’s certainly more to it, a more calculated indifference and self-interest, when some wealthy “Christian” lords it over his or her local assembly to the point that the pastor won’t even use the church restroom without their permission.
I know of one such less fortunate Christian who, following their conscience, decided to leave the church of their youth and join one that was more vibrant and had better teaching. Problem was, some of the wealthy folks at the original church had pledged to pay for this person’s college education – and said they’d not do that after all, if this person didn’t change their mind pronto and come back home to First Baptist Snobville.
Conscience took a back seat that day.
I haven’t had so much of a problem with that sort of thing myself, though I do continue to wonder at those I meet who live in costly homes, provide their children with acres of toys, have three cars in the driveway – and tell me that sure, we can spare something for the Tekton ministry’s work. How about a $100 one time gift?
Your kid’s Playstation cost four times that much, friend. Thanks for having your priorities in order.
Ironically, another aspect of the problem is the erroneous teachings we spread about tithing. The Bad Stewards give 10% because that’s all they’re told they have to give. If we followed the true Biblical model, what we call “reverse tithing” (giving away 90%) would be more the rule of the day. (See the article on that here.)
I’m not saying there aren’t generous givers out there. Tekton has survived all these years in good measure because of them, and other ministries have done so as well. I am saying that the time will come – if we believe Jesus – that those who didn’t get the message of stewardship will find themselves on the non-business end of a toilet scrub brush for a very long time. The resources they could have shared wisely could, long term, have advanced the kingdom that much more. To the extent that this wasn’t done, and they placed the burden on others to make up for the lack – there will be a price to pay.
Might want to buy that yacht used instead of new.

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