The Church and Its Money

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(Image courtesy of theaccidentalsuccessfulcio.com)

(Image courtesy of theaccidentalsuccessfulcio.com)

I was re-reading a rather infamous Biblical text:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
(Matthew 6:19-21 NRS).

Jesus speaks those words as part of his sermon on the mount, which also contains the Beatitudes.  By in large, the United Methodist Church does not store up treasures on earth.  The most valuable things we own as a Church are the plots of land upon which our church buildings sit.  In most cases, the land is worth more than the building.  We do not have a treasury of gold and precious gems.  We do not have original artworks by Renaissance artists that are practically priceless, insured for millions of dollars.  But after a conversation with another clergy person yesterday afternoon, I was drawn to reflect on what our local church budgets say about where we have invested our hearts.

Most of the Methodist churches I know struggle financially.  It is a huge financial burden to keep a church running, and many of us find the largest budgetary sectors to be that of the Building/Grounds, and Staffing/Salaries.  So many United Methodist churches are in buildings decades if not over a century old.  They have stood the test of time, but not without incurring great cost in maintenance and renovation to remain viable.  They often become impediments to ministry being designed and built at a time long before the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA), the advent of the digital age, and with energy efficiency a goal.  We sink money into them often because we feel we have no other choice.  To rebuild, to go somewhere else and start all over seem to be insurmountable trials.  So we pay high utility bills, clean long winding hallways, and struggle to re-wire for the internet and modern electricity requirements.

The same can be said of our church staff.  Church staff is not a bad thing, and can be a great asset for ministry.  It is a hard and heart-wrenching thing for a church to struggle with maintaining salaries for staff who are not only doing work for the church, but loved as persons in their own right.  Yet churches must take the initiative to ask if they are employing persons to advance the mission and ministries of the Church, or simply paying people to do it for them.  If there are ministries that are done solely by paid staff in a church, then that is an indication that there is a problem with how that church orients itself to service.  Staff members should support the efforts of the congregation to work for the Kingdom of God, not do them apart from the members of the church.  Church members should step up to work side by side, and shoulder to shoulder with staff who may lead and coordinate, but not work as lone rangers.  Clergy may have exceptions to this rule for church staff, but with every clergy ministry, there are places and means by which laity can be supportive and work with clergy to accomplish the task of loving others in Jesus’ name.

So where should we store up our treasure and invest our hearts in the Church?  My personal answer tinged with professional experience is that it should be maxed out in two areas: mission and worship.  We are called to mission work explicitly by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’  And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me'” (Matthew 25:31-40 NRS).

We open up ourselves to relationship, the greatest avenue for evangelism, when we engage in mission work, loving and caring for another person in Jesus’ name.  We meet the real needs of people who suffer and go without, often the side effects of institutionalized sin.  We reveal the same grace and compassion we have been shown by God Almighty, and testify to the possibility of redemption for all people everywhere.  We should be funding mission as our greatest ministry.  We should use our financial resources to shower the communities in which our local churches sit with love and caring for those around us.  Our desire to be part of the service of love should be evidenced in our church calendar and our budgets.  Worship flows from the same point.  We worship to give honor and glory to God.  We sing and speak the praise of the One who saved us from ourselves, our sin, and eternal death with love, the same love that led us out into the world in mission over the course of the past week.  Our worship budget shows how much a priority we place on what happens in worship.  I am not talking about throwing money into light shows and leather back padded chairs with cup holders, but be willing to spend the money to have great music being composed by every generation to extol our Lord.  Are we willing to pay for liturgical supplies that enhance our God encounters in worship?  Do we invest in the latest technology so that the hard of hearing can hear the prayers and sermons?  Do we offer new and innovative ways for people to physically participate in worship?  The Emergent elements of the worship service I lead on Sunday mornings are not cheap, but a vital part of connecting people with God and one another in new and impactful ways.  Those are things worth investing in and setting upon our hearts.

When was the last time you looked at where your church spends money?  When was the last time you worked to help make those crucial decisions in your church?  We are all accountable to God for our own individual actions, but all those who pledge their support of and participation in the local church are accountable for what they do and do not do as well.  We are all in this Body of Christ, this Church Universal together.  Where we choose to store up the treasures of the local church can change lives, bring people to better know Christ, and transform our communities, or it can be another sign that we are sinful people in need of prophetic insight.  Let us strive for the former.

Take Time to Be Holy

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(Image courtesy of richlandcreek.com)

(Image courtesy of richlandcreek.com)

Carving out time in our busy, over scheduled lives is just as vital as carving out sin from our hearts.   It takes time to be holy.  It takes effort to drive out the distractions of the world and focus on the Lord alone.  We have to be intentional about setting aside time for this sacred duty, this call to be holy as God is holy.  The pursuit of holiness is to actively ward off sinful inclinations and work against the natural penchant of humankind to backslide into sin.  If we do not vigilantly pursue holiness, then we are at great risk of being engulfed by the profane, draw into sin once more.  Our time spent in prayer, communicating with the Lord is an investment in the liberty Jesus Christ died to bring to us.  Reading the Holy Word of God imbues us with the wisdom to seek first the Kingdom of God before we indulge in our desires and forsake our call to discipleship.

This is why the Church emphasizes the necessity for corporate worship.  It is to carve time out as individuals to gather, as well as the Body of Christ to be present with and for one another.  Perhaps if we would be faithful in doing this once a week together, then we would be more inclined to continue the practice on our own.  To be remade holy is part of the transformation Christ made possible for all those who would choose faith, to believe in the power of his death and resurrection to bring grace.  The older I get, the farther along this path of discipleship I go, the more I find the enrichment that can only be born of taking time to be holy.  Here in this time and space I make in my life I find sanctuary, shelter from the storm.  Here I find God tangible, present, and at work in me.  Here I discover my potential, revealed in whispers into the deepest recesses of my being, visions cast in my mind’s eye, and the cajoling of the Holy Spirit to the image of God buried beneath the sins I had committed.  Being holy is more than being pious.  It is to seek the Lord in all things, especially within.  When we do, we glimpse the glory of the Kingdom to come.  We realize that we can and should play a crucial role in its fruition.  We are empowered and elevated with power to enact the potential God placed in every single human being.  Take time to be holy, discover the riches God placed within you.  Then you can be a rich blessing to others.

Devotion for the Third Sunday in Advent

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(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

(Image courtesy of poetrysync.blogspot.com)

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, hear these words concerning the prophecy of the Messiah, Christ our Lord, from the Prophet Isaiah:

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion– to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; but you shall be called priests of the LORD, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.  Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs.  For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed” (Isaiah 61:1-9 NRS).

Lord, hear our prayer:

Spoken first by your prophet,

The words fulfilled by our Savior are the divine proclamation about the purpose of salvation.

Those that struggle and suffer find the promise of blessing.

We are welcomed into your Kingdom to come.

Now we work, but the hope of heavenly reward is sure.

Our deeds build upon the cornerstone of Christ.

Our words herald the truth of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

So too shall our love seal our lives:

Our love for you, for one another, and for your holy Word.

What you began in us, bring to fruition,

And we shall be living proclamations of your unbridled grace.

For your honor and glory, we live and pray.

Amen.

Slipping Sand: When Being a Pastor Trumps Being A Mother

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(Image courtesy of pricesec.com)

(Image courtesy of pricesec.com)

“You can have it all” the maxim goes.  Our culture challenges us to obtain it, too.  Yet I know from harsh reality that sometimes we cannot, sometimes something must win out.  It’s a painful lesson, and not one that is welcome when the two diametrically opposed elements competing for supremacy are being a pastor and being a parent.  There are times when we have to choose one over the other.  Maybe this is easier in two parent homes, but when I was left a single mother of a toddler, I smacked face first into the brick wall of priorities.  My vocation as pastor gives me and my son a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our backs.  If I don’t work, then we cannot afford to live.  Ministry isn’t a luxury for this single mother; it is a necessity and how God provides for us.  This means that sometimes I have to be pastor before I can revel in motherhood, and they are not the same.

I do not get to do many of the things other women who are mothers get to do.  I didn’t get to stay home with my baby.  He came with me to church, slept in a Moses basket in my office, and went with me on visitations.  He’s been in full-time childcare since the age of six weeks.  I don’t have the time and energy to be a good participant in mommy groups either.  I have evening meetings, weekly Bible Studies to prepare and teach, and I work the two major holidays of the year: Christmas and Easter.  Motherhood in this house doesn’t look like the cultural norm, and sometimes in the quiet of the night I wonder if I am depriving my child of something he would be better off with than a mother who bears the title Reverend.  Honestly, this isn’t a “woe is me” blog.  This is a blog about confronting truth in light of Jesus Christ, and thriving in the face of sin.  So here is what I have learned about being a Christian and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ: Jesus must always and in every way come first, even before being a spouse or a parent.

That’s not something most people want to hear.  I’m not even sure that is something my congregation wants to hear.  See the mom in me wants to say, “Sure, we will skip church that Sunday to go see Monster Trucks, because I love you and live for that joyful smile you get.”  But the disciple I am knows that Monster Trucks won’t sustain us when we are fighting a major crisis, cancer erupts in our family, or death takes its toll.  Only Christ and the relationship we cultivate and sustain can do that.  Putting Christ before all else shows my son in clear and concise terms that faith comes first.  When all the world comes crashing down, God will be there, and those that cling to God will survive any and everything that life can throw at them.  It is hard to live out that kind of devotion.  My son has become very adept at entertaining himself in my office while I have meetings.  He understands that we do not let anything keep us from worship on the Lord’s Day.  Maybe one day when I am long gone from this world he will continue this living example, and, if he should have a family of his own, he will model it for them.

Trying to hold fast to two identities simultaneously is like holding on to sand.  It’s going to slip through your fingers eventually because we are living, breathing, moving beings.  Something has to give, a priority will eventually emerge.  My son has gotten used to hearing, “Next to Jesus, I love you more than any other person in the world.”  I have known God my whole life.  I received my call to ordained ministry long before I ever got married and had a child.  If something tragic happened to my beloved son tomorrow, God would still be with me and become the connection between us, forged in life, unbroken by death.  My faith is more than a coping mechanism that helps me be a good parent.  It is the identity that drives all the ancillary roles I assume: mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, etc.  I am not a mom who works as a pastor.  I am a disciple called to the path of clergy who along the way bore a child.  I spend every day calling that child to walk with me the path of righteousness, and yearn for the Lord.  It is the same act of witness I extend to all people.  My son holds a special place in my heart, but Jesus is the center.  I would hope that one day he would say the same with regards to me and his Savior.  I doubt I will win any Mother of the Year awards for that statement, but I’m not looking for that.  All I want, in the depths of my being, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ as he asked of me and called me to do.  Just maybe one of those disciples will be my first-born, my flesh and blood.

A Pastoral Perspective on… Your Witness

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When someone joins the United Methodist Church, they pledge to support it with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Anyone can procure a copy of The United Methodist Book of Discipline and read for themselves the official stance of the Church on the elements of the pledge, but I thought it might be helpful to see what a clergy perspective is as shaped by years of ministerial experience, formal training, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

(Image courtesy of yourwitnessproject.com)

(Image courtesy of yourwitnessproject.com)

How we speak about the goodness of God is almost as important as what we say.  Does your face light up?  Does your body radiate energy and enthusiasm?  Do you get excited to share what a wonderful and mighty God you serve?  Classically, clergy are trained to be orators, and those called upon to communicate the theology and doctrine of the Church.  This remains true, but we are not the only ones to speak of God’s grace and truth.  We cannot be the sole voices singing the praises of God Almighty.  We are not soloists, but part of the choir of witnesses of which every single Christian should be a part.  Although I love a good theological conversation as much as the next Reverend, my words can ring hollow because I am a paid clergy person, and it is assumed that I have something to gain by converting someone.  As if I get commission on every convert…

The truth is that we join the Church and pledge to expand our family, an evangelical twist on “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:22).  Now some of us may literally raise up disciples of Jesus Christ by having children, but unless you are planning on having a family of hundred children (Mark 4:20), then you have others for whom you need to witness.  We are expected to bear fruit, our faith should make others want to believe in Christ.  We give our witness in variety of ways, but none of those should include assuming that your pastor will do all the evangelism for you.  I have enough to do ordering the life of the local church to which I am appointed, preaching and teaching the Word of God each week, and handling the pastoral care needs of an active congregation of 350.  I cannot take on the responsibility to witness to the truth of the Gospel alone.  Indeed, part of accepting and now embracing my vocation is my witness: I so believe in the life-changing grace of the cross upon which my Lord Christ Jesus died that I dedicate my entire life to ordained ministry.  But not everyone will do this, nor does God call everyone to this specifically, so each disciple must prayerfully discern how God is calling them to witness.  When was the last time we prayed: Lord, tell me how you would have me share the Gospel?

The disciple of Jesus who never tells their story, never speaks their experience with God’s grace is squandering the gift that the power of the Holy Spirit makes for us.  Your story, your encounters with God are your witness.  Share them!  We share where we have been on vacation, what we are doing this weekend, recipes, reviews of local restaurants, etc., but where do we share our gratitude and love for the blessings of Almighty God?  We should look people in the eye and radiate the joy that comes from being relinquished from eternal death: “My sin is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.  Come feel the weightlessness for yourself!”  I am unabashed about who I am (a disciple of Jesus Christ), and what I do (a pastor).  I never shy away from telling of the things that I am privileged to be a part of because of my devotion to God.  I get to feed hungry people, make a difference in others’ lives, share my blessings with others, and work for something that will outlast any personal legacy I could achieve.  I get to do all this, not because I am worthy, but loved.  That’s all.  I am loved, and you are too.  So is that neighbor you really like, but who never goes to church.  So is your sibling that wandered away after high school, and needs a ground of hope.  So is your dearest friend who is struggling to survive this tragedy unfolding in their life, and could use the comfort and grace of God to survive.  Can you really expect that I can speak the truth in love to them better than you?  Of course not.  They will hear you and receive God’s truth in your voice emanating from your vessel long before they do from mine, and thank God for that.  Because they know and love you, and your gift of the Gospel will mean something so much more poignant.  So do it, share your witness in whatever words or ways you need to be effective, but do it.  For the love of God and the emergence of the Kingdom to come, do it.  Then come tell me all about it, because there is nothing that makes a clergy person’s day like hearing about the triumphs of the Body of Christ in bringing another into our holy communion, this blessed family of faith.

A Pastoral Perspective on… Your Service

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When someone joins the United Methodist Church, they pledge to support it with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Anyone can procure a copy of The United Methodist Book of Discipline and read for themselves the official stance of the Church on the elements of the pledge, but I thought it might be helpful to see what a clergy perspective is as shaped by years of ministerial experience, formal training, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

(Image courtesy of acrepairseguin.com)

(Image courtesy of acrepairseguin.com)

At some point in the history of Christianity, it appears that the role of clergy got inflated, as if we are all things for all people.  That is the title of Christ alone.  We are those who are called to service in his name.  We lead directly and lead through service, but we are not the only ones in the Church called to serve.  Everyone who desires to claim discipleship of Jesus Christ is called to service in his name.  All of every age and station are expected to be at work in and with the Church that Christ founded.  Regardless of denominational affiliation, we are all part of the universal Body of Christ, the family of faith that cannot be overcome by doctrinal divergences and theological sticking points.  We are the Church, and we have work to do.

We offer ourselves and present our faith in our service, the service of love.  In humility and gratitude, we should wash the feet of the world, literally and figuratively.  We were not raised up out of our sinfulness to stand in judgment over others, but to choose to kneel down and be present with them.  That is not just my duty and the expectations of my status in the church, but it is true for all of us.  I am happy to do this with you.  I would personally prefer it that way.  Yet too often I hear people say, “Well, that’s the pastor’s job,” as if they had no responsibility.  That just is not the case.  Jesus made it clear that all people, gathered at the foot of the throne on Judgment Day, would be held to the same expectations of actions:

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:34-36 NRS).

I alone cannot do these things.  I alone cannot begin to turn the tide of human suffering.  I cannot begin to sustain such actions begun on my own without others to join in service with me.  The small percentage of clergy compared to laity are not sufficient either.  It takes all of us.  We must do this together, and God brings us together in the Church to do just that.  I dare say that the vast quantity of what we do as Christians in the Church is not about us, but others, either God or other people.  Worship is about God.  Ministry and mission are about the people we are serving.  We should and hopefully do tend to our spirituality, but not first and foremost.  That can never come at the expense of our devotion to God and care for others either.  Take Jesus: even when he would withdrawal from the crowds to be alone, rest, and pray, when people in need came to him, he ministered to them, serving them with his power and words of comfort.  We follow his path, and live out his model.

We cannot abdicate our responsibility, our God-given duty to serve.  Belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ means that we place the highest value on what we can do for others in God’s name.  For every act, every kind deed can proclaim the truth of Christ and open space for people to encounter the Living God through us.  We are portals to divine experience, and when we slough that off on another, then we close an avenue for grace that may have had the more impactful outcome for another.  Served by God’s love and grace, we serve others in acknowledgement and thankfulness.  It is a testimony.  It is an act of faith and devotion to serve as God has first served us.  No clergy can bear that alone, nor should we have to in a world filled with a multitude comprised more of lay persons than clergy.  Every Christian needs to take responsibility, needs to take up the mantle of service Christ has places on all our shoulders.  When you are weak, overwhelmed, or just exhausted, then share your mantle with me, but I expect that you will do the same for me.  We are in this service of love together.  So we will come into the Kingdom of God the same: together for all time.

A Pastoral Perspective on… Your Gifts

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When someone joins the United Methodist Church, they pledge to support it with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Anyone can procure a copy of The United Methodist Book of Discipline and read for themselves the official stance of the Church on the elements of the pledge, but I thought it might be helpful to see what a clergy perspective is as shaped by years of ministerial experience, formal training, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

(Image courtesy of lifepointclarksville.com)

(Image courtesy of lifepointclarksville.com)

This is where some people get squeamish.  They wonder if I am talking about esoteric gifts, or material ones.  In my case, I am talking about both.  You cannot read Scripture and think that God is not expecting us to give back from gratitude both of these.  We receive spiritual gifts from the presence of the Holy Spirit as a blessing:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:4-10 NIV).

Each believer is endowed with gifts to be used to glorify God, build the Kingdom, and be a blessing to others.  Material blessings are no different.  I have been given skills, talents, and God-given gifts which enable me to earn a living.  I have a house in which to make my home, food to eat, clothing to cover my nakedness, potable water to drink, and enough financial resources left over for Starbucks, entertainment, and the other little things that make daily life fun even if they are not necessities.  I have enough.  I have more than enough.  Most of us able to read this blog and attend church in the United States do.  Our standard of wealth is immense compared to other nations.  I have seen poor people living in a literal garbage dump on the side of the road in India.  We do not have that here.  We have enough, and yet it never seems like it, does it?

From the beginning, people brought offerings to honor and glorify God.  Before the invention of currency, it was in the form of animals or the fruits of the harvest.  Whatever your craft and line of work was, you brought the product of your labor to the altar and gave it over to God.  Now that we get paid in money, we bring the first cut to God.  That’s what a tithe is: the first ten percent of our income.  If you take ten percent after taxes, then the United States Government got the first cut, and they are not going to save you from sin and death, but God will.  So consider the theological statement you make when you give a financial gift to the church during the course of worship and it is placed upon the altar of God.  As clergy, I see what people spend their money on, and how much.  Neither I nor anyone else, much less God, is asking you to take a vow of poverty, but God is asking for the first fruits of your labor obtained through the grace of God.  Does that mean that we may have to make some lifestyle adjustments?  Might we require a reordering of our priorities?  Yes, but becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ demands that anyway.  If we cannot take ten percent of what we receive and give it back to honor God, then we might want to consider whether it would be just for God to continue to bless us with one hundred percent of who we are and what we have.

When you give your monetary offering to God, you are also attending to the practical side of Kingdom building.  It takes money to build.  No one gets a house for free.  Someone always foots the bill.  So why do we assume that building an entire Kingdom of God on earth should be cheaper than a night out to dinner and the movies?  It takes resources, financial resources to build a building, maintain it, and make it inhabitable to house the people of God and those who need to invoke its sanctuary.  It takes money to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and teach the next generation about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It would be great if God just miracled all that, and let us off the financial hook, but God intends for us to grow and deepen our faith through our giving.   Abel gave the first and very best of what his labor reaped, and God took notice of him for that.  Cain just gave something, and when God did not show the same favor, Cain reacted with sin, rather than trying to alter his own behavior to be righteous.

One of the prime reasons the Church fails to thrive in this day and age is because it often does not have adequate money to sustain itself.  Yet, if you look at American culture, it is easy to see where we place our value and are willing to give our money.  Tragically little of that has anything to do with God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or bringing the Kingdom closer.  We have work to do and it will take all we have to give.  It will take ten percent of our time, applying those spiritual gifts we have from the Holy Spirit.  It will take ten percent of our income to fund the work of ministry and mission.  What if God gave to us equivalent to what we give to God?  How many of us would be looking at a garbage dump on the side of the road?  The Lord intends for us to pool our resources and join together as the Body of Christ to make a tangible difference in this world.  It is time we stop squandering what we have been graciously given and made able to achieve, and focus on the will of God without complaining about the cost to us, because it will never come close to eclipsing the cost of salvation on the cross.