In the church, we have long assumed that personal finance is a skill acquired elsewhere. Like we expect people to be able to drive to church, mow their own lawns, and be supportive and contributing members of our congregational communities. The gospel, however, invites us to find those places where people are suffering or dying (sometimes literally) and bring good news. Pastor Meyer invites us to walk right into a part of life where so many struggle—personal finance—and offer support for a better way.
Catherine Malotky, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Should Churches Teach Personal Finance? (Part 1)
By Greg Meyer
Yes! Yet very few do. Maybe it seems too practical, or like telling people what to do, or more likely because it is so personal. Maybe the Dave Ramseys of the world have convinced mainline churches that this is their territory, not ours. Let’s set those aside and look at why this is the church’s place.
Reason #1: It’s a deeply spiritual issue. In today’s western culture money has a lot of power. We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on money, even orienting our lives around acquiring it and the getting, having, caring for and storing the stuff it buys.
Jesus said, “You cannot worship both God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24), and he was right. He never said money and possessions were bad and you shouldn’t have them. Jesus was addressing what must have been hard to do 2,000 years ago just like it is today: keeping money in its place so it doesn’t come between you and God and start calling the shots in your life.
Money isn’t the problem, our relationship with it is. “Love of money,” not money, “is the root of all kinds of evil,” 1 Timothy 6:10 records. The financial part of our life and all that it represents is important and is meant to serve us, but we too often end up serving it. And it isn’t just God that gets displaced; it’s relationships, health, curiosity, integrity … the list goes on.
Reason #2: It’s a problem for everyone. There is no income bracket or age group that doesn’t struggle with their relationship with money. Having lots of money doesn’t mean it isn’t driving your choices and values, and the lack of money doesn’t mean you aren’t preoccupied with it. And like every relationship, the world of money is constantly changing, always requiring attention. There is no such thing as, “Well, I got the money thing all worked out.”
Reason #3: Churches ask for money. This is not a commentary on whether they should or shouldn’t, it’s a commentary on the fact that churches ask for money and increases in giving from people who are too often living above their means. To be blunt, we are asking people to go further into debt to support our churches. We are asking people to make what is perhaps their biggest problem bigger so that our churches can be funded. And we are pretending we don’t know what’s going on. That is not stewardship.
Teaching the spiritual practices of personal finance. Yes, that is what personal finance is, and there is a spiritual practice designed specifically for money. It’s called a budget, and we churches are the perfect context to teach it. Here’s why:
- We can address all the dimensions of money, possessions, and debt. Most financial advisors usually center their talk on how you will “reach your dreams” financially. Maybe they hint towards the values conversation. The full values and spiritual conversation about our relationship with money requires a context rooted in a deeper part of us.
- We are also all fellow strugglers with money. Coaches or workshop leaders may have some expertise, but we all acknowledge that this is a constant growth area for us and everyone else in the community.
- We don’t go away when the workshop ends. The church community sticks with you and continues to walk with you next week, month, year and with your children, parents and friends.
No other institution/community can bring such a whole-life perspective to our complex relationship with wealth, but the church can. It’s time to drop the excuses and take leadership in this important spiritual issue.
About the Author
Greg Meyer is lead pastor of Fabric, which launched in 2006 (as Jacob’s Well) as a congregation deeply woven into the Twin Cities (specifically, South Minneapolis). Greg’s reason for developing Fabric “isn’t to make sure everyone believes the right or the same thing, but to provide a community where people can fully engage the most important questions, keep God out of the box, and do life together.”
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