T H E S I S # 77
The burden of church building maintenance and leadership salaries pass from one generation to another to another. Many, perhaps most, church buildings and salaries are maintained by money intended to finance the great commission – to reach the nations for Christ.
(See note.) A wealthy landlord receives news that his homeland people had been stricken by a deadly epidemic. Fortunately, he has in his possession the antibiotic to combat this ravenous disease. He immediately sends a number of his servants to their rescue, and entrusts to his servants a large sum of money to meet the expenses they will surely incur.
The servants love their good and generous master. And they know the antibiotic is powerful to save the sick and dying because they themselves have once been cured from the same disease by the same medicine. And so with much fervor and compassion in their hearts they set out for the master’s homeland.
When at last they arrive at their destination they discover that the awful reports of the condition of these people were not exaggerated. Oh, what a pitiful sight! Multitudes of people – helpless, hurting, confused, dying in their sickness.
The servants decide among themselves that before they begin the enormous task of ministering to the sick, they should establish a camp for themselves. After setting up camp, they elect a leader, a man with a shepherd-like heart who will care for them and give direction. The leader shoulders the responsibility of caring for the stewards and proposes a permanent headquarters be constructed, a place where they can rest periodically from the difficult task they will soon be encountering, a place where they can come together and encourage one another. Some are very enthused with this proposal, and some object. After some debate a vote is taken and a building committee formed.
The building committee embraces the challenge with enthusiasm, and designs an edifice that will not only satisfy their needs, but also give glory to their good and generous master. The passion burning in the servants’ hearts for the landlord’s commission is now temporarily diverted into an enthusiasm for the building project. At the urging of the gifted and determined leader everyone gets involved. Soon the foundation is laid and, brick by brick, the headquarters complex begins to take shape.
Unhampered, the epidemic rages. The increasingly pitiful cries of the helpless people can occasionally be heard over the clamor of all the building activities, so much so that some of the stewards lay down their tools and bring some of the precious medicine from the stock to give to them. They also take a portion of the master’s money to purchase bandages and blankets and other medical equipment. The leader is alarmed, fearing everyone will abandon the building project. He admonishes the mutinous stewards, pointing out their action is causing division. He calls an emergency meeting and makes an impassioned plea for unity and commitment to the group. Many of the dissident stewards repent of their rash behavior, and almost everyone pledges commitment to the group and to leadership. Some, a few, resist peer pressure and continue to minister to the masses.
After some time the complex is finished. It is indeed a fine edifice. The stewards have proven themselves to be master builders. The project, however, ran over the estimate, as building projects often do, and the master’s money is depleted. A message is sent back to the master requesting more funds. The master agrees to allocate a certain amount of money to the stewards every month. The leader forms a committee and they immediately draw up a monthly budget.
It has already been decided the competent leader should be given a salary. And he will certainly require a secretary. And an office and stationary. The new building requires chairs, comfortable chairs for the stewards who will soon begin the arduous task of ministering to the sick. The grounds around the complex are in dire need of landscaping. And there is need of musical instruments to give inspiration to their weekly meetings. And then there is money needed for taxes. And maintenance. And…
Well the master’s monthly allocation is simply not enough to meet the budget and supply these immediate needs. The stewards approach the moneylenders who gladly respond to their plight for a mere ten percent interest.
At least twice a week the leader dispenses a dosage of medicine to each in his flock so there will be no chance anyone will contract the terrible disease growing more rampant with every passing day. By now most of the stewards’ hearts have become crusty toward the master’s commission. They become more demanding and selfish. Their ears become deaf to the sick and dying just outside the headquarters walls. Dress and fashion become more and more relevant. They involve themselves in social functions which had the effect of fortifying the commitment each had made to the group.
Word got back to the landlord that very little of his precious medicine has been given to the sick. The landlord was deeply troubled. His beloved homeland people are dying needlessly, and the stewards he trusted have proven themselves unfaithful. He writes a letter and sends it to his unreliable stewards.
My dearest children,
I want to express the undying love I have for each of you. Without hesitation I would lay down my life for you, and I gladly share all that is mine to meet your every need.
I am, however, distressed beyond measure and beyond description at the evil reports I have recently received about the way you have squandered my money. This money was not meant to build buildings or to comfort yourselves. It was meant to meet only your immediate needs and the needs of the sick and dying people. I had instructed you to minister my precious medicine to these people, but you have kept it to yourselves even though there is enough for everyone. I expected you to lay down your life for this cause but instead you have sought your own comfort, and misappropriated my funds. You have turned my money into blood money.
Because I love you with an undying love, I chasten you and call you to repentance. Give up your dead works. Complete the task I have given you. Be filled again with compassion for the hurt and dying people.
Remember, one day I will call each of you back to give an account. Each of you will be rewarded on the basis of what you have done and did not do. And remember my words I have given you, “It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.”
Your loving master.
Some stewards weep grievously at their beloved master’s words. How could they have been so blind? They turn from their selfishness and go out to minister love and compassion to the sick and dying people, bringing them the precious medicine and passing on to them almost every penny of their share of the master’s money, keeping for themselves only enough to meet their most essential needs. Others are indignant against their master’s words, and harden their hearts against them. Had they not built this edifice to the master’s glory? How can he be so insensitive to their zealous endeavors? They refuse to abandon their programs and social activities, convinced he simply did not mean what he said. And they continue to grow in self-centeredness, blind to the fact that one day they must give an account.
Note: This is an excerpt from Financing the Great Commission (available at www.larryjones.ca).