March 21, 2017

Num 18:14, 20 “Everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord is yours.”
The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”

Here we have the two sides of the “priestly contract,” so to speak. The things given to God (other than the burnt offerings that were to be consumed by fire) were to go to the priests as His representatives. That might seem like a great deal, but then God says that there was to be no real estate involved. Real estate is a special category, just as the name implies. Land has a special place, not just in society but emotionally. That impact has been greatly weakened in our modern mobile society, but even today the matter of inheriting land becomes a very big deal. On the one hand the priests’ needs were to be met, even abundantly, by what the people offered to God, but on the other hand it was a continual dependence; if the people stopped giving, the priests had nothing. The whole matter of the support of clergy is one that has continued through the centuries. Paul dealt with the issue. Though he took pride in being largely self-supporting, he stated clearly that “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) That said, some “ministry fat cats” today bring shame on the name of Christ by being focused on material wealth. As Paul also said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) That’s as true for a minister as it is for anyone. Those who receive that which is given to God must recognize that such offerings are holy, just as God stressed to Aaron, and treat it as such, whether it is financial or otherwise. We are never more than stewards of that which belongs to God.

Since I was ordained as a minister in 1979, this certainly applies to me. Like Paul I am mostly self-supporting, but I do receive things that people are giving to God. I must never take that lightly. I am not to seek offerings for my own gain, but I am not to hesitate to receive, or I will deprive people of the joy and blessing of giving to God. At the same time, I am to be very careful with accountability. Just recently I have learned that two ministries that are close to me on some levels have no real financial accountability structure, and I am very concerned. I know of too many ministries that have crashed and burned on that very issue. Without clear structure it is too easy for offerings to become a “slush fund” for the minister, and that opens the door for a huge host of problems. I am to provide vision and guidance for how church finances are used, but I must never be cavalier about it, spending money on my whims. With the size of our congregation it was actually easier when I handled the accounting myself, but the present situation is far safer for me and for the church, with me not doing that but rather assisting as called on.

Father, the whole issue of finances quickly becomes complicated, and all too often messy. Help me recognize my total dependence on You and indeed treat that which is given to You as holy, so that I may not be trapped by the devil and so that Your Name may be honored as holy, by me and by all those around me. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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