Phil Robertson is the bearded patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan. He is a good Christian man and I once heard him say he even speaks in churches once in a while; but, he was quick to add, “I am not a preacher; preachers are those guys that are always asking for money, and that’s not what I do in church.”
I like Phil Robertson. He is a funny guy and he is a good witness to his faith and maybe he doesn’t ask for money when he is speaking in churches. But he is in the business of selling duck calls. I have seen his displays at Fleet Farm stores, and guess what: he is always asking for money for those duck calls. Of course, he has to. His company has people hired and bills to pay and materials to buy and a building to keep up. And so does the church. I am sure Robertson knows that too, and I suspect his comment was not made in all seriousness.
But that is a common objection to the church, made by many people who are serious when they say it. But think about it. First of all, the church isn’t always asking for money. There is an offering taken at almost every worship service in every church. But in every church I have ever been in, you can let that offering basket go right on by without putting anything in it; and the ushers don’t say a word, and you are allowed to stay sitting right where you are, and nobody even gives you a dirty look. Once in a while, the pastor or someone from the council has get up to remind church members of their responsibilities, or inform them of particular needs. And granted, there are preachers that do talk too much about money. But even those ministers aren’t always talking about money.
What most churches are always doing is being very generous, because that is what Jesus wants us to do with our resources. At my own church we host the local Food Shelf and four days a week we hand out food without ever asking anyone for money. Once a week the fellowship hall full of donated clothing and people from the area can take whatever they want, and we don’t ask them for money either. Once a month we make several hundred sandwiches for the homeless, which picked up that evening by a man who hands them out under bridges and on the streets of downtown Minneapolis for free. And, we are the main source of support for an orphanage and school in Haiti. In addition to all that we are very generous in allowing the use of our space for weddings and funerals—even for people who have never given us a dime. Of course we have to have some guidelines and nominal fees for that, or we would be swamped and have no time to do anything else. Most Christian congregations are very generous in many ways, sometimes asking for money, but always giving it away. That’s what congregations do. This doesn’t mean that every congregation make the best use of every dollar received. No two people in any marriage are always in total agreement on budget issues, so I don’t expect that the 1200 members of a congregation will always have the same priorities and be on the same page when it comes to designating the offerings. But most Christians are familiar with the call of Jesus to serve others, and do want their church budget to reflect that. And sometimes the pastor has to provide some leadership and talk about money.
II Corinthians 8:1-3 — And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
II Corinthians 9:6-8 – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature. All that we possess is from your hand. Make us always thankful for your loving providence. Give us grace that we may honor you with all we own, always remembering the account we must one day give to Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, (from prayers #157 and #183)