These are difficult financial times. Just about everyone is struggling with money, and the church is certainly no exception. As a new church, trying to keep our heads above water while staying true to God's mission has been difficult. It is easy to slip into the mode of "haves" vs. "have-nots." It is easy to fall into a position of envy of those who have some stability or history to fall back on. It is easy to get frustrated at those congregations that seem to have plenty of financial resources but are not doing much of anything to advance the kingdom. It is difficult at times to hold back my anger when it feels like we are having to settle for the crumbs off the table from those who promised before God and that they would support us. Maybe my frustration and anger is just, but this morning as I read Matthew 5, the word that it seems the Spirit is laying on my heart is "reconciliation." This is a passage that begins with murder… a command that most of us feel we pretty much have nailed… and I'm sure one the disciples thought they had nailed as well. But Jesus says,
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’"
Whenever Jesus begins with, "You have heard that it was said…" you know that something important is going to follow. He is about to bring clarity to something that we think we understand, but in reality our understanding is distorted or incomplete. In this case Jesus goes on to say,
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, (or holds contempt towards)’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. "
This isn't just about killing someone. It is about breaking up the community… its about broken relationships in need of restoration. So interestingly, Jesus then shifts to money and debt. He says,
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift."
The reconciliation of broken relationships, according to Jesus, is more important than what you can offer. It's not that the offering isn't important… but Jesus instructs us to go and mend our broken relationships… repay what we owe that is causing this brokenness… and THEN bring your offering to the altar.
As I weigh our situation and examine my response… and as I struggle with the difficult task of finding financial support and partnership for our young ministry maybe I am being called (even as the "have not") to work towards reconciliation… evening the playing field by not coming into relationships with a hand out, but with no other agenda then to strengthen our fellowship and community… maybe God will take care of the rest. Maybe we have to be in the business of restoring relationships that are broken really even before they begin.