Deuteronomy 18:1-8 – That New Car With Its New Car Payment or Investing In Eternity?

Posted: February 21, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Deuteronomy 18:1-8

Gifts for the Priests and Levites

What if when we meet our Maker on our day of judgment and he asks us how well we supported our priests, our spiritual leaders? What if He asks us how well we supported our men of God? It is through the support of our local church that our pastors are able to feed their families and take care of them. Why is that some of the most important professions in the world like teachers and preachers are some of the lowest paid positions in our economy? Although there are great life lessons to be learned from sports, why is it that professional athletes are paid so disproportionately to the value that they bring to our society as a whole? Why is that our pastors are only getting by? Sure, I understand that being a pastor is a holy calling and most pastors would do what they do because God has made it so that they would be unhappy doing anything other than being pastor. It is a calling for sure. However, it is also our calling from God to take care of them.

 

When I think of the pastors/elders of our church, particularly the lead pastor and the executive pastor, I worry for them. Our lead pastor has four girls between the ages of 10 and 19. He already has one girl in college and the two next youngest ones are not far behind. He gets a few years breather and then the youngest girl will be in college. Over the next 8 years, he will have multiple kids in college at the same time. Our executive pastor has three children, two boys and a girl. He has two kids in college right now and the youngest is a junior in high school. Our other pastor/elder has already put his kids through their schooling so he knows the strain of the other two. I remember putting my oldest child through college. Although there were scholarships and loans to pay for tuition, there were expenses of living that you simply have to pay for your child that are not covered by financial aid. Gas money, activities money, textbooks, extra books for reading for research papers, grocery money, car payments, all sorts of expenses that you don’t think about but have to pay for a child that is going to school full-time with a full load of classes. I could not imagine having three or four college educations to pay for. Yet, there were long stretches over the past seven years that I know our pastors when without yearly salary increases just to help hold down expenses at the church. I admire these men for their passion for the continued existence and the continued mission of our church. They scrimp and save and spend their money wisely just so they can be a part of guiding our church toward God’s unique mission for our church. I pray for their financial situations often. One of the two pastors of which I am speaking has a fleet of vehicles because of the fact that he has three college age or near college age children and none of his vehicles are less than 10 years old. The other pastor with the four girls has to drive church van most often because repairs to his truck are too expensive for him at the moment.

 

We are what they call a seeker church. Our church is dedicated to bringing folks who have never been in church or have been out of church for years into the flock of Christ’s children. It is such an honorable mission that we serve. We do have people who have come to us from other churches but I would dare say that the majority of our people are people who have, prior to coming to our church, never been in a church EVER or have been out of church for years and years. Part of the problem though with such churches as ours, Christians who are not mature in their walk are still learning to put God first in many areas of life. The last one that we often put God first in is our finances. So, we struggle at times as a church to ensure that we do all things that we need to do as a church. Not only do we have to pay our staff but we have fixed expenses related to our limited number of buildings to keep them operating and to satisfy our bank. We have to be able to cover these administrative expenses (pastoral and staff salaries, and the other operating expenses of the church) before we can begin to cover our ministry expenses for what we call our four stakes of ministry (weekend worship experience, next generation ministries, small group/discipleship ministries, and missions ministries [at the local, national, and international level]). It is through these four stakes of ministry that we reach our community, nation and world with the gospel. However, none of that happens if we can’t cover payroll or keep the lights on in the buildings.

 

It is my part of the ministry of the church as the part-time finance and administrative director to teach as well. Part of my ministry at the church is to teach people about biblical perspectives on money management and how we should honor God with our finances. It is my passion. I love to teach people about putting God first in our finances. I love teaching about how the Bible commands us to honor God with the firstfruits of our labors. However, our society tells us that giving to our local church is only something that you do when you have extra cash not the first bill that you pay. Society tells us that we need our big houses, big cars, big screen TVs and other “necessities” of American culture. It is a struggle to break the ingrained cultural attitudes toward giving only what you have left over to the local expression of God’s kingdom. It’s not our people’s fault that they were raised in this culture and its materialism. I was that way too at one time. It was a struggle after my salvation to even consider that tithing was a command not an option. However, when I began to put God first in my finances, it radically changed our lives. It changed our perspective about what we had to have. No longer do we see it necessary to have the biggest finest cars and biggest finest houses in the biggest finest neighborhood. We would rather live more simply and honor God first with our funds. It is such a relief that you learn when you rid yourself of consumer debt and can be generous. Being purposely generous, rather than purposely materialistic changes your perspective from earthly things to eternal things.

 

These are the things that I thought of this morning when I read Deuteronomy 18:1-8 this morning. Let us read it together right now:

 

18 The Levitical priests—indeed, the whole tribe of Levi—are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel. They shall live on the food offerings presented to the Lord, for that is their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their fellow Israelites; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

 

3 This is the share due the priests from the people who sacrifice a bull or a sheep: the shoulder, the internal organs and the meat from the head. 4 You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep, 5 for the Lord your God has chosen them and their descendants out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the Lord’s name always.

 

6 If a Levite moves from one of your towns anywhere in Israel where he is living, and comes in all earnestness to the place the Lord will choose, 7 he may minister in the name of the Lord his God like all his fellow Levites who serve there in the presence of the Lord. 8 He is to share equally in their benefits, even though he has received money from the sale of family possessions.

 

We are commanded to take care of the men of God so that they can do the ministry that they were called to do. Sure, there are some “pastors” out there that live in excess and they give pastors a bad name. Because of them, people are skiddish about giving their money to churches. You should have discernment about the lifestyle you seeing your pastor lead. However, I can assure you that the pastors at our church live as simply as possible and have no desire to have Bentleys or big mansions or private jets. They are simple men of God. Yet, I am saying that we should think of their family responsibilities that they have just like we do when we give to our church. They have kids and mortgages and car payments. They have college tuition and living expenses to pay for kids in college just like you and I do or have had or will have. You do not go without raises for years in a row – or you would leave your job over it typically – like our pastors have had to do at times. Think about that when you give. Think about keeping a level of excellence in our maintenance of our property when you give. Think about keeping the church lights on. Think about things that need fixing that give first time visitors and impression of how well we do things at our church. Think about ministries of our church being able to reach more people and do it more often when you give. Think about how many more unchurched people we could reach with the gospel message of Jesus Christ if we gave as God commanded us to. Just think of the eternal impact that would have.

 

Think about the choice that you have of buying that newer car with all its gadgets with its additional $200 a month in car payments over what you are paying now or hanging onto that car an investing it in your local church that specializes in bring the unchurched to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Can we invest in our church so that we can be excellent in everything (paying competitive salaries to our preachers and staff, keeping our church in good repair so that people will not just pass by our church because it does not look as though we even care about our own property, and having the funds to be able to send the Word of God out into our community and world further and further and reaching more and more)!

 

Amen and Amen.

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