Iâ€™m recording my thoughts for this weekâ€™s â€œPastorâ€™s Cornerâ€ after spending some time reviewing Morris Brownâ€™s 2011 budget. While funds are designated in categories that reflect the overall operation of the church, those categories all tie into the core mission of the church as given to us by Our Savior – to â€œmake disciples.â€ Church budgets are best planned not simply with an eye towards paying the bills, but with an eye toward seeing that what we do embraces that Great Commission – Matthew 28:18-20.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church embraces the Biblical standard of tithing as our stewardship ideal because making the personal, sacrificial decision to give a tenth of our treasure, talent and time is more than a matter of meeting our church obligations. Tithing is an affirmation of our faith and of our commitment to see that all of Godâ€™s children – regardless of color, culture, life condition or economic status – are embraced by the church. Tithing enables us to see that the Gospel reaches those whom Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46 as â€œthe least of these,â€ meets their needs so that they can hear the Gospel, and assures that the church is focused on our mission and not just on maintenance.
Thatâ€™s a worthy goal and a faith mandate not only for the church and for our personal finances, but for those who make public policy as well. The South Carolina Christian Action Council – a partnership that embraces 16 denominations, 21 regional judicatories and 4,500 congregations – recently issued a call for a â€œmoral budgetâ€ for our state. That call says in part that â€œAs faithful citizens we are called to come together through budgets and the taxes that fund them to â€˜Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9).â€™â€
As people of faith, we ought to tithe some of time to see that every elected official at every level of government takes those words to heart. Many of those who assumed office in the last general election are working to cut funding for things like public education, health care and retiree pensions while giving funding breaks to already wealthy businesses. Theyâ€™re doing so while trying to destroy labor unions, passing costly and dubious voter identification and immigration laws and doing all that they can to disenfranchise those who might go to the polls and vote them out. The insulting irony is that they do so while trumpeting that fact that ours is â€œone nation under Godâ€ with support from the â€œChristian rightâ€ that interweaves religion, patriotism and conservative politics.
Thereâ€™s nothing Christian about making it harder for children from modest circumstances to get a quality education. Thereâ€™s nothing Christian about having the seniors among us choose whether to keep their lights on or buy food. Thereâ€™s nothing Christian about making it harder for those who can least afford health care to get health insurance. Thereâ€™s nothing Christian about playing mean spirited and divisive political games to make the rich richer and the poor poorer or about spreading unmitigated lies about the President of the United States because he refuses to pay their games.
Those who wrap themselves in religion and love to talk about Jesus would do well to remember that Jesus was despised by the power brokers of His day because he favored and aided the poor, needy and infirm while rejecting those who sounded holy but acted ugly as hypocrites. Those of us who claim to be todayâ€™s disciples of Jesus should walk in his footsteps. Tithe and offer your time, talent and treasure to equip the church to fulfill her mission, but do the same when it comes to holding elected officials accountable, advocating whatâ€™s right instead of whatâ€™s expedient, and standing in every arena from public meetings to the voting booth to the streets to see that we really become â€œone nation under God.â€ When we make the priority set by Jesus our guiding principle, we can make a positive difference in the church and in our communities.