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The 'Triple A' Series #4: How can churches develop a 'good attitude' to money?

Photo of Stephen Mathews Stephen Mathews
3 min

Billy Graham once said that a person’s wallet was the truest statement of their theology. Even if only partially true, what churches say and do about money is always an important sign of what is valued.

The New Testament has much to say about money and possessions. Two chapters of 2 Corinthians are devoted to the issue; but interestingly never use the word ‘money’; the currency is not dollars or sterling but ‘grace’. Paul’s starting point is “rich generosity” with a fascinating equation (severe trial, joy and extreme poverty are not normally among an accountant’s “search categories”). This is about the ‘heart’ attitude (see blog #1) as key to the wallet.

So what can churches do to develop this good heart attitude?

1. Discipleship in Money
Jesus speaks about:

  • Our inability to serve two masters;
  • One’s life not consisting in the abundance of possessions; and
  • The deceitfulness of riches.

With Paul adding:

  • Money being the root of all kinds of evil.

Blog #1 speaks of money as a rival god and so discipleship in money is more than just about ‘giving’ to the church. In confronting its power we have to ask:

  • What place does money have in my life?
  • How important is the need for possessions to my wellbeing and self-esteem?

Once we grasp this, we can talk about generosity; and one of its many elements – financial giving. But even then, not because the church needs it, but because we need to be generous givers – for our own sake; to be more like God. I have found it a core part of my spiritual health.

Increasingly, we should address personal budgeting, debt and money management; all reasons why people who want to give don’t. Personal debt is a common cause of emotional suffering and sleep deprivation for a staggering proportion of people in the UK - including people in our churches.

2. Talking About Money
Some church leaders talk a lot about money, often because the church wants more of it. This is not a good enough reason.

Unfortunately, more churches don’t talk about it at all:

  • We don’t like asking, isn’t it better to give than to receive?
  • We’ve seen ‘giving’ taught, but for self-interest.
  • It feels like “singing for my supper”.
  • We say people’s ‘no’ for them, expecting kick back.
  • We haven't got our own money sorted so how can we teach others?

None of these are good enough reasons either. Interestingly, if you were to teach on money and possessions in proportion to their occurrence in scripture you would do so even more frequently than about faith or prayer!

3. A Leaders’ Own Relationship With Money
It’s good to do some self-assessment. As a leader: pastor, teacher, trustee, treasurer - assess where you stand and be open to what God may be seeking to teach you. Are you:

  • In its debt too much?
  • Accountable about your finances?
  • Giving generously?

Rewards of a Good Attitude
We see churches that have spent time considering and developing this attitude:

  • Fulfilling the New Testament call to be generous and well resourced.
  • Demonstrating the heart of Jesus.
  • Engaging and discipling church members and supporters.
  • Being ‘good to give to’.

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Written by

Stephen Mathews

Stephen has been at Stewardship for 15 years, advising churches and Christian charities on a breadth of issues around money, culture and governance. Previous to that, he gained valuable experience working for 20 years in the accountancy profession, alongside church leadership in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about Local Church, UK Poverty & Debt, and International Aid, with a particular focus on educational development in Africa and in youth violence and racial inequality.