What Our Hearts Treasure
I was afraid and they could see it.
I stood on the stage in an elementary school gym speaking to our new church for the first time about…money. I had waited over a year for this dreaded moment. We all knew it was coming, and we all braced for the pain that would go with it. No matter how much I tried to convince myself and them that we should be comfortable talking about money, I wasn’t and they weren’t either. I reminded them that Jesus talked about money all the time. He talked about it more than he did any other subject, save the kingdom of God. Nearly a third of his parables in some way concerned finances. But it still had that slimy feel of me asking for their hard-earned money to fund my TV ministry and motorcycle collection. I had spent over a year building trust in this community of faith. I didn’t want them to feel that now I was pulling the rug out from under them. I was sweating.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had talked about money week one with the people who came to form the team that would start Providence Church. They understood and gave sacrificially. But we had been careful and strategic in how we would talk about money with our church that grown with many people new to church or who had come back after years of disconnection.
And then someone reminded me. An older lady in our church actually was the one who corrected me in a gentle way. “This isn’t about you,” she said. That’s all it took. I knew what she meant.
All that anxiety was centered on me. How the congregation would view me, how I would feel, my reputation. Jesus was comfortable talking about money because he wasn’t asking for funding for his tv ministry, or for his church budget for that matter. Jesus talked about money because he cared about our hearts.
Jesus cared about people’s hearts, and money affects our hearts. Deeply. He knew that our finances affect our future, and we worry about our future. He knew that a loss of a job is not just a financial loss, but an emotional and spiritual one too. Jesus talked about money a lot, because he talked about the condition of our hearts a lot. He said that where our treasure is, our time, our energy, our money, there are hearts will be also. We think that our money will follow our hearts. We wish that it did. But it’s actually the other way around. Our hearts follow our funding.
And so, I found new courage to talk about money. Because I care about hearts. Jesus taught me to do that. I preached on giving. I asked people to give to the church unashamedly and unapologetically (well, mostly). We offered financial classes about getting out of debt, financial planning classes for the future, and small-group Bible studies that centered around giving and the role that money should play in our lives.
The first week of commitments our giving went up 40 percent and held. More than one family said they would try to tithe for the first time. Four years later, I know that they continue this promise with joy. One of them has gone beyond that by setting up a college scholarship fund for teens in our community.
If we are going to be faithful preachers and teachers, then we have to talk about money. Not because we care about money, but because we care about people.
Jacob Armstron is the author of Treasure: A Four-Week Study on Faith and Money and founding pastor of Providence Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.