should live within its means.
I have heard
this phrase many times, and it sits uneasily on my heart. At first glance, it makes sense. My husband and I earn income, and it is important that we do not
spend what we do not have. If we incur an
enormous debt, we might risk bankruptcy. We
need to live within our means, shouldn’t
the church do the same?
Here is the
thing. In my years of studying the Bible, I have never found scriptural proof
that a church should live within its means.
God did not
encourage Moses to live within his means when he walked the children of Israel
across the Red Sea -- God provided.
God did not
ask Solomon to build a temple within a budget -- God provided.
God did not
ask the church of the New Testament to work within a budget -- God provided.
Our Good and
Gracious Lord knows that Lutherans know how to work a budget. We are good at
thinking things through, making a plan, and sticking to it.
What we are not good at is giving – or trusting. Instead, we try to live within our
means. And that is where the trouble begins.
about covering costs beyond the budget when the problem started at the offering
plate. The church and school tighten the belt a bit more, the church workers
feel the belt tighten each year. Salaries freeze, workers, are let go, insurance benefits are cut back, the workers
provide the supplies. Even through all of
this, the church workers are saddest when ministry is cut back.
All of this
in the name of living within our means.
This attitude is small
minded. It is evidence of a lack of
trust. It is arrogance in the face of
what God can, and does, do for us. It is
I am not advocating for churches to spend without care, without thought, without prayer. I am advocating for putting our trust in God rather than in budgets.
lives in retirement housing. She has lived on her own for quite a while, but
this time is coming to an end. The falls (and broken bones) are becoming more
frequent. She is currently in a wheelchair with her leg in a cast. She has
diabetes and cannot see. She cannot bathe herself, clean the apartment, do her
laundry, grocery shop, or get herself to a doctor’s appointment.
Yet, she wants to
live within her means. She does not wish
to put her trust in others to care for her. She cannot see that others are
already doing this. Health aids, nurses, assistants, her children; many people
come to her aid to patch together a safe
living for her.
longer lives within her means.
the LifeLine people called me to let me know that she had fallen again. It took me close to 30 minutes to get to her apartment,
find someone with a key, try to help her up and eventually call the fire
department in order to get her off the floor and safely onto her bed. If
she were living in an assisted living facility, she would have received help
within minutes. Her desire to live within her means is becoming dangerous to
were waiting for the fire department, I
mentioned that it might be past the time when she can live alone. She quietly
agreed. This conversation will continue.
None of us
can truthfully live within our means. Our
means are limited. Our means are small-minded and weak. Our means are blind to
the needs of others and to the possibilities that only God can see.
are weighed down by our sin.
We must live
within God’s means. We have a God who is
all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present.
We can only
live within His means of Grace: the Word, the Sacraments, the saving work of
Jesus’ death and resurrection, the blessing of the Father, and the power of the
Why would we
want to live within our means when we have God?
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are
rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me
the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house
of the Lord
Psalm 23, ESV