How to freak out your church treasurer

Here’s something simple and biblical.

  1. Buy something necessary, but not cheap, on behalf of your church—for example, all the meat for the men’s evangelistic barbecue evening, or a large amount of food for a soup kitchen.
  2. When you collect it and pay for it, throw away the paperwork—receipts, tax invoices, credit card slips, what have you. The nearest bin outside the shop will do.
  3. Don’t claim the expenses from the church.
  4. Forget about it.
  5. If your church treasurer has just the right sort of personality, he will eventually chase you up about it, feeling quite anxious about his need to make sure that his budget is accurate and aware that not all expenditure has been claimed. When he does, look anxious. If pressed, promise to look for the paperwork around your home. Go home and look in your bin. Then repeat step 4.

    In doing so, you will be obeying Matthew 6:3-4. If, however, you have an exceptionally good memory, you will need to go through steps 1-4 many, many times during the church financial year. Even the most relaxed treasurer will eventually notice that all is not well.

  6. Last but not least, and as they say in fast food restaurants, enjoy!

17 thoughts on “How to freak out your church treasurer

  1. note to sola panelists – i rarely read your posts – they are too long. i have lots of friends that agree.

    but… they seem to be getting shorter and easier to read.

    this post is a case in point.

    good stuff gordo.

  2. Gordon,

    given that Mat 6 starts with “when you give to the needy…”  why is it read wider than that?  Especially given the example set by David in Chronicles 29 where he displayed leadership regarding donations?

  3. Greg: I have no idea how to begin to answer your question, which seems to be psychological in nature rather than theological. I last studied Psychology seriously in 1982.

    However, my natural impulse on reading Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount is to find the broadest application possible. Given the vibe of the Sermon, is this a correct impulse or not, do you think?

  4. My church treasurer never gets freaked out about this, and it happens all the time.

  5. Gordon,

    being an accountant I am better at asking theological questions than I am at answering them.  But it does seem to me that we shouldn’t ignore the reference to the needy and read the passage as if it wasn’t there and also ignore the example set by David.


  6. Greg, I see the serious point behind your question. However, the examples I used were chosen with great care!

    Do you think David’s example was a good one? Or merely shrewdly political? When I read the story of David’s life, almost every single thing that he does, I have the same question.

  7. Gordon,

    I really don’t know, but the implications for how we discuss and encourage giving are significant.

    I am not suggesting that we need to be pragmatic rather than driven by our theology but the downside of reading this passage too widely is significant so we need to sure reading it widely is correct.  Money is now the hardest thing to talk about in church.

    Hopefully others can help.

  8. The six most difficult/controversial topics to preach on ranked in order starting with the most difficult/controversial:

    1. Children
    2. Money
    3. Power
    4. Gender Roles
    5. Sex
    6. Genocide

  9. Gordon,

    others have helped!  Before they were even asked!

    In issue 332 of the Briefing in the CHN section Phil Coglan discusses Mat 6v3 and explores these words.  The position he comes to seems to me to make sense of David’s actions (even if they are in the wrong order chronologically).

  10. I think that Gorden is right in the broadest application vibe for the sermon on the mount… Jesus is really rasing the bar above and beyond.

    The phrase “so whenever you give to the poor” (mt 6:2) kind of implies that this was standard practice (“whenever”).
    Jesus is pushing this to be about actual secret giving with no benefit for yourself (sacrificial), against the type of giving that shows off not that you are giving and how much.

    So I don’t really think that this narrowly applies only when actually giving to the poor. It is more about the giving than the who to. The poor are indicated just to identify the action of giving money.

  11. I love this post and would thoroughly advocate this kind of thing EXCEPT in those realms where the government adds tax refunds to money given to churches. Then it is of benefit to give the money to the church and use the money to buy the meat for the men’s barbecue, thus enabling the government to give a generous bonus to the church, too. At one time in Britain it was about 28%. Not bad !

  12. Gordo, I can sympathise with parish bean-counters. I recall being in a situation where a generous person of means had (unbeknownst to others) subsidised the running costs of a particular ministry (it was a children’s ministry) by never claiming their expenses. When they moved on to other places, the new leaders could not afford to do this, and we suddenly realised we had quite a large unbudgeted expense, which the ministry had grown used to.

    Having said that, I love your post. And if people follow your advice, treasurers will cope (if their pastors care for them and communicate with these previous people).

    And I really love your meditations about the ambiguity of King David’s behaviours. The text often offers no evaluation and we are left to muse on the options of godliness or worldly shrewdness which was not always godly (at least on the census!) or perhaps a mix of the two.

    One last thing. I stand by my reply to Phil Colgan. However in talking to a particular pastor who held Phil’s view, I have come to realise that he was a genuinely more godly man than me on this matter. As far as I could see he really did not reveal his giving to be seen by others. He was not big-noting himself and was truly self-effacing. And I think I have been too hasty to judge negatively those pastors who in good conscience and with biblical reasons think they might to reveal their giving as a leadership matter.

    On the other hand, the particular pastor said he was helped by my observation that the strength of warning in Matthew 6 meant that other people struggled with the attitudes of pride etc more than he did personally, and he had not perhaps given that the weight he should have in urging them to follow his example.

  13. Thanks Gordon that was great especially step 4.

    The Master Preacher recommends secret giving.
    Of course everyone notice’s the other two secrets,secret praying and secret fasting in Matt 6 each one with a promised reward!!

    All summed up in Matt 6:19-20-21

    A sermon idea or perhaps a book !!
    The Three Secrets.

    Or perhaps I could just DO what Jesus says. Matt 7:24

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