Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                          August 25, 2008
Don't Rob Widows and Orphans
My Reflections
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For churches budgets are often a sensitive topic. They're sensitive because there's usually a scarcity of resources. Programs need to be funded. Buildings need to be paid for. Pastors like to get paid.
Now, for the record, most pastors I know feel a fair bit of angst over their congregation's distribution of resources. For most pastors, their congregations don't give enough to the poor, the widows, the orphans. At the end of the day, however, it's the "necessities" that usually win out. The light bills continue to get paid while the poor and fatherless continue to go without.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: The church's distribution of resources
Don't Rob Widows and Orphans 
Excerpt from Pagan Christianity by George Barna & Frank Viola 
One Thing LogoNotice the context of Malachi 3:8-10. In verse 5, the Lord says that He will judge those who oppress the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. He says, "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me" (NIV).
The widows, fatherless, and strangers were the rightful recipients of the tithe. Because Israel was withholding her tithes, she was guilty of ignoring the needs of these three groups. Herein is the heart of God in Malachi 3:8-10: He opposes oppression of the poor.
How many times have you heard pastors point this out when they preached on Malachi 3? In scores of sermons I have heard on tithing, I was never told what the passage was actually talking about. That is, tithes were given to support the widows, the fatherless, the strangers, and the Levites (who owned nothing) (208:175).
My Reflections
Although I've seen organic church expressions handle their finances in all sorts of ways, they all have one thing in common: none of them fund overhead. Instead, they utilize their resources to bless, in all sorts of ways. I know of one organic community that feeds hundreds every Sunday, rain or shine, holiday or no holiday. I know of another that regularly discerns needs (outside their immediate community of faith) and meets them. Still another, a poorer community of believers, gives to one another: paying rents, buying groceries, helping when emergencies pop up.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this," writes James, "...to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (1:27). It stands to reason, then, that orphans and widows shouldn't be an afterthought. On the contrary, they should be front and center (...and yes, even overhead-less church expressions need work in this area).
Sometimes I think we Christians underestimate the evangelistic power of simply obeying God's Word. For example, I've never once had anyone say they like me because I had a nice house or played good music (although I know such substanceless relationships exist). And I wouldn't try to attract friends that way, either. If I did, something would need to change. People should be attracted to me because of my character, not my ability to entertain them.
Is it any wonder the world is suspicious of the church? In the end, even non-Christians perceive the reality of where the buck stops...and it's not with the orphan and widow.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table