"If you were to drive through our church parking lot on any given day, you would see Suburbans, Hummers, Expeditions and the like. All beautiful objects of automotive wonder, but are they necessary?"
What does the types of cars in a church parking lot communicate about the types of people in the church pews? How do we even define “necessary”? I have to admit, my first impression of any church is based on the typeS of carS in the parking lot. However, I not only notice the cars, I also notice the bumper stickers on the cars, the size and condition of the parking lot, the traffic cones, and the manners of the people as they drive through the parking lot on their way to a parking space. I will write more on this later.
Teresa’s basic question though is an age old question with a modern context. For centuries some people have argued that the cost of building elaborate cathedrals has wasted money that could be going towards helping the poor. Others have argued that elaborate cathedrals are the proper way to honor and give glory to God.
As believers, we are expected to support our churches with our time, our money, and our other resources. We are admonished by our leaders to avoid materialism and we are judged by our Creator on how we treat those who are in need. However, does buying and owning an expensive car reduce the amount of money needed to do God’s work?
Money, unlike almost everything else of value, can not be wasted. Time can be wasted, as can clean water, goodwill, and most everything else, but money can only be passed on to someone else for them to pass on to yet another someone else. Money only represents the amount of time it took to earn and the value of a good or service it can buy.
Passing money on quickly reduces the amount of time it takes for someone else to earn the money and it multiplies the amount of available money. In economics, this is known as the ‘velocity’ of money. If the $3.00 I spend for a cup of Starbucks coffee is immediately spent by Starbucks on something else, the economic effect of my purchase is the same as if I had spent $6.00 on the cup of coffee and the $6.00 stayed in their cash register for the rest of the day. An economic recession isn’t caused by the lack of money, it is caused by the hording of money or the unwillingness of many to spend it quickly. Likewise, economic growth is cause by a greater willingness to spend quickly and not hold on to money.
Passing money on to a craftsman for a well engineered and well crafted product rewards the workers who takes exceptional pride in their work. Passing money on to the discounter rewards the workers who produce value for their work. Passing money on to the athlete or the performer rewards those who provide pleasure to others through entertainment.
Passing money on to the poor as a gift without exchanging anything of value may relieve an immediate need, but it also rewards those who haven’t contributed their time to create value or enjoyment for others. There are some people who through no fault of their own have an immediate need. There are others who may have caused their own problems but are still in need of immediate relief. We should help these people, but we shouldn’t ever fall in to the trap of thinking we are choosing between helping the poor and being selfish when we spend our money on something we want, because when we do honest work for honest pay and when we reward others who do honest work for honest pay, we are helping others to NOT be poor and we ARE doing God’s work.