Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Money .... Money .... Money (In a Rich Man's World)

The issue of money is always a rather sensitive one (particularly in Western culture) and it seems even more sensitive when it comes to church leaders. Charismatic tele-evangelists are frequently lambasted in the media (both religious and non) for their overly extravagant lifestyles, private jets and so on. I think as a result many newer church leaders have become somewhat more private about the handling of finances.

I was intrigued therefore to see a post on "SGM Survivors" (the blog that takes a perhaps more objective look at the popular Sovereign Grace Ministries) that concerned C J Mahaney and his financial giving and in particular - his gifts to Southern Baptist Seminary. This information comes from the financial statements of a publication of Southern Baptist Seminary themselves - so I must emphasise this is not gossip or hearsay but the truth.

Here's what I can make out - C J Mahaney has given large sums of money to Southern Baptist Seminary over a period of years (2005 to 2008 are covered) - both from himself personally and from Sovereign Grace Ministries themselves. These gifts mean that C J Mahaney was given certain honoury titles such as; "President's Council" or "Distinguished Associate" in recognition of these gifts.

Now here's what I want to make abundantly clear.

"SGM Survivors" are discussing the implications of this giving and unsurprisingly are extremely suspicious about it. There are suggestions being drawn that Mahaney has bought himself to celebrity status and so on. There are questions being discussed as to why Mahaney and SGM would give so generously to a seminary that they do not send their prospective leaders to and are not even from the same denomination. But I (and no one apart from Mahaney himself) know the truth of these questions - and NO ONE (apart from Mahaney and his Lord) know the motives behind this extremely generous giving. A gift of an equivalent of £65, 000 in a year is more money than I can even dream of!

I do know that Matthew 6:2 makes it clear what the Lord Jesus Christ thinks of public giving and giving for the wrong reasons. In essence He says;

"They have had their reward in full".

Suggesting the earthly acclaim will be all they receive. The Gospels make it clear that private and secret giving is what brings pleasure to God - and again, I have am sure that Mahaney gives generously and privately (I hope). In the past I would have probably delighted in anything that made Mahaney and SGM look bad - and I think that these annual generous gifts to a theological seminary may be seen as good or bad whatever your perspective.

I think it raises a good question however - and one I have not thought of for a couple of years. Why is it "better to give than receive"? The Bible says so - but can it be right to give with the sole aim of gaining something? Yes - unquestionably. The whole doctrine of Christian hedonism (as taught by by Sam Storms and John Piper) that I am really enjoying re-visiting teaches this. However - the greatest and most highest pleasure must come surely from the sole joy of knowing you have the smile of your beloved heavenly Father.

I learned the most about giving at the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks and the Brighton Conferences when Terry Virgo would recount frequent anonymous blessings heaped on people who would give in faith. God must surely get the most glory when the beneficiary does not know who he or she has received the financial blessing from - and can only give thanks to God.

I remember reading a story about C H Spurgeon going to Bristol to raise money for London's orphans. He raised £300 which was probably an equivalent of Mahaney's £100, 000 - but heard the Lord telling him to give the money to George Mueller in Bristol and his orphanage work. He wrestled but obeyed the Lord in the end and went back to London. When Spurgeon returned to London, he found an envelope on his desk containing more than £300. The Lord had returned the £300 he had obediently given to Mueller, with 300 shillings of interest!

But Spurgeon never knew where that envelope came from. That anonymous giver will have their reward in heaven says the Word of God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely and sensitively put. Rather odd situation though - can't help but make you wonder what SGM are paying Mahaney to be able to afford £65,000 gifts ... wow.