I was talking with a dear friend last night. She was telling me about the time her husband used to sell cars. “He loved selling to the g*y/homose*xu*l community.”
She saw my eyebrows go up.
“They didn’t try to get a discount,” she finished. She went on to say how he hated seeing the Christians come in because they were always trying to get a “Brother-in-the-Lord” discount.
I recalled a time when another friend, a family man, was out of work. He had a carpet cleaner and set about beating the streets to earn an income to feed his wife and two young kids. The pastor of his church said he wanted to support his business, if… wink, wink…well, you know…(The man did clean the church carpets at a deep discount, trusting God to supply the rest of his need.) Oh please tell me you see the irony in this.
I used to laugh this off but as I get older I find it more grievous than anything because it doesn’t encourage relationships in a healthy, non-manipulative way. And I think it’s also very destructive because it sets up a welfare state: We’re in ministry so you should support us. It’s a mentality that is imbued in much of our religious training.
This robs us in so many ways from seeing the full expression of God’s love in relationships. Why? Because it’s love with a hook. I have expectations…you have expectations… and when they’re not met someone gets hurt.
The other sad part of this is how it hurts those on the receiving end. Lately, we’ve walked with some folks who are in a state of complete bewilderment. Their ministry has dried up and that has been their lifeblood for 30+ years.
And you also hear the statistics of how pastors are leaving the ministry in droves. (The expectations placed upon pastors and their wives is utterly mind-boggling; is it any wonder?)
I can’t imagine the pressure of feeling that my religious performance must be kept up for the sake of fiscal health. (Imagine feeling you must deliver a tough sermon knowing you could alienate some of the big givers? How’s that for a conflict when the mortgage on the building is due?)
Every since Constantine professionalized the clergy umpteen years ago the Expectations Game has been hard at work. And much of it is fueled by a welfare mentality.
Only now with the gloomy economy and a growing number of believers leaving organized religion, the painful effects of this mentality is becoming more apparent.
So, am I advocating that we don’t give? Absolutely not. And actually, from my little window of the world, I see believers engaged in deeper and more joyous giving. One might even call it a Brother in the Lord premium.