In the Harry Potter novels and movies, one word brought terror to all who heard it. It was a name – Voldemort. People feared even mentioning the name of the evil wizard lest he suddenly appear. They called him, “He who shall not be named.”
When anyone did say his name aloud, women would gasp. Children would cry. Grown men would cower.
This Sunday in church, I spoke of that which shall not be named. I didn’t think about it at the time. Actually, I was feeling pretty good about the Sunday. I preached a sermon based on 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 where the Apostle Paul encourages us to respond to God’s great generosity by being generous ourselves.
I was excited about the text and the sermon. We got to sit back and admire all that God generously showers upon us. He gives us closets full of clothes, refrigerators full of food, cars, trucks, high definition televisions and iPhones. He gives us jobs, families and friends.
Even more importantly, he gives us his Word and churches where we can hear it preached. He forgives us and gives us heaven because of Jesus. God has been overwhelmingly generous to us. So we talked about how we, as Christians, respond by being overwhelmingly generous ourselves. I encouraged everyone in church to be generous in their offerings and generous with everyone around them.
But in encouraging generosity, I mentioned that which shall not be named in church.
I talked about money.
Now, to their credit nobody gasped. Children didn’t cry. Nobody ran away in fear, but I did hear a comment after church. “We had visitors this Sunday. I hope they weren’t offended.” This wasn’t the first time. In the past, I have heard the whispers and murmurs when the topic of money comes up in church.
Why does the word “money” elicit such negativity when mentioned in church? There are a couple of obvious reasons. First of all, because that’s all some preachers and churches talk about. They fall into the trap of materialism and make the gospel all about getting good things here on earth. People get frustrated as they give their offerings to God and then see their pastors living in sprawling houses and driving luxury cars.
Many in our world today are turned off by churches and religion in general because they think they are just out to get their money. The concern my members had about the visitors in church was a valid one. They could have easily thought we were one of those churches that only talks about money.
Some churches don’t talk about money all the time, but when they do, they hit people over the head with it. They motivate by fear. “If you don’t give ten percent, then you aren’t a truly committed Christian.” They motivate by selfishness. “If you want God to bless you, then you need to give to him first” – as if our offerings were an investment on Wall Street.
Money isn’t taboo in church just because some churches abuse it, though. It’s also because deep down we don’t want to hear it. All of us by nature are selfish. We don’t want to let go of our money. If I give – if I’m generous – I won’t have as much for me.
That’s precisely why we need to talk about money in church, not all the time, but often. We need to talk about it because we need to be confronted by our own materialism. We need to see our sin and also our Savior who died that we might live. We need to talk about money because God talks about money in his Word.
So let’s talk about money, but let’s do so understanding the abuses that affect people’s perception of God and the church. Let’s do so guided by God’s Word. Let’s do so always pointing our people to God’s generosity and the riches of heaven which are waiting for us.
Let’s talk about that which shall not be named in church.