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Saints and Caesar

Here’s a dilemma for you. Years ago, a friend of mine served as pastor of a struggling church. While there were many faithful people in the congregation, their efforts to grow attendance failed.

Interestingly, there was an elderly lady who attended church only on Sunday mornings. No one knew much about her except that she was well dressed and drove a late-model car. Occasionally, the pastor reached out to her on the phone and was always warmly received. But she remained aloof at church.

One Sunday, her pew was empty. A weak follow-up system allowed almost a year to go by, and no one knew what happened to “that lady” who only came on Sunday mornings.

Eventually, the deacon board received a letter from a local attorney requesting a meeting. At the meeting, the attorney explained that “that lady” had died and left the church close to $100,000 worth of stock in a local brewery.

The attorney said if the church would formally receive the stock, he would start the proceedings. Once the transfer was complete, the church could sell, trade, or keep the stock. But the deacons were hesitant. They felt that owning stock in a brewery could bring reproach upon the church. They stood against alcohol abuse and supported anti-drinking campaigns in the community. To them, owning stock in a brewery would be hypocritical.

Sure enough, “that lady” was an executive in a brewery. Is that possible? Could a true Christian actually work for an establishment that the church does not condone? Should “that lady” have resigned her position in the brewery in order to accommodate the traditions of the church?

After several church membership meetings to discuss all the possibilities, the church declined the inheritance of the brewery stock on grounds that it was incompatible with its mission and beliefs. When it was revealed that “that lady” had been a strong giver to their church during her lifetime, no one felt that her previous gifts should be removed from the coffers. They would just refuse the stock and move on.

What would you have done? How important is the source of the giving?

While I honor the decision of that church body, they must have known something that I do not know. On the surface, that stock could have been quickly sold and the income used to pay bills, support missionaries, and develop a stronger outreach to the community. Besides, will the church only receive offerings from those with an “approved” income source? How will that be done?

Perhaps you have read Philippians 4:22, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.” At that time, Caesar was the wicked Nero. Isn’t it curious that serving under this madman was a group of dedicated Christians? Would their tithe be welcome in your local church? Would THEY be welcome?

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