FIRST-PERSON: Resolve to confront greed

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) -- What will you do differently as we move into 2017 that will improve your life, improve the lives of others and make our world a better place?

I have a suggestion for accomplishing all three goals.

The most pressing problem in most churches today, in most Christian families and in our world is greed. It's interesting that many Christians are preoccupied with confronting sexual sin while ignoring the second sin often listed in New Testament catalogs of offensive behavior. For example, 1 Corinthians 5:11 instructs believers to avoid entangling relationships with "anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy...."

For many years, my conviction has been the most prevalent sins in the American church are not sexual sins, as troubling as those are. Rather, the most prevalent sins are financial sins. We are robbing God by giving parsimoniously, spending lavishly on our comforts and justifying self-focused spending in the name of ministerial relevance. God is being mocked more by our greed than our sexual immorality.

What can be done?

First, get your financial priorities in order -- give, spend and save in appropriate ways.

Second, get your financial expectations in order -- not everyone is going to be rich (and you probably are not in that category) but everyone can live wisely on the provision they have.

Third, get the training you need to make the first two priorities a workable reality. There are several good stewardship training programs being used by churches across the United States. Commit to finishing one of these programs and putting what you learn into practice in the early months of 2017.

If you are a church leader, tackle these financial issues head on. Your members are drowning in debt, adrift on a sea of misplaced priorities and struggling to swim through a flood of financial misinformation. Stewardship training should be basic training offered in every church as part of its consistent menu of training opportunities.

It is easy to implement this. Find a program that will work in your setting and then work the program -- for the next several years -- to change the financial trajectory of the people you lead.

Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared at his blog, https://www.gs.edu/about/president-jeff-iorg.
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