By Doug Inglish
Some things are almost guaranteed to stir up emotions and cause controversy. Very close to the top of the list (somewhere between politics and the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry) are money and religion, so this article is almost guaranteed to generate a reaction in some people. Nevertheless, you can’t travel the Road to Authentic Adventism with- out running right through the issue of stewardship.
Our church was founded by people who were absolutely convinced that Jesus was coming soon, and they had a mission to tell the world. Whatever else authentic Adventism embraces, and other articles in this issue will cover some of those things, you cannot remove either the Second Coming or our mission to proclaim this Gospel to the whole world from Adventism and still retain any level of authenticity. Some of the passion for those two points might have cooled; it’s hard to keep that level of intensity going for the better part of two centuries. But today we still believe in these twin concepts: His Kingdom is coming, and we do have a mission.
The authentic Adventists who founded the church responded to those realities with open purses. Understand- ing that earthly currency has zero value in the heavenly economy, they spent what they had on the mission like it was Monopoly money. Laying up treasure in heaven meant, in practical terms, getting the word out as far and as fast as possible by combining their means with heaven’s blessings.
Think about this: If, as authentic Adventists today, we believe that Jesus is coming, and further believe that our mis- sion is to tell the world and keep on telling until He arrives, then is it possible to have a logical response to those beliefs without a commitment to sacrificial giving for the cause?
No, it is not possible. If our founders had tried to spread the word without sacrificial giving, the mission never would have started. If we try to continue the mission without sacrificial giving, we’ll just end up spinning our wheels.
But authentic Adventism isn’t just about being practical in our approach to giving, i.e., that without giving the work can’t continue. It’s far more personal than that. The only reason authentic Adventists care about Jesus returning to this earth is that they love Him and want to be with Him. Whatever practical reasons there are for giving pale when compared to giving out of a grateful heart. The more we know and love Him, the less the Monopoly money of earthly treasure means to us. It has its uses for sure, and we can’t get along without it. But sacrificing so more people can look forward to the day that we long for is of greater value than whatever we can accumulate during our short time here.
Authentic Adventism is and always has been focused on the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever time we have on earth is considered temporary, limited, and not worthy to be com- pared with the things that are in store for us. Paul admonishes us not to conform ourselves to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2), which is sensible advice when you truly believe that this is not our home.
Our bodies may be present, but the heart of an authentic Adventist is in heaven. Not without reason, to be sure. Jesus calls on us to keep focused on the Kingdom when He says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:32–34).
Notice how He draws together the ideas of focusing on the Kingdom and using our means for the mission. He even tells us why these concepts are so intertwined. It’s because the heart and the treasure are inseparable. You may be forced to spend money on things you don’t like, but if you love something, it’s easy to shell out a little treasure on it. Authentic Adventists are focused on the Kingdom, and they love the mission, so it naturally follows that they will support both.
It’s not always easy to talk to people about religion or money. In my job, I can’t avoid either topic. But you know, if we stick to the bland topics, we’ll never learn anything from each other. So if I can leave you with one thought, it would be this: The Road to Authentic Adventism can only be traveled if your heart and your treasure are together in the Kingdom.
–Doug Inglish is RMC director of planned giving and trust services. Email him at: [email protected]