Friday, February 26, 2010

Are you a Freeloader?

A "freeloader" is someone who depends on another for support without reciprocating. The Urban Dictionary says it more bluntly- A freeloader is someone who exploits chances to get free stuff whenever possible.

Back when the most efficient way to transport goods was by ship, it was common for the captain to hire people to load the cargo on the ship. Typically, they were paid when the ship had been filled. Oftentimes, the captain would sail away without paying. The loaders had no way to chase after the ship, so they ended up not getting paid for it. Hence the term, "freeloader". Over time the term came in to more general use. In the late 19th Century "freeloader" was used to describe the hobos that lived and traveled by stowing away on freight trains like the picture above.

Freeloader refers to a person who is happy to get something for nothing. I think there are lots of freeloaders in the Church. Heck, I remember being one myself.

I don't know much about Vincent Cheung, but I can tell you his comments on Galatians and Philippians have been solid and helpful in my preparations for preaching these books. I just came across a convicting statement by Cheung as he reflected on the generosity of the Philippian believers in supporting the advance of the gospel through Paul and various churches. He says something I think is dead on accurate and even uses the term freeloader:

"Most professing Christians are freeloaders; that is, they benefit from a church or ministry without sharing in its costs and responsibilities. Although they know that the church or ministry requires much financial and practical assistance, they allow other people to make the necessary sacrifices. Some of them value the church or ministry enough so that they are even willing to help if they know that it will fail without their assistance, but not before the organization has reached such a desperate condition.

If you are a freeloader? It is often difficult for other people to recognize it, especially if you appear to be very enthusiastic and supportive about the church or ministry, and this is why you are able to shamelessly remain a freeloader with that organization. But God knows what you are, and he keeps account. He knows those who are generous and those who are not, so that Paul, 'Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously' (2 Corinthians 9:6). In fact, this is Paul's main reason for rejoicing at the generosity of the Philippians: 'Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account'(4:17)."

Are you a freeloader?


Woody Woodward said...

I remember when I first came to faith. I figured $20 bucks a week would keep me in good standing with God. Then I started reading about Tithing? I was convicted but not convinced. Tried to argue and rationalize it way out by stating, “I am dead to Law, and alive unto Christ and that tithing stuff is OT legalism!” Then the more I grew, I became convinced that I should “try” it and see. So I tithed for the wrong reason, out of obligation, not out of a joyful heart, but He blessed His Word of promise in spite of me. Then I took CROWN and discovered, tithing was just the beginning of giving, this is what’s expected, God owns it all! Through these past few very tough economic years, Cheri and I have learned the joy of sacrifice that has resulted in the joy of giving, hilariously! I think we are on the right track, but got a long way to go and a lot to learn.

Glenn Wardell said...

Tithing is the one aspect of worship I can do as well as the greatest saint of the church ever has. Move a decimal point over. OK, maybe that was harder with Roman numerals.

The question becomes, what portion of the money does the local church get versus ministries? Scripture guides us towards the local church for the tithe and then free will offerings to ministries, I believe. But when a church borrows millions of dollars in flat defiance of what Scripture teaches (teaching it offers to its own members through CROWN!), it rationalizes a "keep the lights on" mentality among the laity.

Reepicheep said...

Glenn, I generally agree, however, borrowing isn't defying Scripture. Borrowing is certainly discouraged, but borrowing is not necessarily defying Scripture, it's just not.

Not paying back debt is a straight sin.

Crown is actually varied in it's counsel about churches borrowing. Generally it is discouraged, no doubt. Still, the use of debt can be considered in certain careful instances.

Borrowing could be chosen if assets outweigh liabilities, interest rates are not too high, there is an ability to pay back swiftly, and the mission of the church is not hindered in light of it.

I know for RPC, we owe $2.5 million on an $11 million dollar property. We're being careful to pay down that debt in a way that retires it as soon as possible.

Everything should be above board and transparent. Leaders should be wise. The people should be faithful with what they've been given. God will certainly provide in such circumstances.

Glenn Wardell said...

Agreed, thorough consideration by the session/vestry and transparency and outside auditing greatly reduces risk in borrowing (but there's always financial risk and the greater risk of presumption -- some states have seen asset values drop in half and their most faithful givers lose their jobs).

But with regards to a congregation fulfilling its duty to the local church, trust is still a huge factor. Even if the numbers add up, and even if decision is documented as being in accord with Scripture, do the rank and file buy into the vision of a particular church? How many regular attenders think of themselves as outsiders attending on a "contractual" basis, versus really belonging and thus having "ownership"?

Brother Titus said...

He's clearly clear, with no duplicity.

Anonymous said...

Ouch. You're hurting my toes!

We actually left a church that was generous (but had bad doctrine) and realized through the process that we had relied on the generousity and had not learned to lean on God as much as we should have...or learned to be responsible with funds. There was always a bailout in that church because we were a young family with needs. Now, we have gone to a different church and I bet they'd help us too if we used them this way, though it does appear they are very careful when helping to not create users, I believe a person could easily hide behind many things to suck off the marrow. We have mortgage problems and have finally decided NOT to allow the church to share our prayer request because of our mortgage problems. We just knew people would give us something here or there. Not that we should have too much pride to ask for help if we really do need it, but we felt it was time for us to try our best to take charge of things and be better stewards of God's provision.

Serving has always been something we appreciated being able to do since we couldn't financially give like we hoped. Hope to figure out what best to do in our newer church.