Fretting about church finances makes it hard not to hear the echo of the voice of Jesus echoing in my head.

His words are no practical help; but they are deeply challenging. When anxiety over dollar signs threatens to become my preoccupation, Jesus whispers in my ear,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25-30)

It is hardly a useful financial management strategy. The practical side of my brain, which I admit in my case is somewhat underdeveloped, whines faintly, “But how will the bills get paid?” Nowhere do I see Jesus offering helpful advice in response to the practicalities of life. Practicalities just did not seem to be his primary concern. Jesus does not seem to have been particularly interested in keeping the machinery of institutional life, or for that matter of any external manifestation of life, operating smoothly. But, of course, it was easy for him to take a laissez faire attitude to the mechanics of community. He did not have buildings to pay for, salaries to finance, wider structures to support. Sandals and a walking staff were not all that expensive even in Jesus’ day.

Without the financial burden of salaries, buildings and elaborate programs Jesus was free to focus attention on his primary concern. And Jesus’ primary concern was always  the inner condition of our lives and the impact our inner state would have in the world outside. Jesus said,

‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22,23)

The eye referred to here is, in the words of Ephesians, “the eye of the heart” (Ephesians 1:17, 18).

Jesus was concerned with the secret hidden condition of the human heart. For Jesus, everything began with the secret room of the heart,

whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

We tend to focus on external behaviour and bench marks for success. We like measurables and quantifiables. We like to calculate, tabulate, and publish our stats at the end of each year, in the hopes that we will either be able to bask in our success, or be motivated to do better in the coming year. But, the truth is, most of us who work in the church have little control over our year end stats. We work hard; we do our best and yet the numbers grow more challenging every year.

So, what is to be done?

The only thing any of us can do, is to put aside our obsession with external circumstances, put down the burden of performance, and dig deep within to find that place in our heart where it is possible to “not worry about your life.” We need to find within ourselves that place of assurance where we know we are “of more value” than anything the year-end bottom line might appear to say about our performance. We need to tap into that consciousness that trusts that life is “more than food, and the body more than clothing.” It is that “more than” dimension of life we need to find and in which we are invited to rest and trust. Church exists to call the world back to an awareness of the inner life and to challenge people to live more deeply from that place of light and love that is our true nature.

If we can live conscious of the “more than” realm, we may find that the future begins to become less of a preoccupation and we start opening to the richness of the present moment. If we can find our way to this place of trust, no matter what the future may hold, we will be better positioned to navigate uncertainty, and more able to find our way forward into whatever circumstances life may present. Who knows… such a strategy might even hep us find creative life-giving ways to address some of our financial challenges.