July 16, 2004
Fund-Raising, Faith-Raising, and Parish Festivals
"If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks Him!" Matthew 7:11
Our heavenly Father, like our earthly fathers, wants to be known as a good provider. The way a father provides indicates his love for the family. If a rumor circulated that you didn't properly take care of your children, but made them gamble, sell chances, and bartend to provide for their own needs, you would get upset. The rumor makes you look like you're not much of a parent. This same rumor is going around about our heavenly Father. We give the impression our heavenly Father does not provide our daily bread, that is, our daily basic necessities. This implies His word is not true, and He doesn't love us that much. We make it look as if we must take care of ourselves by doing anything we can from gambling to pushing alcohol. Our Father gets a bad reputation. Yet the Lord says, "My God in turn will supply your needs fully, in a way worthy of His magnificent riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19).
Fund-Raising or Faith-Raising?
"'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me in this,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?' " Malachi 3:10
The Lord promises that if we tithe and offer alms we will experience prosperity and blessings without measure. Therefore, our churches' economic distress is not primarily due to lack of funds but to lack of faith and of obedience to the commands to tithe and give alms. Fund-raising does not deal with the real issue. Faith-raising does. If we do not deal with the real issue, we will raise dollar after dollar, and never solve the problem. "Now thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; you have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; and he who earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it' " (Hag 1:5-6). Fund-raising requires tremendous amounts of time and energy to be poured into this "bag with holes." How many times have we heard the story, "Once we raise the money for this, we'll be all right?" We raised the money, but we're not all right. We hear again: "We have to raise more money but that will be the end." Then, that isn't enough, and the fund-raising escalates. We are not dealing with the real issue.
Festivals or "Fest-evils"
"Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh." Romans 13:14
I can picture Jesus sharing wine with His disciples in fellowship as at the Last Supper. I can see Him shouting and laughing and dancing. But I can't picture Him spinning wheels for hams (or who knows what else), working at the beer booth, or selling chances for a trip to Las Vegas or a basket of alcohol. I don't see Jesus as a plaster statue, but neither do I see Him as a man compromised with the world. What is Jesus' attitude to our fund-raising and festivals?
First of all, even though I am clearly opposed to church festivals, as they usually are conducted, I am not opposed to the people involved in them. Some of the most dedicated people in the world work at festivals. They truly love the Church and are trying to serve it as best they can. Admittedly, festivals have many good aspects, especially the fellowship and generosity of so many. There are even good festivals where drinking and gambling do not dominate. But these are rare, at least in this part of the world. The energies of festival workers may be directed in ways that will better build God's kingdom and help us grow deeper in our relationship to God. Literally millions don't know the Lord or are fallen away from Him, but we don't seem to have the time to do anything about it. Young people are confused and alienated, but what can we do? The elderly are isolated and lonely, but we're busy. "The harvest is rich, but the workers are few" (Lk 10:2). If we weren't trying to do our Father's job, we'd have time to do our job.
"Near Occasions of Sin"
"...that I may not be an occasion of sin to my brother" 1 Corinthians 8:13 (Our transl)
Many argue that drinking and gambling are worldly and sinful, promoting greed and appealing to our fallen nature. We will not consider that in this pamphlet. But whether or not you think drinking and gambling are sinful, it is statistically proven that they are serious problems for a large percentage of our population. Therefore, it is irresponsible and an occasion of sin to provide public access to drinking and gambling. Paul said, "Take care, however, lest in exercising your right you become an occasion of sin" (1 Cor 8:9). "Because of your 'knowledge' the weak one perishes, that brother for whom Christ died. When you sin thus against your brothers and wound their weak consciences, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food (alcohol, gambling, etc) causes my brother to sin I will never eat meat again so that I may not be an occasion of sin to him" (1 Cor 8:11-13). We should be very concerned about being an occasion of sin to others.
If through our carelessness sin is committed at a festival, the evil of sin far outweighs any good that could have been done. Hopefully these are isolated incidents, but I have seen young people at festivals send older friends to buy alcoholic beverages and start down the road to alcoholism. I have seen parish council members publicly drunk, and festival participants pass out because of drunkenness and fall to the ground in mid-festival. I have seen fathers gamble away their families' grocery money. Many say these young people, council members, priests, nuns, or others will get "high" someplace else if not at the festival. Perhaps that's true, but that's no reason for us to be their enablers. Some churches have been responsible enough to attempt controlling abuses, but you can't tell who will end up drinking the beer, who has an alcohol dependency problem, or who is using grocery money for blackjack or bingo.
In addition to being an occasion of sin to a large percentage of our population, festivals, especially those with alcohol and gambling, scandalize and offend other Christian believers. This encourages even further disunity and misunderstanding between Christian denominations. And yet the Lord tells us: "Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force" (Eph 4:3).
"We Need the Money"
"They are letting themselves be captured by foolish and harmful desires which drag men down to ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Many people are disturbed when they see public displays of drunkenness at a festival. Many become justifiably upset when they know that the father of a family is compulsively spending or gambling away money needed for his own children. They question whether festivals are doing more harm than good. Aren't Christians in the business of freeing people rather than helping enslave them? Aren't we trying to build up marriages and families rather than promote things that will eventually cause their downfall? Aren't we turning people to Jesus rather than to their selfish concerns? Our means seem to contradict our ends. We promote the problems we are raising the money to overcome. However, no matter what objections we make to the more gross aspects of festivals, the reply is always, "...We need the money. We need the money." However, the end does not justify the means. Imagine thieves, prostitutes, or drug-dealers justifying their actions by saying, "I need the money." Just because we need money does not mean we can get it in any way we choose.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver 2 Corinthians 9:7
"Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly." 2 Corinthians 9:7
We said festivals can offend God, our providing Father. They offend God's people by promoting compulsive behavior and sin. Therefore, they hurt families and marriages, and especially young people. They scandalize Christians of other denominations. This method of providing for the Church's ministry can contradict the purpose of that ministry. Finally, festivals deprive the financial contributor of blessings. When we have to be enticed, entertained, or deceived to motivate us to give, our giving does us little good. However, when we give cheerfully, we receive abundant blessings, and even a surplus for good works (2 Cor 9:8).
What To Do?
"Do whatever He tells you." John 2:5
- Pray and consider talking personally to your pastor about this matter. Do not expect a response from him. Do not judge or condemn. Just share what is in your heart.
- Write a note to your pastor. Mark on the envelope "personal." Share with him your thoughts about the parish festival. With the note, include a check for the money you would have spent at the festival.
- Support generously ministries which do not appeal for funds in wrong ways.
- Don't go to the festival.
- Most importantly, pray and fast to repent, beginning with yourself. (Mt 7:5).
"Not Human Forces"
"Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above." Ephesians 6:12
Although we may have a profound respect for festival workers, although these objections to festivals make sense, and although we contribute just as much money as we would have spent at the festival, we will often receive a negative reaction to our objections to festivals. Festivals are not unimportant parish activities. They have a profound effect on the identity of Christians and their parishes. If parishes raise funds like humanitarian organizations and social clubs, people see the Church as just another human organization and not the body of Christ. However, the Elks, Moose, Kiwanis Club, and the V.F.W. can't forgive sins and change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Only the Church can do these miracles in the name of its Head, Jesus. The Church is in a class by itself. It should act and raise funds accordingly.
The devil wants the Church to be unaware of its identity, and will fight viciously to keep the Church in darkness. However, the one in us is greater than the one in the world (1 Jn 4:4). So, let us love one another, be courageous, speak the truth in love (Eph 4:14), as members of the Church, the body of Christ.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Richard L. Klug, June 5, 2004
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 8, 2004