There is an old story from the early church about a fellow named Saint Lawrence. At the time, the church was persecuted by the Roman Empire. If you followed the way of Jesus, that might even end up in martyrdom! But as the church grew in numbers, the leaders found themselves with more and more resources. Members of the faith community would donate out of their abundance and generously give to the church and its mission.
A Roman leader under Caesar’s command plotted to seize the supposed treasures of the church. Upon hearing this plan, Lawrence acted shrewdly and immediately took all the gold they had collected and distributed it to the poor of their community. When Lawrence was imprisoned and appeared before the public official to hand over the church’s treasure, Lawrence then brought a group of impoverished people–disabled, widowed, orphaned, and elderly–to stand before the Roman authorities. Lawrence motioned to these fellow poor brothers and sisters and said: “Behold, these are the treasures of the church!”
Lawrence’s witness reminds us that the church must always be in the business of helping out other people. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are the most valuable treasures the church could ever possess.
John Wesley realized this truth when he wrote that religion should never go from the greatest to the least, or that religion would be human-made.
Church sanctuaries and buildings might be nice for ministry. Proper budgeting can obviously help, too. Even having good stewardship and planning can help a church thrive and do Godly work in the community. But we must never forget that the most valuable thing is not found on paper, brick and mortar, or even a bank balance. The most valuable thing any church could possess is children of God.
Author CS Lewis once put it this way: God delights in you as an artist does in a piece of artwork. That means that God find you valuable and something to be cherished. We often need to remind ourselves of this timeless truth. Too often we define ourselves by what we make, the kind of career we have, or the reputation we develop among other people.
But we also need to remember that God thinks this way of absolutely everyone in the world, especially the downtrodden and lowly who truly need it. The one thing that might make the church “richer” and more treasured is your fellow neighbor who needs to experience the love of God.