In yesterday’s post, we talked about God’s love of measurement. So prominent an element of His character is it that Paul even refers to Him as ‘The God of Measure’.
But it would be a dreadful mistake to assume that God loves all measurement. In fact, scripture portrays God as actually despising certain measurements that human beings treasure and on which they rely. In other cases, He prohibits certain measurements from being made at all.
On our way to determining what and how Transformational Giving (TG) should measure, we should stop and take somber, serious account of what it should not.
1. ‘Differing weights and differing measures–the LORD detests them both.’ (Proverbs 20:1)
On the face of it, this scripture seems to provide no challenge to the systems of measurement utilized in traditional/transactional fundraising (ttf). After all, the direct reference of the Proverb is to using one set of weights to measuring what one buys, and a different set of weights to measuring what one sells.
But is ttf truly in the free and clear on this count? Or is it actually irredeemably guilty?
John Wesley’s pithy comment on this verse says simply: ‘Divers – One greater for shew and one lesser for use.’
One greater for show and one lesser for use: Wouldn’t that be a fair description of the different measure we use when we generically address a fund raising letter, ‘Dear Friend and Valued Partner of This Ministry’…but then treat that ‘Partner’ as anything but?
- We might go years without calling them.
- We might know nothing about them other than that they send us money.
- More typically, we might fail to exercise our Ephesians 4:12 responsibilities towards them, seeing them as our supporters and content to accept their gifts, rather than what the Bible calls us to be: supporters of them, equipping them to grow in fullness in relation to the cause we represent.
I always ask executive directors and development personnel: if ‘donors’ heard the way we talk about them in private–if they knew the labels we use for them (regular, middle, major)–and the way we track information about them in our databases, might they not say about us, ‘One greater for shew and one lesser for use’?
Sum it up and say: God detests any measurements that cause us to speak to people one way to their face (‘valued supporter’, ‘partner’) and another in our fund raising reporting (‘regular’, ‘middle’, ‘major’, ‘ripe plum waiting to be picked’, ‘guy with some serious cash’).
2. ‘Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.’ (1 Chronicles 21:1)
What’s wrong with taking a census? In and of itself, nothing. God Himself even directs it from time to time.
The problem comes with the reason for taking a census. When one takes a census in order to measure one’s strength and capacity and health…one runs into a few problems with God, who tends to get rankled anytime one puts one’s strength in what one can see and in what one has in one’s hand…or one’s bank account.
Interesting, isn’t it, that when God talks about a census in Exodus 30:12, He says, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.’
In other words, every time you count, you need to recognize that each individual is provided by the grace of God. Keeps one from the plague of pride and self-sufficiency…or the plague of despair and faithlessness at not having ‘enough’ to do what God has called one to do.
I am ever amazed at true men and women of God–brave, stalwart firebrands of The Word–who become anything but brave and stalwart when they look at their support accounts or the profit/loss statements for their organization. They continually ‘take a census’…agonizing over the daily income reports, getting frustrated and resentful that people don’t give more, and whoring about for any tool or technique or strategy that will provide an immediate alleviation of an income shortfall. Even their demeanor changes, from peace to passion…to anxiety and anger.
Have you ever considered your own review of your finances as a kind of census? Is it possible that Satan may be inciting you to take your daily ‘census’ in the way you do? What might it mean for you to ‘ransom’ each champion each time you count them?
(Side note: Fascinating, isn’t it, that when David makes the offering that stays the hand of the angel of death, that he does so on the site where the temple is later raised up–the temple, which is one of God’s favorite subjects for measurement?)
3. ‘But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.’ (Revelation 11:2)
Don’t worry–I won’t prophesy a date for the end of the world here. (We’ll save that for the premium subscription version of the blog.)
My point in referencing this verse is simply to note that there are some things that God commands that we exclude from measurement.
What kinds of things?
- Secular things.
- By secular people.
- With secular purposes in mind–purposes that trample on God’s purposes.
Have you ever noticed that the measurements we Christian nonprofits make in our development efforts match completely with the measurements that our secular counterparts track? If we’re tracking the same things they are for the same purposes they are and making the same decisions they do with the same data they have…then is it possible that we, too, are trampling on the purposes of The God of Measure by measuring the things He intends us to exclude and by excluding the things He intends us to measure?
This is of course not to say that you shouldn’t maintain a proper profit and loss statement for your organization. By no means. After all, the problem is not with taking a census. It’s with not following God’s guidelines for what to do when you take a census. The problem is the certain measurements really do tempt us to act and think and rely in ways that aren’t consistent with God’s design for us, His leaders, and for His people.
If we pay careful attention, we can see a trend emerging:
God despises measurements that draw attention to human strength and power and capacity because they tempt us to base our decisions on human strength and power and capacity.
Nowhere is that more true–and nowhere is the temptation to do that more acute–than in the arena of fundraising.
If you’re astute, you can almost precisely invert the above statement and predict the kind of measurements God wants us to make and on which He wants us to make our decisions. The surprising thing, though, is the specificity with which the scriptures indicates what those measurements are and how to take them. The measurements scripture directs are literally detailed and practical enough that one can (and is in fact called to) base an entire development program on them.
To these we turn tomorrow.
In the mean time, observe for yourself your own demeanor as you review certain of the measurements you and your organization make. Who is inciting you to measure in such ways? And what might it mean to ransom those statistics in God’s sight?