“No one can be the slave of two masters; such a slave will hate one and love the other or will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13
The ruling by the SCOTUS on Friday will undoubtedly result in an assault on religious freedom in this country. This is not speculation or hysteria. The possibility of religious persecution as a direct result of this ruling was clearly outlined in the dissenting opinions of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia. People who possess more knowledge than I in the area of Constitutional law have articulated why this was a bad legal decision so I am not going to expand on that topic any further. As a follower of Christ, my main concern right now is how the Church will respond.
Before any action can be taken, I feel the need as a Church to repent.* In an effort to win converts, we have become as consumer-driven as our culture. The intent was good, but the means to get there have been disastrous. With the exception of a few, we have embraced materialism/consumerism. I am not railing against those individuals to whom God has blessed with money. This is not a class-warfare diatribe or a judgment on those who have not taken a vow of poverty. My question is how closely are we tied to those things? How closely are we tied to money?
Religious schools, businesses, and non-profits will likely be the first to be targeted for religious persecution if they do not “comply” with the new mandate. Will the retention of tax-exempt status** be placed above standing for the faith? Will profit? Will a brand new building? These are serious questions that will have to be answered by these schools and organizations. They will have to decide whether they will serve God or money. As Jesus wisely said, you cannot serve both.
Will these decisions be easy? No. It may involve loss and a possibility of down-sizing within these organizations, businesses, and churches. It may require civil disobedience or a lawsuit to stand up for religious freedom. The bottom line is that it will cost something. To pretend it will not would be dishonest. But almost 2,000 years ago 12 men without tax-exempt status, a big budget, a big building, or a fog machine changed the world. They proved that the good new of Christ does not need these things in order to grow and flourish.
*This is just one of the many things we need to repent of as the Church and that I am repenting of personally. Another area that comes to mind is our inconsistent teaching and church discipline regarding sexual ethics and divorce. This has hurt our credibility and opened us up to criticism regarding our consistency with Christ’s teachings.
** I previously wrote that losing tax-exempt status could be a blessing in disguise. After further reading and consideration I have revised my position. Losing tax-exempt status would actually give the government the ability to “punish” churches who do not conform via their taxing power. Rather than freeing churches, it would shackle them and ruin smaller congregations. The entire purpose of a tax-exempt status is to protect churches from government intrusion. We have seen under this administration how the IRS can be used to punish those whom they disagree with.