May 29, 2009
A Touch of Class, Part One
by Charles R. Swindoll
It's gone on long enough. The pigsty in the landscape has to go. If we expect the tourist traffic to increase and the visitors to return to Lake Evangelicalism, we're gonna have to do something about the ugly ducklings. Some changes are long overdue.
Somebody should've tarred 'n' feathered the very first stingy board member or strung up the whole squint-eyed, tight-fisted committee way back when. Whoever they were, they did us no favor. They---and the long line of those who follow in their train---are the ones who erroneously confuse excellence with extravagance. Somehow, by means of pious-sounding put-downs they succeed in convincing God's people that God's work shouldn't look too nice . . . that quality is carnality . . . that taste is waste . . . that something well done is overdone . . . that elegance calls for apology, and a touch of class belongs only to the secular.
"If it's spiritual," they say, "it shouldn't be too attractive or very expensive."
They got their way. Just look around. For years we've lived with this reputation. There are some wonderful exceptions on this big lake, I'm glad to say, but not nearly enough. By and large, if the theology of a ministry is conservative so is its architecture. And its furniture. And its appointments. And its equipment. And its salaries. And its honorariums. Even its style smacks of leftovers, afterthoughts, hand-me-downs, and secondhand stuff.
Do you question that? Check with a missionary who recently opened a grab bag of clothing from the States. That's one of the reasons missionaries need a great sense of humor, by the way. It helps keep them from crying when they shake out the garments the traditional-thinking evangelical church sends their way. I know; I've been there when they wear those things for their annual costume party. It's hilarious.
No, it's downright tragic. Late one night, thousands of miles from America, after all the fun 'n' games were over (when the kids were down and our privacy was secure), a handful of God's choicest saints on foreign soil told me a few of their secrets. One couple said that they had recently received a box of clothing at least twenty years out of date, soiled, with missing buttons and broken zippers. But the ultimate story was told by the family who said their home church once mailed them a box that included a container of used tea bags. No, it wasn't meant to be a joke.
Being financially responsible is one thing. Being ridiculously frugal is quite another. Why have we embraced the idea that elegance and class have no place on the spectrum of spirituality? Since when is it more spiritual to play a beat-up old upright than a fine baby grand? What makes us less comfortable working and worshiping in lovely surroundings than in plain ones? Who ever said that humility and beauty cannot coexist?
I'm honest; I've searched the Scriptures to find statements that support such an extreme emphasis on cutting every economic corner. The only place I find support for that (you're not going to like this) is in the personal realm, not in the realm of God's work. God's Word encourages us to be prudent individuals but generous (dare I say extravagant?) with Him. Time and again in the pages of God's Book, the saints are exhorted to be magnanimous, liberal, openhanded . . . to such an extreme that some today would find themselves almost ill at ease surrounded by such opulent loveliness.
Think it over. Do you see yourself in these words? How can you be a partner with the Lord in a pursuit of excellence and a commitment to beauty?
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.