I read an interesting article a week ago about a wealthy clubbin’ hemophiliac Episcopal priest (a particular area of interest for me). The article reported that this minister makes trips to New York City (where he also receives medical treatments) to frequent clubs where he spends tens of thousands of dollars on drinks and even tips very generously.

While the story is very interesting in and of itself, what fascinated me most was the response of his Bishop who temporarily removed him from all active ministries. In an another article, the Bishop said that if the accusations were true,

Such actions “portray an unacceptable idea of Christian stewardship.” The money reportedly spent in one night “would build and equip an African school or totally underwrite the homeless shelter we are building in Scranton.”

All feelings for Scranton aside, how do we really draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate spending? It seems to be ok to judge someone’s spending habits or any other habits only when they are really bad, out of balance, or not in moderation. After we have made the judgment that a particular action is too far out of line, we pull something like the ‘poor people card’ that the Bishop did in the above quote.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes qualitative as opposed to quantitative judgments about doing wrong. In other words, your actions either measure up or they do not, there is no in between. Whether its murder vs. anger, adultery vs. lust, or retaliation vs. giving, Jesus says that they are both wrong and liable for punishment. He does not give any leeway. This understanding of our actions, thankfully, drives us to the fact that we are in desperate need of death and resurrection (qualitative change) as opposed to need of improvement (quantitative change).

Following the qualitative line of thought, the Bishop should actually remove everyone from his ministry! Whether it is eating out versus brown bagging your lunch or buying too nice of a car that crosses the line (Toyota Camry is ok but the Avalon is unnaceptable!), all of us fall desperately short at some point.

Fortunately for us there is a different way, “we have and Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” (1 John 2:1).