Christians must continue to pursue the highest and best, even in the presence of dire need. No period of undisturbed tranquility is just over the horizon, the arrival of which will then permit a Golden Age of pursuing the best that has been thought or written. The time for beauty, higher learning, and the pursuit of excellence is now, whether we are in Monaco or Monrovia. If we, in the name of wartime-lifestyle-gospel-centred-radical-whatever-you-call-it, eschew beautiful instruments and quality hymnals, all that will happen is we will sing inferior songs on inferior instruments.
“Why this waste?” said the greediest member of the Twelve. Judas’s supposed concern with helping the poor and for efficient use of ministry finances was really a facade for his unvarnished envy. Judas wanted money, and like every jealous soul, disliked money being spent lavishly on someone else.
The sentiment that it is frivolous waste to spend money on anything except dire need is popular among some Christians. It’s an easy sentiment to have, even a lazy one, perhaps. What could be a better use of money than giving it to those who have the least, right? And what could be a more wasteful use of money than spending more on those who already have enough, correct? Such “automatic-entitlement” functions rather like the Left’s politics of victimization. Find a race, gender, or “sexual orientation” that has been supposedly oppressed, and such a group automatically receives the unassailable position of victim, requiring special treatment, and requiring no defense of its now-privileged status. The same Leftist sentimentalism often brews within Christianity, and bubbles out when spending is on anything except extreme need.
My church is not wealthy, relative to some others in the city. Our monthly budget is exactly half of some of our sister churches not far from us. Of course, that same budget is several times larger than some of the other churches we know and fellowship with. That’s simply life, and as anyone who understands biblical economics knows, inequality is not injustice.
But given our middle-sized budget, what justification is there for spending a considerable amount of the hard-earned and saved money of our church on a very expensive musical instrument, and on hard-cover hymnals? How could we do this, amidst a sea of poverty? “Why this waste?” one might opine. Why not a few guitars and a simple Powerpoint projection?
One of the best answers comes from C.S. Lewis, in his essay “Learning in War-time.” Lewis faced a similar criticism during World War 2. What was the point of having scholars study medieval literature or Anglo-Saxon linguistics when there were Nazis bombing European cities? Wasn’t this an almost literal enactment of fiddling while Rome burned?