When you hear the words "faith-based" at Lighthouse, the idea behind the words has everything to do with actively engaging in a relationship with God.
It's never about the money. And it's all about the money. That sounds like a contradiction, but is it?
The Lighthouse board and administration are confident that the Lord led our school to adopt a new (and some would say radical) tuition model we call "faith-based", in which individual families undertake to engage with God about the use of their resources--all of their resources: money, time, talent, intellect, energy, goodwill...the list is rich, thanks be to God. I believe that the board's priority was to lead the Lighthouse families to first submit wholly to God, and second to submit to God specifically with regard to their resources. It's the submission and engagement that matters most. It's never really about the money. It's about exercising faith in a God who engages.
In truth, "faith-based" should apply to any tuition model, regardless of whether it revolves around a tuition amount that is hard and fast, or a tuition amount that is determined by each individual family's assessment of God's leading. One model "risks" the possibility that not enough students will enroll because not enough families can afford the hard and fast tuition amount. Another model "risks" the possibility that not enough money will come in because families will feel free to treat their tuition commitment with less than full submission.
In either case, the exercise of faith in God's provision is the key. If the students come, God will have provided them; God will have provided the resources families need to achieve the goal they believe he has led them to pursue; God will provide the means to honor the commitment a family makes to pay their tuition. Dare I say that may mean a family must choose to borrow the funds in order to honor their God-inspired commitment and trust God to provide the means to pay the loan back? It's never about the money, it's all about faith in God's provision.
But I believe it's all about the money, too. Why? Money is something we like to have "enough" of. If you say that's not true, I think you aren't being honest with yourself. Having enough money--however we measure what "enough" is--helps us feel "safe" and can even serve, falsely, to validate or invalidate the path we've taken. Lots of money? "Why, I must have chosen what God intended, because he is blessing me financially." Not enough money? "Well, then I must have taken the wrong path in life. God is displeased." I believe that this attitude turns money into an idol. I can say this because I am the chief sinner. In terms of exercising radical faith, there are few areas that hit me harder than the financial area.
Imagine for a moment that instead of giving money the idolatrous power to validate or invalidate our life choices, we recognize money as simply one tool in a toolbox that God created for our good. Other tools in the box are named health, joy, children, talent, creativity etc. Each is designed to elicit a faith response from us. Each affords us the opportunity to use them as possessions for our own selfish desires (idol worship) or to freely offer them back to God for use in His hands (true worship).
In this capacity, money has no other value than as God's tool used for our good. He doesn't need it to provide for himself, for he "owns the cattle on a thousand hills". He says in Job 41:11, "Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me." Money itself is not necessary for God to accomplish his purposes or to do his work. But he knows that the quality of our "work"--"to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" according to the Westminster Confession--depends on what we trust. The depth with which we trust in money or resources holds great sway over how we feel and what we choose. The person with much is tempted to believe that his riches keep him safe; the person with little is tempted to believe that his poverty takes away his safety. Obviously, in some senses this is true: money cures many ills, literally. And the pain of poverty can be crushing. But in the eternal perspective (which we must take as followers of Christ), the opposite is true: annointed poverty is freeing (think lilies of the field and the poor in spirit), and idolatrous wealth is enslaving (think camel and the needle's eye and the rich young ruler). And so God lovingly wields the tool of money to reveal our idolatry and teach us to trust him.
The fact of the matter is that God wants us to trust him for our needs--daily. What if our money behaved more like the manna in the desert? God gifted the Israelites with a commodity that was self-regulating. It rotted overnight when it was stockpiled. How different our world would be if our money disappeared from our bank accounts overnight, and every day was a new day to experience God's provision from zero. If we had a particularly profitable day, wouldn't we be quick to distribute all of our wealth, every day, before it disappeared? Wouldn't we be quick to give it to those in need? That actually sounds like heaven to me. It sounds like freedom. It sounds like a wild, joyful, annointed party.
Please understand that I'm not insisting we give our money away every day. That would fly in the face of other equally valid ways of using money for God's glory, and undermine the God-prescribed use of resources for sabbatical rest—after all, God allowed the Israelites to gather and squirrel away two days worth of manna in preparation for the Sabbath. And obviously, God could have made money like manna and he chose not to. But I encourage you to use illustrations like this to think creatively about money as a God-designed tool which provides opportunities to glorify God and trust him.
So, now is the time to re-evaluate our response to the call to radical faith in God's provision. What is he calling you to gain by giving away? What is he waiting to bless you with spiritually? Where is he using the tool of money in your life to reveal your heart toward him and your faith-response to his provision? I challenge you to engage in a mighty way with God this year. Because it's all about the money. Because it's NEVER about the money.