From the Reverend’s Desk
There’s no such thing as a free lunch – or so we’re told. But some Christians take a different view. Life itself is a gift of God, part of God’s creation. It cannot be bought, money alone cannot extend it and being able to thank God for it is an act of faith and grace.
This leads on to the practicalities about how we live. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were instructed to offer a proportion of their harvest (the first fruits) in thankfulness to the Creator. It was a reminder of stewardship of the Creator’s world, and through ‘thanks-giving’, they were promised blessings; they knew Whose they were and Whom they served. A little later, in the history of Israel, the people were instructed to give 1/10th of their income – a tithe. Tithing has never been universally practiced in the Christian Church, but a number of Christian traditions and many individual Christians adopt it is a pattern and testify to its influence on their faith journey.
Jesus told stories about a widow’s gift, good and bad stewards, and workers in the vineyard as parables of the Kingdom. Paul, writing to the congregation at Corinth appealing for the collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem tells of the Macedonians “who, though they were very poor, gave as much as they could, and even more than they could… You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty” (2 Cor.8:3,8).
For too long Churches have ignored these patterns of the Kingdom and followed the ways of the world. Giving in the Church has been limited to meeting the – small as possible – church budget. Our focus has been on what we think the church can just about manage on, and we have ignored our stewardship of all the treasure-trove that God has given to each of us.
Let’s change that in this church. There was a time when members of our congregation gave in proportion to what God has given them; some of it to the Church but some, too, will be personal gifts to the work of the Kingdom elsewhere. Let’s have a vision of Administrative Council meetings where the question “can we afford…?” and phrases like “budget deficit” and “balance the books” are never heard again. A vision of groups with a passion for mission, evangelism, and outreach, debating how best we can use the finances God has placed amongst God’s people. We long for the day when, for all of us, giving becomes an act of joy and is never again thought of as a tax deduction or a subscription due. And there is a connection between the mission impact of the early Church and their gifts in their life together as a Christian community. “All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings… And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved”. (Acts 2:44, 47b).
Of course, we all have more to give than money, but for the stewardship season we are concentrating on money. Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 8:12) that God asks us only to give out of what we have got, not what we haven’t got (giving in proportion to your disposable income). Thus, the invitation is for everyone. No-one is exempt because of their levels of income; low or high. Have you ever sat down to work out what proportion of the money at your disposal is used for what might be called Kingdom purposes; your church and charitable giving?
Have you ever compared your weekly Church and charitable giving to the money you spend on newspapers and magazines, vacations, Sunday brunches or a visit to a football game? Is your giving to “the work of God” the first priority in your spending or does it come out of your loose change or what’s left over at the end of the month?
These are serious questions about discipleship as well as about money. Giving with a thankful heart, because God loves a cheerful giver, leads to a new freedom about finance and faith. We hope that all the members of our congregation will be willing to take a step in faith in considering Christian Giving. The amount you give is entirely a matter for your personal decision, but it should be:
• Given thankfully and cheerfully
• In proportion to your means
• Regular and committed.
In the near future, the stewardship team will address all those associated with our congregation asking everyone to think and pray about this, and to respond in a way that is appropriate for them. Please pray for our church as we take these steps in faith and discipleship.
If you would like to talk to you minister about the issue raised in this article, please get in touch and schedule an appointment at calendly.com/revgates.