Whenever church folks hear the word stewardship they think the church is asking for money again. Many of our churches, including our own, wring their hands about meeting the budget, paying the fuel bill, and keeping enough hours for the office administrator. The goal might be to level fund what we did last year or maybe just keep the doors open. I for one don’t like that narrative. It’s a story that concentrates on the myth of scarcity instead of the abundance that is all around us.
My hope is that people would not just give their “fair share” or a percentage of whatever is left over after all the bills are paid, but that we would learn to be generous people and create generous congregations.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” We often don’t read his teaching very carefully and reverse it to say, “Where your heart is there your treasure will be.” That makes sense to us. We give to what matters to us. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said give to the things you want to care about. If you care about increasing the property value of your home, put in a new kitchen. If you want to grow in your faith and trust in God, bring an offering to God.
You see, Jesus rarely tells us to feel a certain way, but to act in a certain way. Jesus never told us to feel charitable toward our neighbors and enemies. We can’t feel on command. Instead Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek,” “Give to those who beg from you,” “Pray for your enemies,” and “Give thanks to God.” Don’t wait until you feel like it. As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.”
And you know what often happens? When you start doing the things you want to care about, your heart starts to follow. You give out of joy instead of guilt or obligation. While churches are supposed to be the “Body of Christ,” they can also disappoint us, make us angry, or make decisions we disagree with. As Paul said, “We carry this treasure in clay jars.” In other words, the Gospel lives within and is spoken through broken people.
But that’s why we come to church, isn’t it? We know we are broken people. Here we find forgiveness and mercy. Here we find outlets to do good and to be better. Here we find a love that will not let us go. Here we are shaped by worship, music and teaching that makes us into the kind of people God wants us to be. Here we learn to be distinctive, to be to Christ’s people so that we might bring a bit of the kingdom of God to our corner of the world.
Next month we will start our annual stewardship campaign. Our theme this year is Grateful Hearts. Faithful Hearts based upon Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6: 21-33 about trusting God with our physical and financial needs. You’ll be getting materials in the mail and hearing people’s stories during worship which we hope will inspire you and help you think about your giving at FBC. Sunday, November 11 will be Stewardship Sunday when you will be asked to make a commitment to support the mission and ministry of First Baptist Church.
This is an especially important year as you consider your pledge. You will begin a search for your next pastor and you will want to offer a fair compensation package. The parsonage needs repairs and updating. During this interim time, we will want to try some new programming and outreach events. All of this takes money and commitment.
This stewardship season I invite you to reflect upon where is your treasure? What do you want your heart to follow? What is your attitude about money? Do you have a hard time trusting God with your money? Where has God come through for you when money was tight? Can God provide again?
When you make a faith-promise to support First Baptist Church don’t do it just because you have to or feel obliged. Do it to become a more generous person and to invest in the things that last.