What we give is a barometer of what we believe. I rarely begin a blog that directly. Lord knows, I’ve never begun a stewardship sermon that directly. I’ll be honest with you: Most of us ministers hate preaching on Stewardship/Commitment Sunday. Why is that? It’s because everyone knows how the sermon will end before we complete the first sentence. It’s the most predictable Sunday of the year.
Over the years I have tried to massage those messages in a host of ways. I’ve selected scripture passages that seemed to have very little to do with giving, hoping that as we explored the verses together there would be an “Ah Ha!” moment, a congregational epiphany that some obscure lesson from Leviticus actually had to do with faith and generosity. At other times (lots of times) I have gone the route of crafting creative sermon titles, things that were intended to make the congregation guess where this is going or what it has to do with giving. Neither of those approaches ultimately mattered much. Everyone recognized that it was Stewardship Sunday and that sooner or later, no matter what text or title appeared in the bulletin, I was going to get around to giving.
So, I’m thinking: Why not just be upfront about it? Just state the reality. What we give is a barometer of what we believe. The author of Proverbs phrased it concisely: “Honor the Lord with your substance.” (3:9) Giving is one clear way of honoring God, of declaring our thanks, of lending voice to our gratitude, of expressing our faith. Marble’s friend, Rev. Becca Stevens, said, “I cannot imagine how I would express my gratitude to God except in covenant with other believers.” Put another way: What we give to the Community of Faith reveals how grateful we are to the One in whom our faith resides. “Honor the Lord with your substance.”
So, I write this hoping a couple of things will occur. First, I hope some folks read it. Second, I hope those who do read it will give it prayerful consideration that results in generous contribution. Most of us really have a lot for which to be thankful, whether that is health, family, friends, a job, a romance, a safe place to live, enough to eat, the blessings of residing in a free country, or any of countless other things large or small that bring us joy. Whatever brings joy and meaning to your life, that is a gift. It is a blessing from God to you and, thus, a symbol of the depth of God’s love for you. If we are moved by that, we want to show our thanks. And how can that be more effectively done than “in covenant with believers”? What we commit to the church is essentially the Thank-You note we send to our Creator. The Bible reminds us of that when it says, “Honor the Lord with your substance.” There’s not much way around it. So, this year I have chosen not to try and massage the message or sneak a stewardship theme in the back door. Instead, I want to be as honest and direct as the Bible is by reiterating: What we give is a barometer of what we believe.