The Sunday Sermon: Stewardship of God’s blessings
Today’s reading from II Corinthians gives us the opportunity this morning to talk about something which we’ve not really talked about since I arrived: Stewardship.
Stewardship is the caring for and the right relationship with the “things” which we have. It encompasses every dimension of our lives – our lives together as God’s People in the Church of the Holy Cross and as individuals in our daily lives. It involves a wide variety of topics- stewardship of our bodies – taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. It includes taking care of our properties – maintaining these beautiful buildings so that we can pass them on to future generations of Holy Crossers in good condition. And it involves our finances – that is, what is our relationship to our bank account? That’s primarily what I want to talk about today.
Jesus spoke about money and our relationship with our money and material goods more than any other topic during his earthly ministry. And he did so, I think, because he knew that if we had a wrong relationship with our “stuff and things,” particularly our finances, we would also have a bad relationship with not only those around us, but also with our Heavenly Father and his Kingdom. Look at how often money and property are the causes of arguments among families and friends, even among married couples. Money is a major part of our lives. We really can’t avoid dealing with it. And so, the only thing we can do it make sure that we are dealing with it and using it rightly as God intended.
So, how is it that God wants us to use the things which we have?
In very simple terms, he wants us to use them bless others. Out of our abundance, God asks us to bless others.
Now, you may say “God hasn’t blessed me with an abundance of money or wealth.” To that I would say – I know the feeling. But the reality is that, unlike some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ve never gone hungry. I may not have had the really nice steak I would love to have, but I’ve had enough to eat and I’ve had enough left over to share. I do have an abundance with which God has blessed me. We need to be careful about what we think is “an abundance” lest we begin to think we are poor and a spirit of poverty over takes us.
In short, God wants us to use what he has blessed us with and use it to bless others in his Holy Name.
Now, we are all familiar with the tithe. A tithe means 10% giving. And in the Old Testament, the tithe was an obligatory offering to the God and the way that it was given to God was through the Temple. And that offering given to God would then be used to support the ministries.
In church today we talk about the tithe as the standard of Giving. Our giving should be 10% of our income. As one person who I know tithes once pointed out to me – the tithe belongs to God – that’s his, it doesn’t belong to you. Your giving starts after the 10%. Well, I don’t want to push you that far yet. I want you to start considering the tithe.
Although most of the teachings regarding the tithe are found in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, Jesus does in fact teach that we should be tithing. But what’s interesting is that he sees tithing as one of the minor points of our faithfulness to God – minor in that it should be a given, not something which we brag or boast about, nor something we spend much time debating about.
This morning’s reading from Second Corinthians gives us one of the longest New Testament discourses on giving. Through out much of his itinerant ministry, Paul would ask congregations to make a gift of money for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem. As he would travel about, he would send off that money with a member of the congregation back to Jerusalem. He didn’t make a flashy collection with a plate or basket. Rather, when he arrived, he would arrange for someone to take the money that had been collected and bring it to Jerusalem. And if he thought it would be good for him to go at the same time he would. Our giving shouldn’t be flashy either – it should be the outpouring of a generous and loving heart in response to God’s blessings upon us.
In today’s reading Paul writes to the Corinthians who had agreed to make a gift to the church in Jerusalem but hadn’t followed through. And in his exhortation to them to make good on their promise, he teaches us about how we should be in our own giving.
First he tells us that our giving has to do with the genuineness of our love for God. Love is not expressed in empty words but rather, love is expressed and made known in action. We may say we love someone but if we don’t act accordingly the words are empty. Loving God with all our heart, all our minds, and all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, demands that we follow up what we say with what we do. If we love God and we love the church, then we must give of our selves in time, talent, and treasure in order to make good on what we have said we feel.
Secondly, Paul reminds us of why we ought to give. If we are to follow the examply of our Lord, we must remember that he, in a generous act of love for us became poor so that we might become rich. That is to say, that he became man so that we might be blessed with riches of eternal life. Our giving is a response to the Gospel – it is following the example of our Lord’s giving generously of his whole self.
And finally, Paul reminds us the acceptability of our gifts. Paul doesn’t use the word tithe. That is, he doesn’t say how much we should give because that actually might be restrictive. Rather, he tells us that where there is eagerness to give – that is where our hearts are eager to give of our goods – the gift will be acceptable if our eagerness matches our means – that is what we have. He tells us that we don’t need to impoverish ourselves to help others, but we should be giving and our hearts, inspired by the Holy Spirit will convict us of what the right amount of giving will be.
“The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little do not have too little.”
As you look at your own stewardship, I encourage you to bring God into the picture. He calls on you to share what you have for the building up of his Kingdom – so that the ministries he wants done here may be carried out to his honor and his glory.
So let us seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that in turn we may learn to be good stewards of the blessings we have been given, so that we may use them to bless others and bring honor and glory to our God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.