Years ago I had a member of the church that I was serving stop by my office to talk. He starts, “Pastor, I have a question.”
“What is it Bill?” (Not his real name.)
“Why do you always talk about love? Shouldn't you talk more about sin and how people need to behave to merit God's love?”
Now, I could've taken the opportunity to talk to him about how we can't earn God's love; instead God's love is a free gift in Christ. But, we had already had that conversation and he didn't seem really open to hearing it again. So instead I responded “Well, Bill, love is what Jesus spoke about the most in the gospels.”
Sitting forward in his chair he said, “Then why don't you preach on what Jesus spoke about the second most?”
I have to admit the little snarky person in my heart started to jump for joy because I knew what that second topic was. I also knew how Bill would respond to that topic. So with a smile on my face I said, “I would be happy to preach on that next Sunday.”
I confess I should've handled that situation better, but I didn't. Instead, on that next Sunday I spoke about MONEY! I spoke about the widow’s mite; that where your treasure is that is where your heart is also; how difficult it is for a rich person to get into the kingdom of heaven; the weeds of riches and worldly cares that choke out the word,;and the rich young man who walked away sad…
I was quite satisfied with myself, while Bill was pretty upset. In my self righteousness I think I harmed peoples’ understanding of giving as a spiritual gift. You say all too often we are hit with the yoke of judgment when it comes to giving. But, in reality, giving—stewardship—is a gift of grace; a gift of the Holy Spirit.
If we give only out of compulsion, fear, or the need to meet a budget, our giving can be disconnected from our spiritual life. Instead, our giving is a response to God's love and grace. Our giving is a way of participating in God's wonderful plan for creation. Our giving helps us to turn from our own desires, and instead focus on the needs of others and what God is calling us to. When we give in response to love we are stating that there is something bigger than us in the world and we want to participate in that through our gifts.
Over the next few days as we prepare for our Commitment Sunday on November 15, I'm going to talk to you about giving of our time, talent, and treasure as a spiritual gift; as a way of discipleship. I hope you will join me.
Prayer: Loving God, as we gaze at your beautiful creation; of all that we have; all that we are; and all that surrounds us, help us to remember that it is all a beautiful gift of your grace. Amen.
In Christ’s Love,