In our hymnal, the Evangelical Lutheran Worship, one of the offering prayers goes as follows:
“Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things. Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts: our selves, our time, and our possessions. Use us, and what we have gathered, in feeding the world with your love, through the one who gave him-self for us, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord”
How do I hear these words? If my offering is based on a feeling of obligation, then I might perceive my offering as payment of dues or a fee for services received. But if I see my offering through the eyes of discipleship, then what I give is symbolic of giving myself to God, who loves us with an everlasting love!
Years ago, I saw my offering as something I needed to do to keep the church going. This viewpoint put me in control. Under this understanding I could even use my gift to get my way in the community, using the economic model of voting with my dollars. Instead, as a disciple I don’t see my offering as a response to the budget. No, it is a joyful response to God’s grace and love! As a disciple of Christ I understand that all that I have and all that I am is a gift from God.
I love this prayer because it holds that understanding, “Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts: our selves, our time, and our possessions.” This understanding removes my gift from the realm of something that I control; instead, it becomes something that the Spirit moves me to do. Each year in the fall, Bette and I set aside time to pray about our giving. We ask God, "What is our base this year? Where is our starting point? What is the Spirit calling us to do?" The answers to those questions become our pledge.
Over the years, Bette and I have grown in our giving to where our starting point is a tithe. This is truly a gift from God. Each time we fill out a pledge card or update our online giving, we do it with joy because we know God has empowered us to do this. For me the amazing thing is that our giving doesn’t stop there. Through faith we saw that as needs arise we can give more to help people facing a disaster, or hunger, or to help with a youth mission trip. Each time that joy of giving is with us.
Now, you might say, “But, Pastor Tim, you don’t know how hard it is.” I do. I've walked that path. I know how hard it is to look at all the needs and wants and then increase my giving. It takes a step of faith. Our journey started with small steps; one percent more each year. Amazingly as time moved on, the steps became leaps. The more we surrendered, the more God took over and the easier it became. But, with every journey you must take that first step.
Let us pray:
Dear God, guide us in our giving. Help us to see that all we have, all we are, and all we see is a gift of your goodness. Guide us as we step out in this faith journey. Amen