This past Sunday my heart and soul filled with joy as I witnessed so many of you come forward in worship to dedicate your financial commitment to our beloved church for 2019.
For many this act of promise to support the life of the church is not new. You have heard countless stewardship sermons. You have noted God’s generosity. Out of gratitude, you have given before and you continue to give. For your on-going giving, I can only say “thank you”. For some in our congregation, giving to the church is new. To you I also say: “thank you”. I wonder if terms such as pledges, tithe, first-fruits, even stewardship itself, sound like churchy lingo we use to avoid saying money, fundraising or donations. But words matter. Putting financial giving in the right context is important.
Stewardship language reminds us that “it” is not just about our money. First off, there’s that pesky possessive term “our”. Reminding ourselves that you and I are stewards (managers) of God’s gifts of life, of talents, of time and yes of all material treasures-- is humbling. It puts all our giving in perspective. When we give for the first time or for the 50th time – we are returning to God what is God’s.
Tithe is the Old English word for "tenth." Tithing means to give one-tenth of your income to the church. If you lived in the ancient middle east and followed the Law of Moses, then when your first 100 bunches of grapes were harvested the best 10 bunches went first to the Temple to support the priests and be distributed to the poor (Num. 18:24, Deut. 12:11, and 26:12). Today the exact % is not what I stress. You alone in prayer and discernment can know what amount of money constitutes an act of faithful giving on your part. Today concepts of first-fruit giving and tithing reminds us to set priorities. God should not receive only an after-thought of thanks or the left-over of our material resources. A tithe is a significant portion, one befitting of our generous God.
I’ll end my exploration of ‘churchy language about giving’ with a word about pledging. Your giving is an act of faith, so much so that we include a time of giving in our worship every week. But we ask for a pledge, a promise from you about your yearly giving, at the beginning of our budgeting cycle (around Harvest time) because knowing what level of income we can expect helps us be good stewards. We are committed to maintaining transparent and strong accounting and budgeting practices. So, if you have not filled out your commitment card and returned it to the church, please do so – for the first time or the 50th time. Reflect on what faithful and generous giving looks like for you and please challenge yourself to increase your giving as you are able. Set the church up as a biller in your on-line banking if giving regularly is easier for you that way. However you give, at whatever level you give, I hope that the act of both reflecting on the spiritual act of giving, as well as committing to giving as a discipline and practice of faith, will be meaningful to you. I hope you will find joy in seeing the gifts of God growing as we harvest them together and allow them to multiply under God’s gracious guidance.