GIVING TO GOD Our Duty and Delight

Stewardship is about giving to God . . . .

Stewardship is often thought about as managing our money.  It is!  It is also about dealing with so much more.

Stewardship is about managing our time and how we use the precious amount of it that we each have been given.  It is about our talents, or spiritual gifts, and how we can utilize these gifts in the best ways possible for God’s purposes.

Stewardship is about our bodies and keeping them in the best condition we can, including exercise, eating sensibly, managing stress and flossing our teeth.  It is also about our families, nurturing marriages, children and parents.

Stewardship is about caring for God’s gift of the earth, conserving, preserving and recycling.  Stewardship is about the Gospel, sharing God’s life-giving messages through Christ with the world.

Stewardship is about all of life, giving ourselves to God and using all that God has given us in grateful and appropriate ways.  Faithful stewardship is the joy-filled aspect of our relationship with God.

The title of this year’s 2008 annual fall financial stewardship focus is called “Giving to God – Our Duty and Delight.”  It is based upon Part Two of a book by Mark Allen Powell entitled “Giving to God – The Bible’s Good News about Living a Generous Life.

You may recall that last year’s fall financial stewardship focus was based upon Part One of the same book.  Part one described giving to God (1) as an act of worship, (2) as an expression of faith, and (3) as a discipline for spiritual growth.

  • ·        As an act of worship, each Sunday we give out of glad and generous hearts as an expression of love and devotion to the God who is so good to us.  Doing this, we discover a heartfelt relationship with God in which joy and thanksgiving replace self interest or guilt.
  • ·        As an expression of our faith, we confess that all we are and all we have belongs to God and we put this faith into action when we offer ourselves, our time and our possessions to God to be used as God leads us to use them.  Doing this, we discover the practical value of our faith: the God who is ready and willing to shepherd our lives and provide us with everything we need.
  • ·        As a discipline for spiritual growth, we recognize the principle that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Doing this, we discover that such giving becomes a bond that brings us closer to God helping us to become the people we want to be.

The emphasis for the 2008 fall financial stewardship focus is how we as Christians are to use our money for God and considers what “giving to God” means in that context.  Financial stewardship is an awkward topic to discuss for four reasons.  First, we do not consider ourselves as role models in this area.  Second, religious appeals for financial giving have become tainted in our current society as a result of hucksters and con artists who have abused biblical principles for personal gain.  Third is that most of us consider this to be a personal matter.  Finally, our culture has a paradoxical attitude toward wealth, the rich are portrayed as greedy and unhappy, but yet we acknowledge that most people want to be rich.

The 2008 focus makes two distinctions.  The first distinction is between faithful living and faithful giving.  God’s interest in our money extends beyond what we give to the church, charities and other causes.  God is interested in all of our money – how we make it, what we do with it, and even how we feel about it.

The second distinction is that of interpreting scripture in terms of law and gospel.  One theologian (T.A. Kantonen) taught that when people give to the church in order to fulfill obligations of church membership or to be obedient to their church’s teaching, they are responding to the law.  When they give out of gratitude for God’s underserved grace, out of a joyous and spontaneous willingness to sacrifice, they are responding to the gospel.  Giving to God can be our response to both law and gospel and as such it can become our duty and our delight.

This year’s fall financial stewardship program will have four educational Sundays. Each Sunday, the Adult Education hour will focus on one aspect of how we use our money for God.  The first Sunday will begin with our focus on faithful living and the remaining Sundays will discuss the topic of faithful giving.  Specifically:

  • ·        September 14th will provide a brief overview of last year’s program and then will focus on the big picture, accepting the Bible’s invitation to faithful living in all matter related to finances.
  • ·        September 21st will provide an overview faithful giving, of what the Bible says about this aspect of our faithfulness to the gospel of Christ, and will offer a vision of the sort of people we can be when the goodness of God takes hold of our lives.
  • ·        September 28th will lay out the distinction between two different types of giving:  support and sacrifice.   This distinction draws upon the practices of pledges and offerings, re-interpreting these in a way that seems to make better sense of biblical practices and also respects considerations for life in our modern world.  It provides, hopefully, an approach to giving that encourages faithfulness, helps us to understand why we are giving, and helps us to determine just how much we want to give.
  • ·        October 5th will be devoted to consideration of that last point:  How much?

On Saturday evening, October 11th, the Stewardship Action Core will sponsor and host a churchwide dinner event, with Oregon Synod Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke as the featured speaker.  If you came to last year’s event, we know you enjoyed yourself, so please “save the date” and plan to attend.

Sunday morning, October 12th will be Commitment Sunday, when we joyfully place our 2009 Estimates of Giving on the altar during morning worship.

The overall focus of Giving to God is understanding stewardship as the way of life for people who belong to God.  It is, truly, our duty and delight!