Sacrificial Stewardship

Monday Musing 11-9-2010 (Yes it came out on Tuesday)

Each fall Christ Presbyterian Church takes time to emphasize Stewardship. Our fall emphasis is centered on the area of financial stewardship. I think that most of us view this like a visit to the Doctor for our annual check-up. We wouldn’t choose to experience it, but we know it’s necessary and in the long run is good for us. Discussion about financial stewardship is awkward for both pastor and parishioner.

I think part of this  comes from our fear that talking about money might make is more like the money changers or tax-collectors, than Jesus. In reality, open and spiritual conversations about financial stewardship and tithing can be transformative. There are many aspects of stewardship that have deep connection with our general spiritual health. I’m not saying that the higher the amount you give the healthier your spirit is. In fact our Scriptural examples are based in the reality of proportionality.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.”But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

The widow who gave very little in terms of monetary value gave a substantial amount due to the sacrifice it called for her to make. The idea of sacrifice is not one that I think we have often connected with our stewardship. We like to focus our life in positive ways, and looking at our stewardship in light of joy and blessing is a very positive framework. Sacrifice is not looked upon with a very positive light in our culture, but we know that in our Christian tradition sacrifi

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ce is a deeply profound and positive aspect of our faith life. I wonder if we miss something by not also looking towards sacrifice in our discussion of stewardship?

The story of Jesus is one that reflects God’s love in sacrifice. Jesus’ coming into the world and being an atonement for our sin is a story of deep sacrifice for the good of all creation. Jesus calls his first disciples to make a sacrifice by leaving all they have to follow him. In the Old Testament we have a constant reminder of the fact that the prophets sacrifice in order to proclaim the Word of God to the people.

What sacrifice are we called to make? What do we give up or risk in order to follow Jesus? These are deep questions that are frankly scary to answer. In the largest Biblical sense we are asked to give up our lives. In the practical sense we are given a special opportunity to sacrifice in the area of  financial stewardship. While we have had uncertain financial times in our nation as of late, for the most part our area has been relatively blessed. That’s not to paint a Pollyanna view of reality. Like most congregations, we have people in our congregation that are experiencing financial difficulties. Yet, we also have those who have been financially blessed even during this shaky time.

It would be easy for me to put the budget in the Monday Mailing and say, “if you want this to continue, you better pledge.” That’s not the stewardship theology that we employ at Christ Presbyterian. Rather, we are a congregation that seeks to fulfill our commitment to God in the spiritual and practical practice of extravagant generosity. This year as you listen to the testimonials of our congregants and as you pray for discernment of your financial stewardship commitment, I want to ask you to ask the question of sacrifice. As you consider your commitment I hope that you might reflect on the sacrifice that God has made in Jesus Christ and ask yourself, “what sacrifice am I making in this commitment?”

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One thought on “Sacrificial Stewardship

  1. OK – So my thoughts focused on the comment: “we are a congregation that seeks to fulfill our commitment to God in the spiritual and practical practice of extravagant generosity”. I was reminded of how a few weeks ago you referenced the fact that 50 years ago folks sacrificed to build a church for the future congregations they might never meet. It helps when thinking about a sacrificial commitment level to remember that it is not a one year gig. Generous giving brings exponential benefits beyond the specific year it is given.

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