As you have probably heard, our congregation has been working on intentionally teaching about stewardship for the first time in a long while. It is not hard to see why pastors and churches shy away from talking about stewardship. For far too long, stewardship is a word that only comes to mind when the church’s finances are tight, and stewardship has been seen as the church guilting people into giving more money.
Zion has no interest in that kind of stewardship. By the grace of God and thanks to your generous gifts, our finances are stable and Zion is able to meet its financial needs. So why talk about stewardship? Because stewardship is nothing else than teaching about our life in Christ, how we as God’s people respond to God’s gracious gifts and use them in a way that honors and glorifies Him. Stewardship is about far more than money, although it certainly includes how we care for the financial resources God has entrusted to us. Stewardship is about how we take care of and manage all that God has entrusted us with, our resources, our time, our talents and gifts, even His very Word and the good news about Jesus. We don’t want to listen to God’s Word about stewardship because the finances are tight at church. We want to listen to God’s Word about stewardship because He has redeemed us precisely so that we may be His own people and steward what He has entrusted us with. A life well lived in Christ can only mean being a steward of God’s precious gifts.
When it comes to stewardship, a favorite Bible verse is the account of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1–4). It’s a moving account. Our Lord praises the seemingly small gift of two copper coins given by a poor widow above the abundance of gifts given by the rich, saying, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them” (Luke 21:3). And that is usually where we stop. But the text goes on. “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4).
“She … put in all she had to live on.” She gave everything. She held nothing back. She trusted that the Lord who made her and all creatures; who gave her everything she had; who redeemed her from her own sin, from death, and the power of the devil; who called her by the gospel and enlightened her with His gifts of Word and Sacrament; would continue to do this. He would provide her with all that she needed for this body and life because that is the character of the God she had.
But this is not why we give small gifts. Her gift, though it appeared small, was actually large. When we are tempted to give small gifts, it is precisely because we want them to be small! We don’t trust the Lord to provide for us. We give small gifts because we lack faith in the One who created us, redeemed us, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. We give small gifts because we doubt that God will really give us what we need and desire. We give small gifts because we are not content with what God has already given.
We are not slaves, children of the slave woman, under the Old Covenant (Galatians 4). We are adopted sons of the free woman. And since we are sons, we are also heirs. And heirs receive the inheritance. For everything is already ours in Christ. And thus, moved by the willing spirit of adoption, we do the will of God in financial matters far beyond all that done by those under the Old Covenant who were forced by legal demands.
So, what have you decided to give? How do I decide what to give? Let the Scriptures be your guide.
We are to give proportionally to what we have received from God’s giving to us (Luke 12:48; 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, 2 Corinthians 8:12). But you have not been set free to give nothing. See that you excel in the grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7)!
We are not free to live selfishly outside the Gospel, without regard for God who gives us all good gifts, without generosity for our neighbor who needs us and our gifts, without supporting the community of faith in which we live, without care for our spiritual fathers and those who teach and help raise our children in the faith, and without resources for the poor and needy.
In short, we are not free to live unto ourselves, hoarding what God has given us only for us. For love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). And the sum of the law is this: Love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40). We love because He first loved us. We give because He has given to us.
Luther once said, “Possessions belong in your hands, not in your heart” (LW 14:240). There is a reason your 10 fingers spread apart. With your hands you catch God’s gifts for what you need and let the rest fall through your fingers to your neighbors – your family, your friends, your community, your church.
Stewarding Christ’s gifts with you,