07 November 2006

7 Principles For Giving.*

"See that you excel in this grace of giving."
--1 Corinthians 8.7

1. The Source of all blessings.
Because “the world and its fullness” belong to the Lord (Psalm 50.12), our regular giving to the Parish is rightly called stewardship, not fundraising or even philanthropy. As we say together in the offertory sentence: “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” The things that we have, the material blessings that are ours, are just that – blessings. Even the money we earn by the sweat of our brow, we have ultimately by God’s grace – he gave us the talents, the good health, the opportunities, and the will with which we do our work. So all that we have is from God.

2. Stewards, not owners.
If all that we have is from God, then we are stewards and not owners. The difference is crucial. Owners have ultimate control and the full right to dispose of their possessions as they see fit. But stewards have responsibilities. Stewards have a duty to use the things they have been given in accordance with the Giver’s wishes. We are especially considering money here, but this truth applies equally to our time, our talents, our property, our influence – all the gifts that we have. We hold all these things in trust, and we must remember that one day we must give an account for all that we have done with what God has entrusted to us (Hebrews 4.13).

3. A blessing, not a burden.
This trust ought not to be a burden for Christians. In fact, when rightly understood, the “duty” of stewardship reveals itself to be but one more of God’s blessings. Every serious Christian will admit that money is often a real problem and a constant occasion of sin. This is not surprising; after all, the Scriptures tell us “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). The best way to free ourselves of money’s power over us is to take the decisive step of persistent, intentional generosity. Giving money away frees us to trust in God and thus to store up real treasure in Heaven, “where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6.19). This is really a basic question of faith. Do we believe what God has said? Are we willing to commit to it? Not only does proper stewardship liberate us from the love of money, in a very tangible way it incorporates us into God’s work in reconciling the world to himself. This is one of the great privileges of the Church, that in the ministry of the Gospel, we become “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3.9).

4. Gratitude, not guilt.
Though through proper stewardship we do, in a sense, accrue blessings to ourselves; that is not the best reason to be generous. The best, and finally the only, reason to give is because God has given so much to us. Stewardship is one of the God-ordained means of gratitude. In the Eucharistic prayer we render thanks to God “for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption.” We give out of gratitude to the God who gave himself for us, and in doing so gave us all things. Do you believe this? If not, it might be best not to give, for God loves a cheerful giver, and, after all, he does not need our money. Dangerous words in a stewardship campaign? Perhaps so, but more dangerous still to give grudgingly or bitterly. But, “behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John. 3.1). God has loved us lavishly, and the more deeply we understand this, the more our giving will be marked by gratitude and love.

5. The tithe.
The Biblical guideline for our stewardship is the tithe – 10% of one’s income (Leviticus 27.30). This is not an easy thing to do; that’s largely the point. If you are not in the habit of tithing to the church, you might consider a program of proportional giving that will allow you and your family to move toward the tithe. Simply calculate the percentage of your income given in 2006, and increase that amount by a couple of percentage points in 2007, gradually moving your giving closer to the tithe.

6. Pledging.
Your pledge should be considered prayerfully. Pledge cards are not irrevocable contracts written in stone and signed in blood. They provide you with an opportunity to make a decisive commitment to generosity, and they provide the Treasurer with a tool for predicting the Parish’s income for the coming year. Our practice is not to set a budget including all the things we would like to do, and then to try to raise money to fund our plans, but to calculate how much income the Parish can expect to receive through pledges, and then to budget accordingly as faithful stewards of the resources God entrusts to us through your giving. Your pledges are confidential and may be altered at any time by contacting the treasurer.

7. Study and pray.
You should be clear in your own mind that these principles of stewardship are not clever means for keeping the lights on and the priest decently clothed. Stewardship is at the same time an avenue of and response to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Our giving is also an essential part of the Biblical worship of God. To “excel in the grace of giving” (1 Corinthians 8.7) is what God requires of us, which means that he intends to bless us in it. Some passages of Scripture you might look at are: 1 Timothy 6.17-19; Malachi 3.8-12; Psalm 50.8-12; and 2 Corinthians 8.1-9; 15.58-16.4. You also might like to use the following prayer in your devotions:

“O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

*I cobbled this together some years ago with, I'm sure, a variety of sources and sermons in mind, which I've now forgotten; I'm sure none of these thoughts is original, just their expression.


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