By Ruth Meyer
“Over half of the members in this congregation give less than the price of a Happy Meal every week.”
These words were spoken in a sermon about stewardship, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. Churches seem to be perpetually behind budget, nearly always in debt, and is it any wonder? If half of the members are giving $5 or less, how can we expect to sustain our congregations? Granted, this includes all those members “on the rolls” who don’t actually come, but let’s face it––tithing is not a common practice in our culture today. Sure, people can spend money on cable and Internet and cars and sports and lessons and… But church? Tithing is foreign to many people. So as I sat in church that Stewardship Sunday while the pastor discussed giving, I admit I felt a little swell of pride. Ah, I thought to myself smugly, but I DO tithe. I’m a faithful giver. But upon further reflection, I came to a startling revelation. I’m not nearly as generous as I’d like to think I am.
While we’re on the subject of money, let’s go beyond tithing to church and look at other charitable giving. How much have you given to organizations that support the spread of the Gospel? missionaries? a local pregnancy center? a local food bank or homeless shelter? True, none of us have limitless means. We can’t support every single cause, no matter how pious it may be. I get that. But I know for myself, something ugly happens inside me when I’m considering how much to give to a charitable organization. Suddenly I become very cautious and wary. How do I know they’ll actually spend the money rightly? Do I agree with their theology 100%? I can spend $150 dollars at Kohl’s without blinking an eye (because, you know, that’s with the 30% off and Kohl’s cash back, and I saved more than I spent!), but then turn around and consider how much to give for my end-of-the-year tax-deductible gift to a non-profit organization and slip into my “safe” contribution of $25. What does that say about my priorities?
There’s more to giving than just money, though. Stewardship includes time, talents, and treasures. I don’t know about you, but I can be incredibly selfish with my time. While the kids are in school, I want that free time to myself! (As far as that is possible with my tornado of a two-year-old, that is.) I look at that time as time to write, to exercise, and to relax. Don’t get me wrong here. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself. I’m a huge proponent of it. You’re a better mommy if you take time to do something for yourself. But not all day, every day. Maybe you can’t monetarily support a pregnancy center, but can you volunteer your time once a week or twice a month? Can you do something from home, like writing or proofreading articles for their monthly newsletter? Might you be able to visit a nursing home a few times a month to brighten a resident’s day? Even if you have to bring a young child, the elderly might love to interact with a baby or toddler again. Could you volunteer at your children’s school? be a Sunday School teacher at church? participate in Altar Guild? This ties directly into talents as well. I’m a music major, so I could start a children’s choir at our church, but somehow I’ve always found an excuse not to. The Church works best if all of us are giving of ourselves in areas in which God has blessed us. Too many churches have a handful of movers and shakers who seem to run the church because no one else will step forward. Consider what your strengths are, and look for ways to use those for the good of others.
Perhaps you’re reading this now, thinking to yourself that you’re already tapped out. You’re one of the aforementioned movers and shakers, and you don’t need to add anything else to your schedule. Quite the opposite, perhaps. Maybe it’s time to step aside for a few activities before you burn yourself out. Focus on one or two things you can do well, rather than multiple activities you’ll do halfheartedly or with resentment. Pray that God would direct your decisions and reveal to you areas where you can hand off the baton to someone else.
Then again, perhaps you have multiple young children at home and you simply can’t volunteer your time the way you’d like to. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t participate more at church or school. God has placed you in this current station of life, and He blesses you in that. You certainly don’t want to sacrifice family time for the sake of an organization at church. Pray that God would bless you as you serve your family.
Regardless of your personal situation, there’s one area where we are all accountable, and that’s sharing our treasure. No, I’m not talking money now. I mean our greatest treasure of all: our faith. Christ has redeemed us from everlasting condemnation! He died for us and rose again! What greater treasure could life hold? And we are privileged to share that wonderful news with those around us. But even though I have ample opportunity to share this treasure, so often I find myself keeping silent. Fear and doubt hold me back, and I let the opportunity slip away. There are countless people I know who do not believe in Jesus as their Savior. Why am I not joyfully sharing the Gospel with them?
The truth is that none of us is as generous as we’d like to think. We will always fall short in one area or another. We will always battle selfishness within ourselves. But thank God that in Jesus we are forgiven for this and every sin. He is the Giver that we cannot be. He gave His very life for us––all of it. He lived the perfect life we could never live. He was intentional about reaching out to others. He travelled around, spreading the news that the Kingdom of God had come. He healed people and drove out demons. He performed miracles. He was tempted by the devil and resisted. He submitted Himself to humiliation, torture, and death at the hands of sinners. Not for selfish gain, but for us and for our salvation. And because of His selfless giving, we are indeed granted forgiveness, life, and salvation, along with bountiful temporal blessings. Thanks be to God, who graciously gives us all things!
Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife. Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations. Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing. She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody. Her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z , and her adult novel, Grace Alone, are available through CPH. Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.