Who Knew Stewardship Could Be So Much Fun?
Oct 06, 2019
Who Knew Stewardship Could Be So Much Fun?
Who knew stewardship could be so much fun??? I know, I know – that’s an unusual theme for our congregation’s stewardship emphasis. If you read the Pastor’s Pondering in the October newsletter, then you know the source of that theme. For those of you who don’t know, its origin is Pastor Rick Gordon’s retirement celebration, after which I heard someone say, “Who knew church could be so much fun?”
We did have a great time during the lunch honoring Pastor Rick, and the worship service, while less silly, was a heartfelt celebration. All in all, it was a great day, which started me thinking about ways to make our life together more FUN! When the time came to plan the stewardship emphasis, it occurred to me that people tend to become uncomfortable when we talk about money, which is, let’s face it, the primary focus of most stewardship programs. So, the Stewardship Team decided to add a lighter tone to this year’s emphasis, that is, to have FUN!
But, why is having fun with stewardship such a novel idea? First, so that we are all on the same page, let’s define the term stewardship from a Faith or a Biblical perspective. There are many ways to describe it, but I like to think of stewardship as how we use or care for what God has given us, which is everything. It involves the Holy Spirit directing and guiding our lives in all matters, and when it comes to financial stewardship, allowing the Holy Spirit to determine how we use our material resources. We not only ask God how we should spend our money, but it also involves how we acquire, manage and regard it; the question is, are all of these actions and attitudes pleasing to God?
In his book, Giving to God, Dr. Mark Allan Powell, who taught at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, writes this: “All that we are and all that we have belongs to God. Therefore, we are to use all of our money in ways that fall appropriately under the heading “giving to God.” We are to use all of it in ways that will please God, in ways that demonstrate our devotion to the rule of God, the lordship of Jesus and the direction of the Holy Spirit.” (1)
That’s a challenging concept since we are accustomed to thinking of a percentage belonging to God or being used for Jesus’ ministry – even as high as 10, or even 20, percent. But to say all that we have belongs to God is hard to grasp. We may even view it as a heavy concept and certainly not fun.
And, yet, if we view life as a gift, and receive all things with gratitude, we are among those who are likely to be the happiest people on earth, writes Dr. Powell. (2) We are stewards of what belongs to God; what a privilege! If we can internalize that, then stewardship can be fun, not stressful. We can enjoy the process of preparing for Commitment Sunday on October 20.
Are you still doubtful? If so, then consider this: Pastor Daniel Habben says that we should think of stewardship in the same way we remember dessert time at Grandma’s house, which is an enduring memory of his childhood. Here’s his description of that memory, “If she had not had time to bake three kinds of pie and make two kinds of cookies, Grandma would haul out the five-gallon bucket of chocolate ice cream and dish out large scoops which she would pass down the table until everyone had one. When you were only about halfway done with eating that serving, she would announce while holding up the ice cream scoop: ‘There’s more where that came from!’ In other words, if you want seconds, you just have to ask. There’s plenty of ice cream.”
Well, that’s what the Apostle Paul is saying in his letter to the Christians in Corinth, says Pastor Habben. God is generous to us so that God may be generous through us. “There’s more where that came from,” that’s God’s message to us. (3)
Look at our theme verse from 2 Corinthians 9; Paul is urging the Corinthians to follow through on their promise to help the Christians in Jerusalem; he encourages them to give generously and cheerfully. And, he believes this is possible because, “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (vs. 8) In other words, God, who had given them everything, would continue to ensure that the believers had enough for themselves … and others. Or, as Pastor Habben’s grandmother would say, “There’s more where that came from!”
But, believing that requires something very important – TRUST. Being good stewards is undergirded by being confident in God’s wise and compassionate care. That does not mean that trusting God to provide is a substitute for labor, or planning, or being discerning in how we live and use God’s resources. It does mean, though, that if we acknowledge that God loves us and provides for us, that can set us free from the anxieties that would make us slaves to wealth, which keeps us from serving God. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)
Think again of Grandma with her ice cream scoop and listen to this description by Pastor Habben: “As she scoops ice cream from one of those huge, five-gallon buckets, your job is to hand the bowls of ice cream down to your hungry siblings and cousins. Were you ever reluctant to hand off the bowls of ice cream? I mean, did you ever think that there wouldn’t be any ice cream left for you if you kept giving it away? No! Because you could see the big bucket of ice cream and you knew there would be enough for you too. (And, I might add, you trusted Grandma.)
“Whenever you place your offering in the basket here at church, you’re simply doing what you do at dessert time at Grandma’s. You’re handing on that which God first entrusted to you…. There’s more where that came from.” (4)
It’s not that God is a broken ATM machine spewing out money, but instead that God, according to the Apostle Paul, provides what is needed for us to be content. (Remember, last week we read that contentment is a key to attaining a life that is really life.) Dr. Powell notes that for Paul, the secret to being content seems to lie in an absolute assurance that God provides him with everything he needs to be the person God wants him to be and to have the life God wants him to have. And that is enough. (5)
Let me say that again but broaden the scope. God provides us – humanity - with everything we need to be the people God wants us to be and have the life God wants us to have. Then, we make choices … and those choices impact us and others. Still, the primary message is that everything belongs to God, as stewards we are to use those things in ways that please God, content in the knowledge that God provides. (There’s more where that came from!) AND … people who are content are more likely to enjoy life and, you guessed it, have FUN! Who knew??? AMEN