WHY DO WE GIVE? Let’s go right to the heart of both the Gospel for today (sermon by Bishop Rabb) and stewardship. Why should we give?
Is it because the church needs your money and mine? No, actually the church will survive with or without my support.
Why do we give? It is for the salvation of our souls. The greatest Christian commandment is to love: love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Now you show me any loving relationship that is not about giving. Love is always about giving; giving of ourselves and that includes our treasures. Jesus could not be clearer than he is in the Gospel for today; we love with our heart, soul and mind in short with all we are and all we have.
For too long Christian stewardship has been caught in a bind between two matters which are not the issue at all: one is gratuity. We give because something has gone right, such as why I may well do a 20% tip if a restaurant is especially good. So, if the church meets my needs, or exceeds them I will give more. Well the problem here is that we worship God not for what God does for us; but because God is God. The church has been called to be an instrument of salvation and that matter was established at Pentecost. Yet many programs stay focused on a far too gimmicky form of gratuity. God and the church do not need our gratuity!
The other matter is to justify the expenses. Somehow if you can only understand that this year we have to replace the HVAC you will give more! Now responsible stewardship is about setting the priority of what missions we are to do. However, it must be in the context of serving God and God’s people. When I was rector of St. Anne’s in Atlanta we made a very intentional decision to give away the first 10% of our money and it went to mission; local, national and international. A fairly new and cautious member asked me why we did this. I told him to give is to be sure you serve those most in need. He told me he followed the Bible which says “Charity begins at home!” He ventured it was in the Sermon on the Mount – where Jesus says is someone asks you to walk one mile you walk two and if someone asks for your coat, you give that person two coats! No, this is not in the Bible, and stands in contradiction to what Jesus demands of us in love; we give and give where it is most needed.
We do not give as a gratuity to God nor from a laundry list of items, even valued ones. We give because God calls us to be loving, and to be loving is be generous. We express our love to our spouses, children and parents not as a tip nor by listing the advantages of said relationship; but because we love them and have pledged to do so through all things.
A friend to many of us, Charles Cloughen, asked me if I would summarize up the stewardship of St. Francis for a compendium of stewardship essays. We do not usually think of Francis for stewardship, which is unfortunate, because for him it was all about a total commitment of generous love for God and God’s people. He saw the two great sins as destitution, that there are people without the basic necessities for life, and self-sufficiency, that what I have earned and possess what I want. For Francis all is gift and all is, ultimately, from God. Because all is gift for us to use for God’s greater good we cannot let people do without nor be stingy or greedy. Love demands generosity! Jesus could not be clearer than if we are to love with heart, body, mind and soul we will be generous.
So, my dear friends, let us give, give generously as God gives to us. Let us love and love generously as God generously loves us. We give because that is what it means to love God and to love neighbor. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. John Rabb, Bishop Suffragan, ret.
October 29, 2017, Consecration Sunday