LCMS Stewardship Ministry—Newsletter article – July 2020
“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” asked the rich young ruler. Jesus said, “You know the commandments.” And the ruler replied, “All these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18–22)
As we listen to this, one question is raised in our minds: Is Jesus speaking to us also or only to the rich young ruler? In other words, is Jesus telling us to sell all that we have and give it to the poor? As good Lutherans, we answer: No! But why? Why should we not sell all that we have and distribute it to the poor?
The simplest explanation is this: If we sold everything we have, our wife and our children would be neglected. In other words, to sell everything we have and give it to the poor would ignore, even abandon, those whom God has placed in our care. Our money, everything we have, is not to be used solely for the church. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t to be used for the purpose God intends.
Everyone has three stations in life, three spheres in which we live and are to be of service to our neighbors. These stations are the church, the family, and society. We are members of all three of these by birth.
We are born into the church by water and the Word of God, and our duties to others in the church arise from either our birth into the church or the birth of others by Baptism into it.
We are born into a family, and our duties to others stem from either our birth into that family or the birth of others into our family.
Finally, we are born into society, which is simply a further extension of our birth into our family. The duties we have toward other members of society come from either our birth or the birth of others into the same society.
All that we have and all that we are is to be pressed into service for the church, the family, and society. If we were to sell all we have and give only to one, the other two would be neglected, and our duties toward them would falter.
So consider your life and all that you have in light of these three stations. You pay taxes to support and help those in society. You provide food, clothing, and shelter for the members of your family. You save for college for your children.
But the one station that is usually thought of last is the church. Since the needs of the family and society are more immediate, the church is often given what is left over. This is not how it should be. Rather, we are to give of our first fruits – the best from off the top – even as Abel gave the best of his flock.
This requires forethought and intent. It means that you sit down and make a plan for what you will give from the beginning. It means sticking to it even when it seems there are other more immediate and pressing things.
This is all the more necessary now as we enter into periods of time while giving is low due to high unemployment or restrictions on meeting in church to give. If we love God, his gifts of forgiveness given through the means of grace we receive at church and only at church, then we will support the church just as we love our country and our family.
For all that we have and all that we are is given to us by our gracious and giving God. He spared no expense for us and our salvation. He gave up His Son into death so that our sins are forgiven, and we will live. What is more, He provides for all that we need for this body and life. And our lives in this world, among these three spheres of the church, the family, and society, are to mirror the generosity of the one who gave us life in all three by birth.
Don’t let the church, your divine family, be ignored or even an afterthought. The church is nurturing you, bringing you up in salvation by Word and Sacrament for eternal life.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod LCMS Stewardship Ministry Newsletter Article – May 2020
Our Savior calls us to follow Him in generosity. “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:15) We cannot give our lives for the salvation of the world, of course. Praise God – that job’s already done!
But with hearts full of thanksgiving for what Jesus has given us, we can follow Jesus’ example of generous giving. And this is not merely an example alone. It’s also our Lord’s command. “The one who contributes, (let him give) in generosity.” (Rom. 12:8)
So, when we give to help others who are in need, and when we bring offerings to the Lord, we should strive to heed His command and follow the pattern He has established for us. Jesus did not give us leftovers. He gave His best. So, we should not give leftovers, either, but the first and best of what He has given us. Jesus did not give as an afterthought, but according to the plan of salvation God established from the foundation of the world.
So, when it comes to our offerings to the Lord, we should make a thoughtful plan to give generously, in proportion to the way He has blessed us. Like the Macedonian Christians, who gave according to their ability – and even beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:3) – we can and should give a generous portion of the income that God provides us to honor the Lord.
So also, we should give freely, just as Jesus gave freely for us. There is no compulsion involved in our works of love and our offerings to the Lord. Nor do we give grudgingly. We should give freely and cheerfully because we want to out of thanksgiving. “Each as he purposes in his heart,” as the Lord says. (2 Cor. 9:7) There is no New Testament ceremonial law involved here. Rather, we are free to give as generously as our Savior has given for us.
In the same way, our Lord teaches us to give generously out of love – love for Him and for our neighbor. Genuine love is always love in deed (1 John 3:18), love such as Jesus showed us all. It is love that sees our neighbor in need and gives generously to help him. It is love that hears the Word of the Lord and does what it says. If we truly love, we give generously. If we give without love, our giving is not truly following Jesus.
Finally, we follow Jesus in generosity when we give for a good purpose to thank the Lord and support His gospel ministry and other works of mercy. The people of Israel gave generously for the service of God’s gospel purposes, to construct and support the operation of the tabernacle. For that was the place where the Lord received the Old Testament sacrifices, through which He bestowed the forgiveness of sins on His people. So, they gave abundantly – so abundantly that they had to be told to stop giving. (Ex. 36:5-6)
In the same way, we should bring generous offerings to support the Lord’s work of bestowing His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation in our congregations through the preaching and teaching of His Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. We should support the Lord’s work of caring for those who are poor and needy.
Our Savior calls us to follow His example in generous giving. Let us then, with thankful hearts, rededicate ourselves to following Him in generosity.
LCMS Stewardship Ministry–Newsletter Article – February 2020
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Of the three things a person is not to talk about in polite company – religion, politics, and money – the church is called, in one way or another, to talk about all three. Perhaps this is the reason why teaching about stewardship often seems to be an afterthought. It’s something that happens only out of necessity when financial constraints are already nipping at the heels.
There is a more excellent way. Stewardship shouldn’t be the kind of teaching that comes up only when there is a financial crunch. It should be part and parcel of the ongoing instruction of Christians as they live out their faith in their vocations – members of their family, their society, and their church. This teaching touches upon every facet of our lives; it stakes a claim upon our time, our presence, our prayers, and our possessions.
Stewardship begins with the acknowledgment that we are stewards. A steward is a manager of someone else’s possessions. In Christian stewardship, we recognize, according to the Apostles’ Creed, that God is the owner of all things as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. And in His fatherly divine goodness and mercy, He gives us what is His to manage here below.
The principal virtue for stewards is faithfulness. As St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:2)
Stewards must manage that which belongs to the owner according to the owner’s wishes. That is what it means to be faithful in stewardship.
That raises a question: How are Christian stewards to be faithful in their managing of what God has entrusted to them to manage? In other words, what are the specific duties of a Christian steward?
This depends upon what God has revealed in His Word for each of our vocations in life as those in a family (fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children), society (governors or citizens), and the church (pastors or laity). The Table of Duties from Luther’s Small Catechism lays this out in helpful and orderly way.
Let’s look just at what the laity (hearers as it is labeled in the catechism) owe their pastors:
“In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:14)
“Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal. 6:6–7)
LCMS Stewardship Newsletter January 2020
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
LCMS Stewardship Ministry
Newsletter Article – January 2020
Our God is a God who works through means. He can and has worked immediately without agency, as the Bible testifies, but primarily, on the whole and for the most part, our God works through means. He does this not only for all of our earthly needs but also for all of our spiritual needs. And He does this for our benefit.
He provides for all our needs of this body and life through means. He gives us fathers and mothers to care for us when we are young. Through them, God provides house and home, food and clothing, education and training in the arts and work of this world.
He gives us good government to protect us from harm and danger; He gives us faithful neighbors and good friends to help in times of need and lack. He gives us employers who trade our work for income so that we may acquire the needs of the body. He gives us brains and brawn so that we will have something to trade with those employers for that needed income. This work, which we are able to do only because of what God has provided to us, redounds to the benefit of others. And so, the cycle of God giving through means continues.
He provides for all our needs of our souls. He sent His Son into the flesh to be our Savior. In that body, our Lord Jesus Christ lived the life that God demands of us all – a life we have failed to live because of our sins – and, in that body, He made payment for those sins on the cross, once and for all.
God delivers this forgiveness through the means of His Word and Sacraments. He calls pastors to proclaim, in His stead and by His command, that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Through these same pastors, God Himself claims us as His own in Holy Baptism, placing His own name on us in water and Word, igniting faith by the gift of the Holy Spirit. And He gives us His life-giving body and blood to nourish us in this same faith until the end. Our God is a God who works through means.
This is true also of stewardship. This is what St. Paul wrote in Philippians:
“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:18–19).
The gift St. Paul received from the Philippian church is a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. They gave to God. God provided for St. Paul through the Philippians. And the God who loves both Paul and the Philippians will supply their every need according to the riches in Christ Jesus. Our God is a God who works through means.
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus Christ],” St. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 1:20. This is true also of you. Trust in the God who provides for all that we need in body and soul through means. And not only will you find His “yes” to you, but others will find it, too, through you. “But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Cor. 8:7).
LCMS Stewardship Ministry Newsletter Article – December 2019
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, is teaching those who follow Him that worrying about the necessities of life is idolatry: worshipping a false god. This is because worry and anxiety show what we care about. Our anxiety reveals what we love and to what we’re devoted. It reveals what we trust in.
This is why our Lord begins this section with an overarching principle: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
But you say: “I must eat and drink. I must have clothing to wear and have a home in which to dwell.” Yes, all these things you need. And Jesus says that your Father in heaven will ensure that you have them. He demonstrates this with a simple argument.
Your Father in heaven feeds the birds of the air, who neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns. He clothes the lilies of the field, who neither toil nor spin but are arrayed more luxuriously than Solomon in all his glory. If, then, your Father in heaven feeds the birds and clothes the lilies, how will He not also feed and clothe you when you are worth more than they are?
For you know that you are worth more than them. You are worth infinitely more. You are worth the price of the eternal Son of God. Did the Son of God come down from heaven and become a lily? Did he descend and take on the form of a bird? No!
He came down from heaven and became a man: flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. He is one of us, our brother. And what did He do when He became flesh to dwell among us? He gave His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, that you might be His own and live under Him in His kingdom forever.
God became man in Christ Jesus. He lived the life we failed to live, and He died the death we deserve because of it. He was raised again on the third day to overcome sin and death … for us. He was crucified for our transgressions and raised for our justification. So, if your Father in heaven has given His Son to die for us in order that we might live with Him eternally, how will He not also give us all things to support this body and life?
To be anxious about the necessities of life, to devote yourself to food and clothing, to care about this and find security in it, is to serve another god. It is to deny that you will live forever because Jesus, the Son of God is risen from the dead, lives and reigns for all eternity. It is to believe that God – who created you, redeemed you by the death and resurrection of His Son, and sanctifies you by His Spirit – will not keep His promises of sustaining you in this life.
Jesus says this: Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. God’s kingdom is His rule among us. His rule among us comes when our Father in heaven gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. This is what we ask God to do for us in the prayer Jesus taught us.
Your Father in heaven knows what you need – food and clothing, house and home, etc. – and He promises to give it to you. Chief of the things you need is His grace and mercy in His Son, Jesus Christ. So, seek after that. Those who seek will find. And all the necessities of life, our Lord says, will be added to you.
LCMS Stewardship Article- October 2019
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
LCMS Stewardship Ministry
Newsletter Article – October 2019
In the early morning hours of Feb. 18, 1546, Martin Luther closed his eyes forever. And the hand that hammered the 95 Theses into the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, penned its final words: “We are all beggars. This is true.”
And this is the truth that our Lord says makes you free. Ironic, isn’t it? That, in order to be free, you must be a beggar; you must be utterly dependent and reliant upon God. This makes us uncomfortable – the way we’re uncomfortable when someone gets us a Christmas or birthday present when we haven’t gotten them one. We feel we owe them. And we don’t much like being in someone’s debt.
But what Luther would remind us is that we are all indeed beggars. But we’re not just anyone’s beggars. We’re God’s beggars. And this is His legacy to the Christian Church. Christ came for sinners. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to heal the sick and raise the dead. He came for sinners, and He dwells only with sinners.
And, if we are to be where He is, we must be willing to be counted among the lost, the sick, and the dead. We must be willing to be beggars. We must cry out for mercy, for grace, and for his undeserved love and kindness. We must be dependent solely on Him and what He gives.
And here’s the beauty: He gives us everything. Everything – forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and the devil, and eternal life. This is not because of any worthiness or merit in us, but it is because of His divine goodness, mercy, and grace.
On account of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Father forgives you, saves you, and is pleased with you. And you receive. You receive His love, His righteousness, His holiness, His acceptance, and His inheritance. We are all beggars. This is true.
This is the heart and soul of Christianity and the life-blood of the Christian Church. God justifies us, and He declares us innocent and righteous by His grace received through faith for the sake of Christ. This is not because of our works; this is because of His work on the cross. We, who once were enemies of God, are reconciled to Him and made to be His children.
This is what Luther would point us to when He took up his pen for the last time and scribbled “We are all beggars. This is true.” We are beggars. But we are beggars of the God who does not ignore us, who doesn’t pass by us on the other side. We are beggars of the One who descended from heaven to make His dwelling with sinners.
We are beggars of Him who deigns to dwell with us, among us, and – yes – even in us by grace for Christ’s sake. For in the bread and cup that we bless, we share together with Christ and each other the riches of God’s grace.
So inexhaustible are the riches of this grace – the Gospel in sermon and absolution, in Baptism and Holy Communion – that our cups overflow. We, who are God’s beggars, are not only inexhaustibly satisfied but have something to give back in thanksgiving and praise.