We give Thee but Thine own,
What e’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As Stewards thru receive
And Gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our first-fruits give! (LSB 781:1-2).
In many congregations these stanzas are sung every Sunday when the offerings of God’s faithful people are received. It’s a sung reminder of who God is and who we are in relation to Him, of what God does for us and gives to us, and how we respond to His generosity.
We are stewards of God’s varied grace to us. As stewards we acknowledge that God owns all things and that everything in heaven and on earth belongs to Him (1 Chron 29:14; Ps 24:1; Ps 100:3; 1 Cor 4:7; 1 Cor 6:19). Even we ourselves – all that we are and all that we have – are His. We are His because He created us, preserves us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us. As the stewards of what He has done for us and give to us, we give of our first fruits to Him and His Church.
And the Lord receives them and presses them into a use all His own. He sanctifies it. He hallows it. He uses it to ensure that the Word of God is still preached among us. He uses it to ensure that there is water for Baptism, bread and while for His Holy Supper. He uses what He gives to you and what you give back to Him for your good. Everything that happens in the church is purchased with the giving of the saints from what God has provided them. Holy giving from holy people pressed into holy service.
But there’s more. For our giving does not just make the liturgical life of the church possible. It’s not just the necessary means by which the vessels and sacramental elements, the hymn books and pastors are made available. The giving of God’s stewards is part of the liturgy itself, part of the Divine Service. It is one of our responses within the liturgy where we, not just with words spoken or sung, but with deeds declare, live out and live in, the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). Our offerings are part of God’s sanctifying work that He has us do in the Divine Service for the life of the world.
That’s what makes our stewardship so precious and significant. God hallows what we give and employs it to sanctify us and others. And that is why we sing: “And gladly, as Thou blessest us, To Thee our first-fruits give!”