Stewardship Article2016-10-14T08:25:11-05:00

Stewardship Article – May 2019

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 LCMS Stewardship Ministry

 Newsletter Article – May 2019

 

Stewardship is not just about giving money to the church. It includes this, to be sure, but it is not limited to it. Stewardship involves our whole life – everything we have and everything we are.

 

Let us not, though, fall into the trap of thinking that because we give of ourselves in one area we can neglect giving in another. Stewardship is not stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It is not a game we play whereby we justify ourselves in not giving a tenth of our income because we have given in some other way. This is why our Lord warns:

                         “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

 

We are given to do both – tithe of ourselves and what we have. And so it is that St. Paul makes his appeal to us:

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

 

We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. We are not to have the mind of the world, where we exchange equal weight of this for an equal weight of that, and then think that we have done what God has required.

 

Our whole life is given over for service in and for the Church of God. This is to be done in thanksgiving for what God in Christ has accomplished for us. This is our spiritual worship, the reasonable response to what He has done for us – not one for the other, but all in all.

 

But what does this look like? St. Paul never lays down a general principle without also giving us some practical application of what shape that principle is to take concretely. He gives the general principle that our bodies are to be living sacrifices to God, and, after admonishing those who have been given particular gifts of grace to serve the church, St. Paul then speaks generally of what is expected of all. He says:

 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)

 

This is what it looks like to present your bodies as living sacrifices. This is how we live out the grace of God here in time.

 

Let us then heed the apostle’s teaching. Let us present our bodies – everything that we have and everything that we are – as living sacrifices to God, our reasonable response to what God in Christ Jesus accomplished for us by His death and resurrection.

 

Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

LCMS Stewardship Ministry

 Newsletter Article – April 2019

 

“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deut. 28:3-6).

 

This is God’s promise to the Israelites as they stood beyond the Jordan outside of the Promised Land. He promises blessing to His people. He will make them prosper, whether they are in the city or the field. He will make their fruit of their work to prosper, whether from the ground or their wombs, their flocks or their herds. He will make them to prosper in all things, whether upon their coming in or their going out.

 

But there’s a catch. He would do this for Israel only “if you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut 28:2b). If they did that, He would cause that “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:2a).

 

If they didn’t obey the voice of the Lord, if they didn’t keep the commandments of the Lord and walk in His ways (Deut 28:9), they would be met with curse and woe. The blessings would be replaced with curses. Everything that the Lord promised to prosper and bless would be cursed and fail.

 

Thanks be to God that our Lord Jesus Christ has come into our flesh, fulfilled the law for us – in in our place and for our benefit; died for us – in our place and for our benefit; and is risen from the dead for us – in our place and for our benefit.

 

By this we have justification before God. We are forgiven, clean, holy, and righteous. The blessing of God is promised to us in Christ Jesus. It depends upon His work and not ours.

 

All this is ours in Holy Baptism. For in Holy Baptism, God claims us as His own, makes us His children, His heirs, His holy people. And so it is that the work of our hands and its fruit is holy because we are holy in Christ. It is pressed into His service, and thereby it becomes a blessing to us and to our neighbor.

 

For this great gift, our reception of the blessings of God because of Christ Jesus our Lord, it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is not in order to receive blessings but because in Christ we already have.

 

It is with this in mind that we sit down on the first day of the week and set aside as He has prospered us to give to His church for His work of blessing in our midst (1 Cor. 16:2).

LCMS Stewardship Ministry March 2019

It is no secret that God calls us to be generous with the gifts He has given us. Throughout the Bible, we read that
just as God has generously given to us, so are we to give generously one to another. As Jesus said, “By this all
people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) and “Be merciful,
even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

But God also calls us to give to Him. And He, who does all things well, presses it into service for the benefit of
all the people of God. See for example what God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, after he and the people were
safely brought out of Egypt across the Red Sea on dry land:

The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every
man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that
you shall receive from them
: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined
linen, goats’ hair
, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, an acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anoint-
ing oil and for the frag
rant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breast
piece. And let them make me a sanctuary
, that 1 may dwell in their midst. Exactly as 1 show you concern-
ing the pattern of the tabernacle
, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. (Ex. 25: 1-9)

Notice that the Lord instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to “take for me a contribution” and that from everyone
motivated from gratitude for what God has just accomplished and given to them, Moses is to gather up “the con-
tribution for me.”

Pay attention, though, why the Lord wants the people of Israel to gather up these contributions for Him. God tells
Moses precisely why: “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” The purpose for the con-
tribution of the Israelites was so that He may dwell with them, that He would live among them. Through the tab-
ernacle and the priesthood, through their rites and ceremonies, through their feasts and festivals, as through
means, the Lord God, who brought them out of the bondage of Egypt would live and dwell among them and be
their God, and lead them into the promised land, which flowed with milk and honey.

God dwells among us s-till. In the fullness of time, God’s son was born of woman, born under the law to redeem
those under the law. He brought us out of bondage to sin, death, the devil, and Hell, and He did this by His obe-
dient suffering and death, his resurrection and ascension. But He is not gone. He dwells with us through the
means of His Word and His sacraments, through the preaching and the teaching of our pastors, through the rites
and ceremonies of our liturgy. He dwells with us in the Church through those means. And He is leading us to the
true promised land, to the new heavens and the new earth in the new creation.

In the meantime, as God even now, continues to call us to give to Him, let us, who have been saved from slavery
to sin and death, the devil and hell, be so moved in our hearts as to give generously to Him so that the means of
grace, the means of His gracious dwelling among us, would continue now and into the future. For just as He did
then so does He do now. He presses the gifts given to Him into service for the benefit of all His people. He puts
it to use so that we may have Him with us always, even unto the end of the age.

LCMS Stewardship Ministry February 2019

It is no secret that God calls us to be generous with the gifts He has given us. Throughout the Bible, we read that just as God has generously given to us, so are we to give generously one to another. As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) and “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

 

But God also calls us to give to Him. And He, who does all things well, presses it into service for the benefit of all the people of God. See for example what God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, after he and the people were safely brought out of Egypt across the Red Sea on dry land:

 

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, an acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breast piece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. (Ex. 25: 1-9)

 

Notice in verse two that the Lord instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to “take for me a contribution” and that from everyone motivated from gratitude for what God has just accomplished and given to them, Moses is to gather up “the contribution for me.”

 

Pay attention, though, why the Lord wants the people of Israel to gather up these contributions for Him. God tells Moses precisely why: “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” The purpose for the contribution of the Israelites was so that He may dwell with them, that He would live among them. Through the tabernacle and the priesthood, through their rites and ceremonies, through their feasts and festivals, as through means, the Lord God, who brought them out of the bondage of Egypt would live and dwell among them and be their God, and lead them into the promised land, which flowed with milk and honey.

 

God dwells among us still. In the fullness of time, God’s son was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law. He brought us out of bondage to sin, death, the devil, and Hell, and He did this by His obedient suffering and death, his resurrection and ascension. But He is not gone. He dwells with us through the means of His Word and His sacraments, through the preaching and the teaching of our pastors, through the rites and ceremonies of our liturgy. He dwells with us in the Church through those means. And He is leading us to the true promised land, to the new heavens and the new earth in the new creation.

 

In the meantime, as God, even now, continues to call us to give to Him, let us, who have been saved from slavery to sin and death, the devil and hell, be so moved in our hearts as to give generously to Him so that the means of grace, the means of His gracious dwelling among us, would continue now and into the future. For just as He did then so does He do now. He presses the gifts given to Him into service for the benefit of all His people. He puts it to use so that we may have Him with us always, even unto the end of the age.

 

LCMS Stewardship Ministry — 2018 December newsletter Article

Throughout his epistles and his preaching recorded in the Book of Acts, St. Paul refers, in one way or another, to thanksgiving and thankfulness nearly 50 times. Whether vertically toward God, or horizontally toward the neighbor, thanksgiving is a major theme within St. Paul’s body of work.

What does this mean? It means thankfulness is intrinsic to the life of those baptized into Christ. In other words, giving thanks is what Christians do as they live out their lives in this world.

The problem is that we often forget this. Consider your average, run-of-the-mill, normal day. When you get home, and your parents, your spouse or your children ask about your day, what first comes to your mind? After 99 percent of things went right, went exactly as planned, were enjoyable and blessings, we tend to focus on and remember the 1 percent of things that went poorly, that didn’t go as planned, and that were nuisances.

We remember the bad things. We focus on discontent. And we fail to give thanks in all circumstances for everything (Eph. 5:20) and to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4).

Thankfulness and contentment go together. We are content with things for which we are thankful.  St. Paul could be content with having plenty or when in need because He gave thanks to the Lord for all things. He thanked the Lord for those who had prayed for him and listened to his proclamation of the Gospel. He gave thanks for their good works in and for the Church of Christ. He gave thanks for the grace of God in Christ Jesus and found that God’s grace was sufficient for him.

So, give thanks for all things and in all circumstances dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For you have been saved from sin, death, and hell by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. You have been added to the very family of God in an adoption of grace through Holy Baptism. God is your Father. Our Lord, Jesus Christ is your brother.

But He not only provides for your spiritual well-being, He cares also for this body and life. Your Father in heaven provides food and clothes, house and home, husband, wife, and children. He gives you reason and all your senses. He has given you the raw talents that you have developed into careers. Everything you are and everything that you have is a gift from His fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you.

Give thanks for these things. Make a list – every morning if you must. Say them out loud. Sing about them within the congregation of the saints. And remember this: God has given you these things so that you may be of service to those around you – your family, your neighbors, your brothers and sisters in Christ. For to whom much is given; much shall be required (Luke 12:48).

 

LCMS Stewardship Ministry — November 2018 Newsletter Article

Sometimes people don’t like it when pastors talk about stewardship. For some, it hits too close to home. It is easier to talk about bad people in Washington, in history, or overseas than it is to think about what our daily life in Christ is  supposed to look like, how we are supposed to love our neighbor.  The fact that we don’t like hearing about stewardship certainly means we ought to face it.  Here are a few simple and practical realities.

God calls us to first-fruits, sacrificial giving. This means we should give off the top. We should set a percentage of our income as a deliberate gift for the work of the Church and give that first.  We write the check to the Lord’s work in the Church before we pay the mortgage or pay for our medicine or pay for anything else.

We don’t pay for all the stuff we need, and think we need, and then give from what is left over.   That is the first-fruits idea. It is hard because we think we need all sorts of other things first. But that is the point of “sacrificial.” Next, how could the starting point for Christian generosity and sacrifice really be anything less than a tithe – 10 percent? The ceremonial law of the Old Testament was never arbitrary. In the Old Testament, the Levites received this tithe so they could be full-time ministers.

Does the New Testament have a ministry that is larger or smaller?  It is far larger: “Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).  And we are still to have a full-time ministry: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). So, if 10 percent was needed in the Old Testament, and we have a bigger mission need in the New Testament, how can First-fruits, sacrificial, generous giving – that’s the way.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve out-given God’s goodness or that we’ve given plenty. We might be tempted to think so but consider – no one in the Church has given plenty because no one has given all. No one has died for his sins.

Only the sinless Son of God did that.  Or, as St. Paul said, bringing the Good News of Jesus into the discussion of our giving to support the Lord’s work in the Church:  “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:8-9).

As you can see, what the Bible commands about our stewardship can sting. It’s law, and the law shows our sins. It calls us to repentance. The law is meant to expose and accuse for the sake of showing us Christ and His fulfillment of the law.  If first-fruits, sacrificial giving has you squirming, that’s the point. In Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus took the disciples’ five loaves and two fish and blessed them. It was nothing among so many, but, of course, it was plenty.  Jesus makes something from nothing.

Mark doesn’t say that all the disciples gave Jesus all the bread they had. It is quite possible some of them held something back.   But even if they did, that didn’t stop Jesus from blessing them. Jesus makes something out of nothing.  He, who fed His people in the desert with Manna every morning, doesn’t need their bread. But they need to give it. And what they give, however little it might be, however grudgingly they do so, He blesses it.  He not only blesses those whom He feeds with it, but He blesses them, the givers – not just in that they wind up with (a basket full for each loaf) but  that they learned to trust and rejoice in Him.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. The Lord gives abundantly or asks us to fast. We do not know what will happen. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

He does all things well and works all things together for good. The disciples don’t give their bread to Jesus because it is a good investment.  They give it because He is good, they love Him, and they trust Him.  Let us go and do likewise.

 

Coming Soon: “Embracing Great Commission Stewardship”

For three weeks beginning on November 3 & 4, we will have the wonderful opportunity to grow in an understanding what it means to Embrace Great Commission Stewardship.  Christian stewardship involves the management of our lives and resources for God’s purposes.  Great Commission stewardship helps us to better understand that the ultimate purpose of our stewardship is to direct our time, talents, and money to God’s primary purpose which is to help “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  As believers, we are God’s instruments through whom He works.  We are His hands, feet, and mouth.

Just before Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He instructed His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  These verses have been identified as the Great Commission.  Jesus commanded His disciples to go spread the Gospel throughout all nations.  The Great Commission was not just for the immediate eleven disciples but is directed to all believers, and it will not end until Jesus’ second coming.

Faithful stewardship demonstrates our love, devotion, and submission to Jesus.  Christian stewardship is motivated by God’s love.  God’s love overflowing from within us provides the power and energy for Great Commission stewardship.  Through faith, we begin to love our neighbors as our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We see others as God’s children who, like us, are lost and hopeless without Jesus.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we begin to witness and share God’s love with others.

Great Commission Stewardship calls upon us to commit our time, abilities, and our money.  When Jesus invites us to follow Him, it is going to radically change how we view and use our lives and blessings.  In Mark 8:34, Jesus bluntly states, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”  Just as Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, we are to submit to His.  Our time, abilities, and money are not to be kept for ourselves but are to be used in making disciples for Jesus.  Not only does God command us, “Go therefore and make disciples,” He has provided us with the tools to make disciples, and He promises to go with us: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Being encouraged, empowered, and equipped, now go and make disciples!