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!
LCMS Stewardship Ministry October 2018 Newsletter Article
Why do we give? Is it simply because God commands us to? Or is there more to it? To be sure, the instruction and Word of God in the Bible says we should give, and this is sufficient to encourage us to give (Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:7; Gal 6:6).
But there’s more to it than just obligation. We’re not just trying to fulfill a work of the Law. We are bearing fruits of the Spirit given to us by our Father in heaven through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, we’re not just doing what our Father said, we’re also doing what He did. Children emulate their parents. When they grow up they often carry many of the same mannerisms and characteristics as their parents, but there is more to it than that. Children copy their parents even on a more mundane level. They watch how their parents cross their legs, how they fold their hands, how they stand and sit and walk, how they do and say most everything. And children try to copy it, which can be quite humorous when parents wish they wouldn’t. It can be uncomfortable and embarrassing if a child copies or repeats something less than polite that they learned from a parent. Sitcoms thrive on these situations. It only happens because children emulate their parents because they want to be like them. We are the children of God, by grace, through faith. In Holy Baptism, God the Father declares of us what He declared of Jesus at His Baptism in the Jordan: “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God the Father claims us as His own. He takes away all our sins, and in exchange He gives us His righteousness, His purity, His holiness, and His Spirit, by which we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
We are born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit, to a new life in Christ as His children. We are sons of God in Christ, through Baptism. And since we are sons, we are heirs – heirs who share in the glory of the Son of God. The inheritance is ours because of the Father’s grace and mercy, His generosity in sending His Son in time to save us for all eternity. And this is why we give generously of our income to the work of the church. We want to be like our heavenly Father. We want to emulate His generosity by being generous ourselves. We give to the work of the Church because we have witnessed the generous giving of our Father in heaven. More than that, we are recipients of it. It is because we have received God our Father’s gifts that we desire to give ourselves. And His gifts are not just spiritual. They are temporal and earthly as well.
As the Small Catechism teaches in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” In other words, God gives us everything we need for the care of both body and soul. His generosity knows no bounds. Therefore, we sit down at the beginning of the year, the beginning of the month, or the beginning of the week to set aside a generous portion of God’s daily bread for His work in the Church. We don’t do this simply because He has commanded us so to do; it is because we, as His children by grace, want to emulate His generosity in our own lives. He is our Father; we are His children. And children want to be like their parents.
LCMS Stewardship Ministry September 2018 Newsletter Article
It’s September, and everything is in full swing again: back to school and back to church attendance after vacations and weekends away, and since everything is back into full swing, it’s a perfect time to get back to basics, back to the foundation.
At the end of the first of his chapters on the virtue of faith in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis provides a helpful reminder, by way of analogy, for the foundation of stewardship. He wrote:
Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So then, when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, “Daddy, give me six pence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is six-pence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. (128–129).
This is the first thing we are given to confess about stewardship, and it has to do with ownership. God owns everything, and we are simply managers — stewards — acting on His behalf. This is true not only of all that we have in this life (Deuteronomy 8:17–18), but also all that we are in this life (1 Corinthians 6:20).
The rest flows from here. Since we are stewards, or managers, of what belongs to God, entrusted to make use of it according to His will, there is an expectation of responsibility and accountability.
For the Lord said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48b).
And from this comes blessing and reward: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
We have everything we need to support this body and life from our God’s fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. We have everything we need for our spiritual life also from His merciful hands.
On account of the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus, through the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments, we have the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and everlasting salvation delivered to us with absolute certainty that it is ours — not as stewards but as sons (Galatians 4:1–7).
Let us then, as His own sons, press all that He gives to us into the service of His church and to His glory.
Stewardship Ministry Article August 2018
When it comes to stewardship, a favorite Bible verse is the account of the widow’s mite (Luke 21:1–4). It’s a moving account. Our Lord praises the seemingly small gift of two copper coins given by a poor widow above the abundance of gifts given by the rich, saying, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them” (Luke 21:3).
And that is usually where we stop. But the text goes on. “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4).
She gave everything. She held nothing back. She trusted that the Lord who made her and all creatures, who gave her everything she had, who redeemed her from her own sin, from death, and the power of the devil, who called her by the Gospel and enlightened her with His gifts of Word and Sacrament, would continue to do this. He would provide her with all that she needed for this body and life because that is the character of the God she had.
But this is not why we give small gifts. Her gift, though it appeared small, was actually large. When we are tempted to give small gifts it is precisely because we want them to be small! We don’t trust the Lord to provide for us.
We give small gifts because we lack faith in the One who created us, redeemed us, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. We give small gifts because we doubt that God will really give us what we need and desire. We give small gifts because we are not content with what God has already given.
We are not slaves, children of the slave woman, under the Old Covenant (Gal. 4). We are adopted sons of the free woman. And since we are sons, we are also heirs. And heirs receive the inheritance. For everything is already ours in Christ. And thus, moved by the willing spirit of adoption, we do the will of God in financial matters far beyond all that done by those under the Old Covenant who were forced by legal demands.
So what have you decided to give? How do I decide what to give? Let the Scriptures be your guide.
We are to give proportionally to what we have received from God’s giving to us (Luke 12:48; 1 Cor. 16:1-2, 2 Cor. 8:12). But you have not been set free to give nothing. See that you excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor. 8:7).
We are not free to live selfishly outside the Gospel, without regard for God who gives us all good gifts, without generosity for our neighbor who needs us and our gifts, without supporting the community of faith in which we live, without care for our spiritual fathers and those who teach and help raise our children in the faith, without resources for the poor and needy – in short, we are not free to live unto ourselves, hoarding what God has given us only for us.
For love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). And the sum of the law is this: Love God and love your neighbor (Matt. 22:34-.40). We love because He first loved us. We give because He has given to us.
Luther once said, “Possessions belong in your hands, not in your heart” (LW 14:240). There is a reason your 10 fingers spread apart. With your hands you catch God’s gifts for what you need and let the rest fall through your fingers to your neighbors – your family, your friends, your community, your church.
Stewardship Ministry Article July 2018
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
We celebrate this month because of the freedoms and liberties our country has afforded us. We are right to do this. We should be thankful for these liberties: the freedom to gather together to worship and to live out what we believe in our daily lives.
But freedom and liberty in our age has devolved. It has become a freedom from duty instead of a freedom for it. Indeed, freedom and liberty in our age has turned into licentiousness: a license to do what we want, when we want.
This license is a submission, again, to a yoke of slavery. For freedom as license to do what we desire when we desire it means we are slaves to our desires, slaves to our passions.
Christ died to set us free from our sinful desires. In Holy Baptism, our Old Adam is drowned and put to death along with all sin and evil desires so that a new man may arise and live before God in righteousness and purity.
In Christ, we are a new creation. We are set free from the passions of the flesh so that we are free to do our duty and bear fruits of the Spirit.
Our duty is what God calls us to do as members of a family, society, and the church.
God calls us to believe in His Word and gladly hear and learn it. He calls us to pray for all people. He calls us to live in faith toward Him and in fervent love for our neighbor. He calls us to put the gifts He gives to us in His service. God calls parents to provide for their children and raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And God calls children to honor their parents and provide and care for them when they are no longer able to do so themselves.
God calls the government to punish those who do evil and to reward those who do good. He calls citizens to pay their taxes and honor the governing officials as God’s servants. He calls pastors to preach and teach the Gospel as well as repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And He calls hearers to support those who teach them with every good thing.
Christ died to set us free from the works of our selfish flesh, giving us the freedom and liberty to do our duty. Stand firm, then, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
June 2018: Newsletter Article
By Rev. Jason Braaten
Immanuel Lutheran Church – Tuscola, Ill.
“There are three conversions necessary to every man: the head, the heart, and the purse.” Attributed to Luther, though yet to be located in his vast writings, this statement echoes what Jesus taught about hearts and treasures. He said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).
But which conversion comes first? I submit that the order is this: first the head, then the purse, then the heart. Let me explain.
Our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt among us to save us. He took on our flesh, fulfilled the demands of the law in our place, became sin for us, and suffered torture and death on our behalf, in order that we would be free from sin, death, and hell. He gives us what He accomplished through Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.
And so, He doesn’t just do it for us but gives it to us, makes what He did ours by making us His. Thus, we are called by His name: Christians. We have a new life in Him.
Through the preaching of Law and Gospel, God grants us repentance, a changing of our minds. It is a conversion of the mind. We are called to turn away from our sins and turn toward Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. For when God calls us away from something, He is, at the same time, calling us to something.
And thus, He calls us to a new life, with new deeds. This is the conversion of the purse. Jesus said that “it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Notice that our hearts follow our treasures, not the other way around. As Christians, God calls us to invest our treasures in His Kingdom to ensure that the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered. He calls us to share all good things with the one who teaches us the doctrines of Christ. He calls us to be generous in giving to the church, for it is more blessed to give than to receive.
So where is your treasure? If it is not invested in the kingdom of God, then the only response is repentance—a conversion of the heart—and to begin doing just that. And as our Lord promised, where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
This is not to say that you earn your way into heaven. It is simply to say that as Christians, those who have been made to be temples of the Holy Spirit, who have been given a new life in Christ, who are dead to sin and now alive in Him, we are, actually, to live — think (conversion of the mind), do (conversion of the purse), and be (conversion of the heart) — a new life in Him.
And when you fail, know that God in Christ loves and forgives you and still calls you away from that and to Himself.