Stewardship Month: Building a Church with living stones
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
"Tithing" is an old-fashioned word that speaks to giving to the Church. September is Dedicated Giving month or Stewardship month, and we are encouraged to pledge our tithe for next year. Why do we do this?
To put it boldly: in Christ Jesus our Lord, we are the building blocks, living stones of the Church, the body of Christ. We are God's hands, feet, ears, eyes, heart and compassion in the world today. We are part of the mission of Christ to bring life in its fullest to the world. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to continue this work in the world today. We have been given the necessary resources to build strong communities in Christ. Communities which support, guide and encourage us in Christ's work of bringing life and life in its fullness, even here in Twente.
Our resources, God's resources
The practice of sharing our resources with the Church, to ensure that Christ's mission continues in the world until his coming again, is as old as the Church.
This practice is older than the Church itself. We see in the Holy Scriptures that tithing (giving one-tenth) is recorded as one of the acts of worship of the community of faith. This practice of giving a tenth even preceded Israel as a people and later a kingdom. We read in the book of Genesis that Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils as a thank offering to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God.
In modern society, our national tax system ensures that the state provides education, health care, housing, infrastructure, safety, social development, old age pension, child allowances, and more to its citizens. Because of this, unlike the olden days when individuals and families had to fend for themselves without the state's intervention, our understanding of the role of the Church and, therefore, on our free will contributions to the Church has changed.
Despite the services and social benefits provided by the state, the poor are still with us, people are spiritually starving, the elderly are exploited, and not all children are growing up in secure circumstances. Women are abused, and some of us, especially young people, are confused, lost and addicted to drugs and other substances. War and other forms of aggression are still part of our everyday reality. As the living stones in the Church of God, our task is clear-cut and needs to continue.
Like the biblical Micah, we ask the question, 'What does God require from us?'
"God has shown you, oh man/woman, what is good, and what does God require of you, but to do justice to love mercy and to work humbly with your God."
Jesus' mission to us is clear;
"Go into the world, make disciples of all people, baptising them in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
The letter of James reminds us "that faith without works is useless". The Church must be resourced to fulfil its task. We, the living stones, are the ones to resource the Church. We can do this, as God ensures that we receive every blessing to do this.
We do our work as a Church by having an effective and strong presence in the world. Our presence is felt by our behaviour as individuals and communities of faith. By our church buildings, our acts of worship, our outreach in the communities, and our visionary leadership in the Church and the world. And by our power through our Lord Jesus Christ to transform the world to be more righteous and just.
Dedicated giving/ Freewill offering
Our tithe? We as Anglicans call it different things: Dedicated Giving. Freewill Offering, Pledge and other names. It is the financial and other resources we
contribute for the greater good of our faith community and our continued corporate witness to God's presence in the world through our lives.
In this chaplaincy, we aim to use September month to encourage ourselves to review our giving. The Church's work is financed by its members' regular free will offering, for example, a dedicated month-to-month freewill offering, which is not the same as the weekly collection every Sunday during our worship service.
There are also not those moments when we want to show special gratitude to God for something special happening in our lives, when it seems right and proper to us to give a special thank-offering to the Lord – an Old Testament practice – which is as valid today as it was then. Let us not fall into the trap of becoming 'rusty' in our giving.
How do we do this?
1. Pray before you give. It is important to communicate with God concerning this. It is not ugly or a sin to talk to God about money.
2. Develop a system of giving. Many have found it helpful to take out of their monthly income an amount set aside for the Lord's work, which they can transfer directly into the Church's bank account. Refuse to be side-tracked into leaving God's share until everything else has been paid.
3. Review your giving regularly. Refuse to stand still in your service of giving to the Lord.
4. Give cheerfully and with gratitude, as God loves a cheerful giver.
5. Count your blessings as you give.
6. Inwardly digest the following text from the book of Exodus.
'The people are bringing much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.' So Moses gave the command, and the word was proclaimed throughout the camp: 'No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.' So the people were restrained from bringing; for what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work. (Exodus 36:5-7)
Let us, therefore, dream of an age where we, as the living stones of the Church, would have given more than enough. Let us be the living stones in the Church, the body of Christ.
Yours in Christ as always,
Revd Jacque Williams