Stewardship is Treasure
Hi ya church! Today we will conclude the "trinity" of stewardship by looking at how we are stewards of our 'treasures' (money, assets, stocks, etc.) and how God also calls us to offer up these for the renewing and mending of God's world. While historically and more importantly scripturally it's been mandated (encouraged) to give 10% of our possessions to the church as an offering I do not *personally* believe that is as possible as in the past for many Americans. Therefore, for this section I don't plan on harping you with the same scriptural mandate you've heard for the last 5 billion years but instead encouraging you to find the line of what is comfortable and doable for you - and then go one step past that in a walk of faith that God will still provide. I believe in all things we grow the most when we're slightly uncomfortable and that includes stewardship. I'll share some more thoughts on this below but for now lets read some scripture.
Scripture to Read
2 Corinthians 9 is a great example of what it means to find your comfort zone and then go slightly beyond that. It does not mandate a certain amount but simply asks you to give with joy. While I don't necessarily subscribe to the belief that God 'rewards' a joyful giver, I do believe people can find new meanings of joy in giving. I find this encouraging as I am not in a position where I can offer 10% of my income. I know everyone says that and I probably could find a way to squeeze it, but I would be living on the absolute margins of my pay if I did. 40% of my annual income goes to student loans and 25% goes to our house. ~15% to my car and about 15% of our income goes to groceries and dining. That leaves me with about 5-8% for personal stuff or savings. Therefore, I try to commit 1% of my income to the church or other nonprofits. While I recognize that is a pathetic amount of money it is 15-20% of my "personal" funds. This is why I don't think the traditional 10% continues to work in a society where the average income has remained the same in relativity, where the middle class is nearly nonexistent, and where student loans have become a governmentally funded loan shark system. (I have thoughts on this if you can't tell, haha.)
I do not believe you should give the first tenth of your income if it comes with compromises. For example, our grocery bills are higher than most people because we only buy food that is organic, ethically raised produce, and cleaning supplies that do not test on animals. All of these purchases come with a higher than normal price tag, but I also believe they are statement of my faith. I believe God's dignity extends to all creatures and to God's creation and thus I will only purchase things that uphold that dignity. (At least I try to.) If giving 10% of my income forces me to go back to buying things that are cheaper and thus dangerous to sustainability or cruel to animals than I think that is a bigger issue than one particular church receiving more money.
When it comes to debt I see scriptural examples that show that God is more concerned with debt than with a tithe. Why? Because once you are debt free you are free to give more, invest more, and give even more later. Therefore, if giving 10% of your income slows down your debt repayment you are slowing down your ability to give more down the road.
Further, Acts 4 shows us that treasure isn't just money but assets too. The disciples were gifted land to use for their community. That is huge! Perhaps you might consider donating an old van that could be used for a future transportation ministry or donate some of your land to the church to create a retreat space for our team ministries to recharge at. Further, some of you give stocks or bonds to the church instead of a traditional offering. These are very helpful as well! (unless of course we're in a recession! haha.) Further, your offerings of food, blankets, and other items we collect over the year are a treasure in the eye of the beholder. Please factor these things in as well if you find yourself financially strapped to offer as a gift.
This is a long winded response to the traditional tithe but long story short I think we need to reframe our understanding of the 10%. It's not 10% of overall income - it's 10% of your "personal" money. In other words, the remainder of what you have after your needs are paid for and what you use for your "wants." I fully recognize this not what many people would agree with so take this with a grain of salt. What do you think about the tithe?
Questions to Consider
What do you think about the tithe? Have you ever done the traditional 10%? What was that like? What's the most you've ever given?
What are the things you "treasure" most in your home? What about them gives that status?
What about our church do you "treasure"? How can you use that as a foundation for being a steward of it. For example, if you love our sanctuary, your pledge is done in honor of helping to maintain our sanctuary rather than our whole church.
Praying the Hymns
One of the best stewardship / offering hymns is Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God. The theology of it is tremendous and perfectly articulates what we've been discussing the past week with understanding stewardship as being caretakers of God's resources.