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'The Treasure Chest'


ELCA Home

 

The number one danger is that what
you are giving to is to a church or an organization, not giving it to God.
There is a difference.

Resources: Sermon

The Rev. Roger E. Timm is pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, ELCA, Riverside, IL

 

Here I Am, Lord

The 25th Sunday After Pentecost

November 10, 2002

Stewart and Thomas are co-workers at a bank in the Loop and meet while waiting for a train at the Metra station. Stewart is obviously preoccupied with something he's reading over.

Thomas: What are you reading, Stew?

Stew: I'm giving a stewardship Temple Talk on Sunday at church.

Tom: What's a "Temple Talk"?

Stew: For some reason we call short presentations in church "Temple Talks." I'm supposed to say something about our stewardship drive for about two minutes.

Tom: Well, Stew, this is really a surprise for me. I can't imagine you, or anyone else except a pastor maybe, actually getting up and talking about money in church. Doesn't it bother you that all churches do is ask you for money -- and now you're doing it too?

Stew: No, it doesn't really bother me. After all, churches do need money. They've got to pay their bills and support their programs too. But what I'm doing on Sunday is about a lot more than asking for money.

Tom: More than asking for money? What do you mean?

Stew: Actually, I'm going to ask them to give their whole selves?

Tom: Their whole selves? Stew, are you involved in some weird cult or something? Do you have to turn in your whole salary and deed your house over to this group?

Stew: No, Tom, I'm not part of some cult. I belong to a regular, garden-variety Lutheran church.

Tom: "Lutheran." Are you sure that's not a cult? Wasn't that Martin Luther guy a monk that married a nun?

Stew: Well, that's sort of true, but you make it sound disreputable somehow. Let's talk about that more another time. Tom, when I talk about giving our whole selves, I don't mean that people have to deed over all their property to the church.

Tom: What do you mean then?

Stew: What I mean is that as Christians we believe that God loves us and has given us all kinds of blessings and that in gratitude we want to return God's love and give back God's blessings.

Tom: OK, I can understand that. But how does this giving your whole self work? If it's not some cult-like turning everything over to the church, what is it? You're not planning to quit and go to seminary or something are you?

Stew: No, at least that idea hadn't occurred to me yet. No, what we mean by giving our whole self is that whatever we do, however we use our gifts, financial or otherwise, we try to do it the way God wants us to.

Tom: What bugs me about you religious types is that you get so excited about giving money to church that you forget about how much it costs to raise a family. If I gave my whole self to church, I'd never be able to send my kids to college.

Stew: Not so fast, Tom! Taking care of our family responsibilities is one of the ways God expects us to use our financial resources. Doing that is not against God's will -- unless you spend so much on your family that you don't have anything left to help other people.

Tom: What about our going golfing this weekend? Are you going to cancel on me? Spending money on yourself can't be God's will, can it?

Stew: Sure I'm going golfing with you, Tom -- and I'm praying it's God will that I beat you too! No, my friend, taking care of yourself and finding time for relaxing and enjoying hobbies is part of God's will for us too. In fact, it's one of the Ten Commandments.

Tom: Have they changed the Ten Commandments since I learned them in Sunday School? I don't remember one that said, "Thou shalt golf with thy friends."

Stew: No, but one does say, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."

Tom: What's that got to do with golf? Doesn't that mean you should go to church?

Stew: Not originally. In the Old Testament it meant that you should rest and cease from any work on the Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week. Yes, it included worship, but it mostly meant that you should rest and spend time with family and friends too.

Tom: Well, if it's OK to spend lots of money on your family and yourself, what will be left? What good is your stewardship campaign for your church if people won't have any money left over?

Stew: I think they'll have plenty of money left over. I'm trying to think of a clever way to encourage "proportionate giving."

Tom: What is that?

Stew: I like to suggest that people plan on giving a specific percentage of their income and regularly set that aside for the church, just like they set aside money for their mortgage or car payments.

Tom: What's God's share -- one or two percent?

Stew: We like to emphasize that people can freely choose how much they will give, whether it's a percentage or not. We give not because we have to, but because we want to in response to God's love. The Bible does suggest a tithe, that is, a gift of 10%.

Tom: 10% -- that's a big chunk! I don't think I could do that.

Stew: I bet you could. We tithe, and we have plenty of money left over for food and fun.

Tom: You do? Well, you're lucky that your kids are grown and on their own.

Stew: You're right -- it is easier now. But we tithed when the kids were home and in college too.

Tom: You did? Another surprise. I would never have guessed that you gave so much to church. You never complained any.

Stew: That's because I didn't see anything to complain about. But I'm afraid, Tom, that you may still have the wrong idea about giving our whole selves. It's not just about money.

Tom: It isn't? Are you going to ask for stocks and bonds too?

Stew: No! I mean, it's about what you do with your whole self -- how you use your time, what you do with the gifts and talents you have.

Tom: So now churches don't want just money; they want you to spend all your spare time in the church? Are you going to start skimping on your time at work?

Stew: No, Tom, I'm not going to skimp at work. Sometimes using our gifts in response to God's love can mean volunteering for our church's programs. By the way, remind me to invite you to our Fish Fry next spring. I'm planning to help with it this time. But on the other hand, using our gifts in response to God's love can also mean that we do our jobs the best that we can. It may not seem God-like to foreclose on one of our bank's delinquent loans, but if I have to do it, I try to do it fairly, following our procedures, and I try to treat our client with respect.

Tom: That's interesting, Stew. You almost make me want to come to your church and see what you say. But how can you get all this into two minutes?

Stew: I don't know, Tom. That's why I'm struggling over my draft here. I wish I had a voice from heaven telling me what to say.

Voice: What you say is fine, Stewart. Now go and share the good news of my love in what you say and do.

Stew: Here I am, Lord. Send me!

Tom: What was that? Was I hearing things?

Stew: I don't think so. Tom, why don't you come to church with me on Sunday. You've helped me a lot with your questions, and I'd like you to experience the final product. You can tell me if my Temple Talk answers your questions.

Tom: OK, I think I'd like to. Are you sure Lutherans aren't a cult?