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Monday, November 10, 2014

It's that time again...Stewardship Sunday!

Why do we need to give?  Should we give?  How much should we give? There are so many organizations out there that do wonderful things...why give to the church?  Why even go to a church...Why not just worship in your house?  

So many questions...all of which I've heard.  Some of which are legitimate questions that deserve real answers.  I heard a sermon once at my home church in greensboro that really stuck with me.  I'm not sure why it did...but at the time it obviously meant a lot.  Many sermons have touched me through the years, but my memory isn't great and unless I write it down, I usually don't remember them.  But this one I do.  I think it helps explain why we should give and pledge on Stewardship Sunday.

I think it goes without saying that churches can not function without donations.  The building, staff, grounds, programs, classes and activities can't happen without donations.  For most churches that is the main, if not only, source of income.  Some churches are lucky and host many weddings or other such events and some money can come from this.  
This answers the question of - why do we need to give?  What about - should we give and how much should we give?  I asked one of my pastors once, "Why should I pray?  Why should anyone pray?"  His answer surprised me...mainly because I was expecting something pastoral, theological and deep.  He thought for a second and simply said, "Cause the Bible tells us too."  The conversation did end up going deeper, but it remains a simple answer.  The Bible tells us very plainly that we should give.  The Old Testament says to give 10%.  The New Testament, which is where we take most of our "laws"...from Jesus' teachings, does not give a certain amount.  I found this on the christianbiblereference web site...

"However, Jesus made it clear that we are obligated to be generous to those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV, Matthew 5:42)
Giving is to be done cheerfully, rather than as an obligation (2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and not for the purpose of public recognition (Matthew 6:1-4). The amount to give is not necessarily ten percent (Matthew 19:21Luke 18:2221:1-4Hebrews 13:161 John 3:17). Generous giving is an acknowledgment that everything we have is a gift from God, and is to be used in His service (Luke 12:33Acts 20:351 Timothy 6:17-19James 1:171:271 Peter 4:10).
Rather than give a certain amount as an obligation, Christians are urged to share generously of whatever talents, abilities and wealth God has entrusted to them."

But the church uses the 10% from the OT as a guide to help us know how much we should give.  So this helps us understand that yes, we are to give and it gives us an idea as to how much.  On a personal note, I never used to give 10%...there was always an excuse.  After I got married though and lived in Peru a few years, my faith and outlook changed.  I realized that there will never be a time that is right.  Just do it :)  We never thought we'd have enough but somehow we always do.  God is good :)

So that leaves us with the question - "there are so many organizations...why give to the church?  we can just worship in our homes...why put money into the church?"
This is where that sermon I heard comes into play.  When we go to church we worship.  We sing.  We pray.  We fellowship with others.  When we go to church we participate in programs and activities.  We laugh.  We meet new people.  We dine together.  It's a community of faith.  The NT talks repeatedly about needing a community of faith.  Why?  Because at some point in your life, there will be a moment or a day or a week that is painful.  You may be sick, you may have suffered a loss of someone close to you, you may be lonely, exhausted, stressed out, burnt out, sad, doubting, in a financial crisis or depressed.  It will happen.  And when it does, you will need your community of faith.  That's why God created churches and fellowship - to help us through those times of need.  It can provide shelter for the needy, love for the brokenhearted, friendship for the lonely, food for the hungry, laughing for the sad and support for the weak.  
It's hard to imagine this when we are in a good position in life. Most of us want to be strong and take care of ourselves.  We don't want to admit weakness or a need for others. That's why many people rebuke God - you say, I don't need Him.  But the next time you are in church and all is good in your world, take a look around you.  Look at those in front of you, on your left, on your right and sitting behind you.  I promise you that at least one of them is hurting, or sad, or lonely...
perhaps anxiously awaiting the results of a test, perhaps waiting for a looming lay off at work, maybe going through a divorce or family problems.  Whatever the problem is, someone around you needs this time of worship and fellowship.  I had a professor once that lost her adult child.  The other professors got together to show their support for her and her family.  She told them, "I can't even pray right now...I can't even believe".  Sometimes it gets that bad - you don't have the words to pray or the frame of mind to even try. You don't know how to help yourself to start getting through whatever it is that you are experiencing.  So what did her colleagues tell her?  "That's why we are here.  We will pray for you so you don't have to.  We will believe for you."  And isn't that what we are truly here for?
So the next time you are worshiping in church - sing louder, pray harder, listen more intently and pay attention to those around you...Because someone around you needs to hear you sing and needs to hear you pray, because they can't.  They are suffering, hurting and need to hear you sing praise to God and hear your words of affirmation.  They need to see you believe because they can't.  And they need your attention because they are seeking their community of faith.  
This is why we give...and not just our money - but our time and talents.  We give because we need each other and the church.  We give because we need a place to go that offers safety, love and support that no other place offers quite like the church...We give because others can't...

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