Often, in the fall, we spend some time focused on stewardship. This probably made the most sense when the majority of people were working in industries related to farming. The fall is the time of the harvest and it is easy to make connections to the “first fruits” of that harvest. Many of us do not harvest anything and so this imagery is simply lost. In comparison, we live in a world where credit is extended to almost everyone and the numbers are staggering when you see how many families are overextended. So, the idea of “first fruits” seems crazy and the truth is that many wish they could make it to the next paycheck with more than change left over. Many struggle to be good stewards of what God has given. This is most likely because we don’t see the things that we have as a gift from God. We are filled with such rugged individualism that we can’t fathom that anyone helped us—even God.
We forget the true power of God! God formed us out of the dust (Gen 2.7), God knit us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139.13), God knows the number of hairs on our head (Matt 10.30 or Luke 12.7), God has searched us and knows us (Psalm 139.1), and God loves us so much that God gave the Son to die for us (John 3:16-17). Of course, there are many more examples but let these be a reminder to us that “God is God, and we are not.” To be a faithful giver in the life of the church takes practice. Often, we begin with excuses about why now is not the right time to begin but the old adage is true, “you have to start somewhere.” But when we define stewardship as “everything I do after I say that I believe”, then we begin to see how our time, and our energy, and our effort are all part of being a good steward. Being a good steward means that we look for the opportunities in life where we are able to serve others so that we are a blessing to others. Sometimes it’s a phone call, sometimes it’s taking a friend to a doctor’s appointment, sometimes it’s praying for someone in need, or doing something little for those around us.
When it comes to practicing financial stewardship, start with being consistent. Use Simply Giving (a paper form to fill out), use the online giving page, use the new Give+ App from Vanco, or use your bill pay option through your bank to set-up an automatic payment. If you are still old-school write a check on payday or withdraw the cash and put it in its own envelope. (Personally, I am a huge fan of automated giving because the money is out of my account before I can even be tempted to spend it and I know that I am faithfully giving from the abundance and not from what is left-over.) The amount should be enough that it “pinches.”
The goal has been that everyone would tithe or give 10% of their income. If that seems crazy, start by giving something each time you are at worship. If you do that, then make a plan for giving even when you are not at worship. If you do that, then grow the percentage that you are giving each year. Over time, you will get to a point that you are tithing your income. So, start with what pinches and evaluate along the way. Respond to God’s challenge to you.