May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always
acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Did you know that there’s a stewardship drive in the Bible?
I don’t mean that there’s stuff in the bible that touches on stewardship,
Or that there are teachings about money.
I mean—there’s an actual fundraising letter:
In the Bible.
You wouldn’t know it because it also happens to be one of the most influential
and meaty treatises in the New Testament:
It’s Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I’m not bringing this up to make some point about how everything is about
Because it’s not.
What’s really interesting here,
Is that there’s an actual biblical stewardship drive:
And yet: Paul’s letter to the Romans is not primarily focused on money.
This book of the Bible starts out by scolding everyone in the Roman church:
Because people were judging, and holding onto stereotypes about each other.
And then Paul just throws it out there saying basically:
“I hope you support my mission:
Because my mission is your mission.
We’re in this together and we’re going to have some hard conversations too.”
It’s not exactly the sort of best practices you’d get from professional fundraisers.
There’s not personal stories, or flattering of the audience.
Of any sense of: “If we don’t get our money, our mission will fail.”
Paul trusted that he didn’t have to flatter his audience.
He didn’t have to speak manipulatively,
And he didn’t have to butter anyone up because he trusted in the call from God:
And he knew that his faith was going to be rewarded.
And part of what this tells us:
Is that Christians really shouldn’t do money the same way that the rest of the
It actually shouldn’t be any surprise that Paul would approach fundraising
dramatically different from how we would often approach it in our world today.
And that’s not just because we’re separated from Paul by 2000 years.
In fact, if anything,
The people of the ancient Roman world knew the value of trying to get in
someone’s good graces.
If you wanted to move up in that world:
If you were looking to make it:
You found yourself a patron who would support you and that meant going out
and selling yourself:
Making the case that the patron would get something out of the exchange.
Paul knew what that kind of hustle was like and that just wasn’t what he was up
to in his letter to the Romans.
Paul was fully absorbed by the kind of weird,
Countercultural relationship to the world that Jesus talks about in the end of
today’s Gospel lesson.
The world is not going to “get” us,
Not only is it not going to get us and find our practices weird:
It’s going to be a bit hostile.
We hold on to the fact that our highest purpose comes form outside of the world
as we know it.
It’s rooted in Jesus:
In the resurrection:
In the end of death and evil and violence.
And we aren’t ultimately beholden to the structures of this world:
The structures that say we have to decide between helping ourselves and helping
Or the structures that say that we should love our friends and punish our
Or that we need to get ours before someone else does.
And so this whole thing about us giving our money to the church is going to seem
suspicious to the world outside the church.
And think about it:
We’re asking for a strange thing.
Ito potentially give a large amount of money:
To an institution that:
From a material standpoint gives us back very little.
Not only that:
But we’re being asked to give a good amount of money:
To an institution that the more you are invested in it:
The more it asks of you!
Can you imagine if the YMCA, or Netflix started asking you for 10% of your income
for a more imitated range of services?
Would you keep you subscription or stay involved?
I don’t know about you: but I’ve been on the verge of dropping Netflix for months
when they upped their prices.
I can’t imagine I’d stick with them if it started costing thousands of dollars a year.
And that’s how we might look to the outside world.
The world can only ever look at things like “a return on investment.”
Like bringing tremendous euphoria, or a sense of social superiority or wealth, or
And the church just isn’t going to bring us those things.
Actually, if we follow the example of most of the saints:
It’ll probably take us in the opposite direction.
Because here’s the thing:
When we give to the church:
We’re not really giving to make sure that a certain set of services or rewards or
goods are given.
We’re giving as a sign of faith and hope and love:
Not in the church per se,
(Although the church IS God’s imperfect sign and place of God’s mission in the
We give because we have faith and hope that this is not all that there is.
That God is the ultimate source of our life and light.
We give, and give enough to kind of feel lit:
To be reminded that we are not the source of our own blessings:
And that we ultimately depend not on ourselves:
But on the grace of our God.
And we give in faith that we do not have to be too dependent on the things of this
That we do not have to define our success on our wealth:
That it does not have control over us.
We give in love:
Love for God, and love for the people around us who we want to see reconciled to
God like we have been.
There can also be a lot of talk about giving joy fully.
And the bible does say that God loves a joyful giver.
But let me level with you here:
Giving isn’t always this euphoric experience where you have this great mountain
top experience every time you write a check.
I had long struggled with giving.
And it was really only last year that my husband and I decided that we’d give 10%
of our income.
We finally realized, that all the “we’re waiting for the right time.” (like… when we
don’t have credit card debt, or our kids are bigger, or whatever.)
All of this thinking would mean that we would never actually bring a change.
We’d never be right enough for it because we could always find other things to do
with our money.
So we took the plunge.
And honestly, sometimes it’s been a bit of a stretch.
(I’m actually slightly behind on my pledge right now.)
But at the same time:
We make it work.
We’ve never overdrafted:
And we’ve never run out of money.
The Spirit has rewarded our meager attempt at faithfulness:
Not with an over abundance of extra cash,
But with the grace to make different priorities:
To be more intentional about our spending,
To teach that to our kids:
And to have a stronger connection to the church and it’s mission in the world.
All of that’s to say that there is a joy that comes with giving:
But sometimes it’s a joy that comes from the faithfulness and the hope:
But there’s always a deeper abiding sense:
That the peace that passes understanding:
That we’re doing the right thing.
We give out of a sense of gratitude:
To the God who is bringing us into something insanely better than what can be
brought or built in this world around us.
We are already brought into the coming kingdom,
Where there is not pain or illness or suffering or enmity or hunger or sorry.
And while we certainly can’t buy our way into this world:
We believe that we an begin inhabiting it through the same kind of faith and hope
and love that our giving helps us to cultivate and reinforce.
The reason someone like Paul could write with such honesty:
And seeming unconcern about meeting his financial goals,
Even as eh asked for money:
Was that his hope was rooted in something much deeper than hope for the
generosity of strangers:
And his faith was fully founded in the God who could bring new life out of death.
And the opportunity we have before us today is to give out of that very same
faith, hope, and love. Amen.
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