by: Rev. Brandon Dirks
I am discontent with the discontent around money sermons.
This is the time of year many churches engage in “Stewardship Campaigns,” which many believe are just cleverly disguised fundraisers for the church. I have yet to meet a church member who is excited about stewardship campaigns. I never hear honest statements like:
“Yippee! This is the best time of year!”
“Can’t get enough sermons on money!”
“I just love it when the preacher sticks his fingers in my wallet!”
“You can keep your Christmases, your Pentecosts, and your Easters…but don’t mess with Stewardship Sunday. That’s the Sunday where I get to put my money where my mouth is!”
I think that if anyone said anything like that, they would be either run out of the church…or enlisted as a permanent member of the Stewardship Committee!
It’s too bad, though. Too bad we are so ambivalent about Stewardship Campaigns.
Think about it. No wonder our favorite church holidays are Christmas, Pentecost, and Easter. They don’t ask anything of us. They don’t expect anything. We can just show up and soak it in. They are God initiated. They are God centered. And they celebrate the greatness and worthiness of the God we try to follow. We get to bask in the glow of a glorious and loving God who so loved the world that he sent his only Son into the world to be born poor, teach great lessons, heal the broken, do miraculous wonders, be betrayed with a kiss, abandoned by his closest friends, brutally tortured and horribly crucified. All this so that three days later, he could rise from the dead so that we might have eternal life. Awesome! We don’t have to do anything! We can just sit back, open our arms…and continue our gluttony of grace. Give me more God! (note the sarcasm?)
But Stewardship Sunday? Blah! It asks something of us. It forces us to look at ourselves…at our commitment to this God who gave us everything. And we often don’t like what we see. It reminds us that God wants something from us. He wants us—all of us. He wants us to show up at worship (occasionally), participate in a small group (if no one holds us accountable), and serve the poor (when it’s convenient). But he also wants us to trust Him. He wants us to love Him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. He wants us to give Him all that we are because of all that He gave. Stewardship Sunday is that not-so-gentle-reminder that God wants us to demonstrate our trust, love, and priority of putting Him first by laying on the altar what is most precious to us.
We should be itching for this chance to show God how much He means to us!
After all, it was God who asked Abraham to lay his son, Isaac, on the altar. Ick! We really don’t want to think about that. But Abraham trusted God so much that he obeyed God…even when it didn’t make sense. God went to great lengths to fulfill his promises by helping Abraham and Sarah get pregnant at such an advanced age. Isaac was the sign that God’s promises would be fulfilled. And now God says something totally crazy, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and…offer him as a burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:2).
I’ve been a parent for only 12 years…and even if I wasn’t, I don’t think I would react the way Abraham did in the very next verse (Genesis 22:3), “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took Isaac…and went to the place God had shown him.” There’s a whole story in that one word, “So,” that we will never know. But one thing is clear; Abraham loved Isaac; but, he loved God above all. He loved God so much that he trusted God with his life and his son’s life. He loved God so much that he obeyed whatever crazy thing this God might ask of him. Abraham literally put what is most precious to him on the altar.
Abraham was simply asked to demonstrate his love, trust, and faith in God. Isn’t that all Stewardship Sunday is really about?
Well, maybe our discomfort with money sermons is that we don’t like what we see when we look at our budgets – that there is a lot of “me” and not a lot of “God.” Maybe we get upset because the preachers are right! Maybe our discontent with Stewardship Sundays and money sermons is simply a signal that we have work to do on our faith and trust in God. Maybe we need some help.
Maybe we need more opportunities to be like Abraham and obey God even if it really doesn’t make sense. Maybe we need more Stewardship Sundays. Maybe we need to step out on faith and shout in worship on Stewardship Sunday, “This is the best Sunday of the year! Preach that money sermon, Pastor!” We say we believe in God. Maybe we should put our money where our mouth is.
Can you imagine what would happen if a church looked forward to Stewardship Sunday as a highlight of their year? Can you imagine the church full of people, dancing down the aisle with unfettered joy just for the opportunity to show God how much they trust in Him? Can you imagine what a church like that could accomplish for God’s kingdom.
Are we really ready to trust God…that much? Are you?