The old hymn sings. “Take my life that I may be, consecrated Lord, to thee…” This is the song of a disciple who has come to realize that to follow Jesus is to place your whole life, your whole being, into the hands of the Redeemer. It is, perhaps, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant when he spoke of “Costly Discipleship” and “Costly Grace.” We give our lives to Christ because Christ has already done that for us.
Giving “my life” to Christ is a great spiritual image to propel us deeper into the life available in and through Christ alone. Yet, “my life” can sometimes be a little abstract. It can be a purely “spiritual” or “inward” notion that lacks concrete definition. The hymn goes on: “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold…” Now, that’s concrete. I can see my life as a gift from God. Seeing my money, my wealth as anything other than “mine” is hard. The truth is, it all comes from God and is all dedicated to God, if we dare to follow Christ with our lives.
Giving to the church is a touch subject for many – touchier than even sex and politics. This shouldn’t be the case because, first and foremost, giving to the church is a faithful response to what God has given us. Every breath, every heartbeat, our daily bread, and every paycheck is a sign of God’s gracious love. Certainly, we work hard, using the gifts and skills God has given. Yet, without God, none of it is possible. An offering is giving God something back.
Giving to the church is giving to God. When the impoverished Macedonian people scraped together a generous offering for the starving folks in Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints– and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us… (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)
Giving to God’s work in the church blesses us. Scripture challenges us, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (Malachi 3:10) This is not some strange “investment theology” where offerings are returned in a transaction. It is a witness to the spiritual truth that generous hearts grow full of love, while stingy ones whither.
Giving to the church is a responsibility. To offer worship, pastoral care, learning ministries, and all the other things the congregation does for members, in the community, and the world, we need to spend about $1.5 million each year. That is about $1,875 per family. Thankfully, we don’t “bill” a fair share. We faithfully pray for God’s grace to be shown in the generosity of each member as they have been gifted and called.
Giving to God answers a call. Scripture teaches that at least the first ten percent of what we receive in all things is to be dedicated to God’s work through God’s people. If every household in the congregation tithed, we would receive $6.7 million a year – think of what a difference we could make.
Planning your gift helps you and the congregation. People who make commitments to give (which are always changeable and not promissory notes) become more generous and spiritually vital. The studies prove it. When the congregation knows what to expect, leaders can be faithful in planning for the future. None of us would take a job knowing only that we would be paid “what I can afford, when I can afford it.”
As we walk through our Let Your Light Shine generosity emphasis this year and considering how we will all give back to God our offerings in the coming year. I’m praying for all of us to open our hearts and hands, signing “Take my life, Lord.”
On behalf of the congregation, I’m asking you to make a plan to give generously in the coming year. Don’t let someone else give for you, join in the mission of the Body of Christ not just in thoughts and prayers, but in generosity as well.
The peace and love of Christ to you.
Pastor Tim Olson
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