Sunday’s Scripture – Luke 16:1-13
(I know, right?! Back to back gospel lections…weird isn’t it?)
I believe supporting the local church I attend, and since I am United Methodist likewise my annual conference and the UM connection, is a sign of spiritual growth. It is a sign of trust – that I trust God with the riches I return to God. I trust that God will do what God does – make them fruitful and multiply!
I also believe that in supporting the local church I attend (again and my annual conference and the UM connection) that I grow in financial maturity. I am reminded as I give that it’s not all about me.
I know. Shocker.
It’s about God and how God invites me to further participate in the Kingdom as I give.
Now, I’ll admit. Giving has been hard for me these past few years. And I think that I’ll find a lot of kinship with that statement. With the recession/downturn in the economy financial fear has been the norm instead of financial security. Andrew and I faced a great decision as we were in seminary during this time: did we take student loans to finish our education and begin serving the church full time or wait to earn the money and finish our degrees as our funds allowed?
We accepted the debt. Along with 2 car loans (word to the wise…don’t EVER have two car loans if you can help it…) And credit card payments. And utilities and cell phones and groceries and book costs. And…and…and…
Now, this is meant to turn into a pity-party for the Millers. It was rough. But it taught us (1) the value of what we have, (2) the value of hard work, and (3) the value of offering gifts to the Kingdom.
I have felt so financially trapped these past few years. Our savings were dismal, the bills kept coming in, and I often turned to God to complain only to quickly turn away because I was ashamed I wasn’t giving more to the Kingdom.
And then I heard these words from a congregant one day, “Sarah, I always give to God first. Not last, but first. And I don’t worry if the money will be there for bills or at the end of the month. Because God will provide. God always provides.”
Those words broke my chains. Those words reminded me that God honors my gifts, whatever it is, and God can do great things with what we might consider the smallest of offerings. God assured me that growth in my spiritual and financial maturity included growth in managing my personal finances, paying off debt, not adding new debt, and budgeting. Doing so frees me and frees up more funds that can be given to the glory of God’s Kingdom.
Andrew and I are slowly but surely coming out of our debt. We are moving towards the Promised Land of financial security and spiritual maturity. We are more able to support the churches we serve, support other charities and initiatives close to our hearts, bolster our own savings, and seek a simplistic life. It is not something that happened over night. We have been working towards “this day” for a while and will continue working for many many more years. We have God as our companion. We know God celebrates our financial successes while challenging us to constantly evaluate how God is calling us to alter the management of our resources that we will be better stewards in the Kingdom.
Whatever we give – I give, you give, we give – God honors as God knows our circumstances and God knows our hearts. Let us not become comfortable in our giving but seek the ways in which God challenges us to stretch and give in new ways.
Our Scripture tells us, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Lk 16:10). God has trusted each of us with a small portion of God’s Kingdom. Do we, will we trust that in returning that portion to God that God will provide and make those riches fruitful and multiply?
Prayer: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (From Psalm 51:10-12, 15-17; 139:23-24)