The following modern day parable comes from the Lilburn, Georgia, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church newsletter:
Now it came to pass on a day at noon that I was the guest of a certain businessman. And the lunch was enjoyed at a popular restaurant. And the waiter there was very efficient. And the food was very good. Now when the end of the meal was at hand the waiter brought the host the check. As we arose to depart, I observed that he laid some money under the edge of his plate. I know not what the amount was; howbeit the waiter who stood nearby smiled happily, which being interpreted means the tip was satisfactory.
Now this parable entereth not into the merits or demerits of tipping but, as I meditate on the money that becomes tips throughout the nation, I think of tips and tithes. For the proverbial tip should be at least a tithe, lest the waiter turn against us. As I continue to think of these things, it comes to me that few people who go to church treat their God as well as their waiter. For they give unto the waiter a tithe plus one-half; but unto God they give what they think they can get away with. Verily, doth the human creature fear the waiter more than the Creator? And do we love God less than we love the waiter? Or does the waiter do more for us than God?
Stewardship is something we do! I confess that I borrowed this sermon title from Frederick B. Speakman’s sermon and book, Love Is Something You Do. It is Speakman’s contention that love is not just poetic words, romantic feelings, lyrical thoughts, or beautiful attitudes, but action. Love is a happening! It is something we do!
Stewardship is something we do, too! It is an action we take and in which we involve ourselves. It is not just hard, cold cash; a check easily written and never missed; or old clothes that are too small or out of style or not to our liking.
Stewardship is Christians in action! It is exciting, adventuresome, soul-stirring. It is the people of God eagerly, freely giving money that the work of Christ might continue. I ask you, where else in all history, in all the world, in all time, could you find anything to compare? Stewardship is God’s people in action.
The apostle Paul had something to say to the Corinthians and us about the doing of “giving”: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Individual Christians do have a choice — a decision about how much they will give to the work of the church. The originating action and attitude comes from God; we give because He first gave to us. And action begets action! If we are God’s people, if we are followers of the Christ, then we will be and do as our Lord and Master does — and give cheerfully.
Paul continues: “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.”
The point being made here is fundamental to all fund-raising. People are inherently selfish. They are going to be certain there is enough money, food, good things, etc., to take care of themselves, their families and their loved ones before they give to God, charities, or “the starving people of Africa.” The personal decision of “how much” is a scary one. It is difficult for many of us to feel safe and secure enough to make a pledge of money to the church. If it is “enough” that we are waiting for, it will never happen. We’re looking for the solution to our problem from the wrong end. For most of us, there never was, there is not now, and there never will be “enough”! Only God is “able to give you more than you need so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good work” (TEV).
One thing that needs to be said loudly and clearly is that the money which operates this church, our denominational offices, and supports our missionaries around the world is your money, your offering to God. Yet this money we give to the church is God’s. It is His work, not our pet projects, that are to be achieved. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “your Kingdom come,” and one of the legs supporting that prayer is our stewardship. Stewardship is something we do.
Edward Angency of the Presbyterian Church in Fort Defiance, Arizona, has written:
How many times have you heard somebody say — all the church cares about is money? I must admit that my blood pressure rises a little bit every time I hear it. Here is why:
– all the liquor industry cares about is money;
– all the tobacco companies care about is profits;
– all the movie makers care about is how much this or that picture brings in at the box office, regardless of the subject matter.
The church cares for the sick and dying; the church cares about the home and community; the church cares about the underprivileged and discouraged.
The only interest the church has in money is this: money used in the Lord’s work will make scores of hurting people happy.
Stewardship is something we do. Christians do stewardship. Every time the offering plate is passed in worship, we do stewardship. Every time we write a check — to a utility, to a charge card company, to a restaurant or a supermarket, or to the church — we do stewardship. Stewardship is love in action. As the people of God come through our doors and worship and work together, so through our giving, our stewardship, our offerings, does the love of God go out from this church and all Christian churches to individuals and persons in need. Our giving may or may not be what it ought to be; nevertheless, whatever we give is our part, our participation, our doing of God’s love.
In a pamphlet, Stewardship Facts, Earl Barfoot described the time he taught a lesson on stewardship to a group of sixth graders. He took six apples and a sharp knife and set them on a table, then spoke about God’s creation, God’s rules for using and sharing, and the need for us to obey those rules. One of the boys exclaimed, “What are those apples for?” Barfoot picked them up and put all six apples into his hands. “What would you do with these if I were God and gave them all to you?” he asked. The boy didn’t hesitate: “I’d eat them!”
Barfoot then asked, “If we are God’s stewards, what do you think God would expect you to do if He gave you all of them?” Sixteen pairs of eyes on the boy would not quite let the new owner take full rights to the apples that easily. He offered a possible solution: “I need more apples!” “Unfortunately,” said Barfoot, I didn’t have more apples. We agreed that we live in a world of limited resources. “But I do have a knife,” he added, and offered it to him.
The boy accepted the knife and the group turned back to the discussion. He stood at the side table trying to decide about being a good steward. Soon he interrupted — “O.K., I’m ready,” he said. “How many would like one-half an apple?” Several hands went up and he distributed seven halves (three and one-half apples). Other hands went up when he asked “How many would like one-quarter of an apple?” He passed out nine of the ten one-quarter pieces — but one empty hand was still extended toward him. Suddenly the boy realized he had only one one-quarter piece of an apple remaining. For just a moment he hesitated — no one sure of what he would do — then he put the one-quarter piece into the last empty hand and turned away in disgust, saying, “Hey, I ain’t got none for myself.”
Before the boy had the words out of his mouth, three of the seven children who had halves broke their pieces and returned a quarter of an apple to his hand. Each had a share; he had three one-quarter pieces in his own hand. He stared at them in disbelief and everyone broke into genuinely joyful laughter when he cried out “Wow, stewardship really works!”
Yes, stewardship really works. Stewardship is God’s people in action. Stewardship is something we do!