Living Generously

Living Generously

“I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.  For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” –  Paul

“If it hurts that much to take your wallet out of your pocket just keep it in there.  God doesn’t want your money and neither does the church.”
– Pastor Louie Suter

Pastor Louie was an old-school Baptist minister in the town where I served my pastoral internship in northwestern Minnesota.  The local pastors got together every week to study scripture, break bread and even golf once in awhile.  It was a joyful group that included the Catholic priest, the Baptists, the Lutherans (ELCA, Missouri AND Wisconsin Synod), Methodists and Congregationalists.

The topic of stewardship came up, as it often does when pastors are hanging out together, and Louie stood up and said that his stewardship sermon was the same every year.  And then he spoke the words that I quoted at the top of this post!

What is a Gift? 
As a student pastor I was more than a little stunned.  It sounded like Louie was telling people not to give to the church!  But the truth of the words he spoke came from a heart steeped in the Bible and the love of Jesus Christ.  The truth is this: a gift given in protest or with strings attached is not a gift at all.  For the church to demand gifts that people don’t want to give, or for people to give gifts that aren’t truly gifts, ends up causing spiritual damage both to the individuals involved as well as the church… which is the Body of Christ.  So, Pastor Louie was saying, just keep the money and I’ll try to do a better job of preaching the love of Jesus in a way that awaken generosity in your hearts.

Paul also knew that demanding an offering for the poor in Jerusalem was his right but would not result in true giving.  So he appealed to the loyalty and love the people had for Jesus and what Jesus did for them instead!

And that is what we try to do at Good Shepherd as we awaken ourselves to examining what it means to truly live as people of faith in Jesus.  The generosity of the people of God at Good Shepherd is an amazing thing to see and experience as your pastor.  How we continue to share our gifts with each other and the world is a journey I am thrilled to explore with you as walk together through the most amazing gift of all: a resurrected life in Jesus Christ.

2 Comments
  • Wanda Martinelli
    Posted at 13:50h, 04 July Reply

    Sometimes when it hurts people to open their billfolds or purses it isn’t because they don’t want to part with the money or because they don’t want to give to the church but sometimes it is a decision of having enough to pay the rent or monthly bills or buy groceries. I always start out with a pledge then feel guilty that I can’t live up to it. That is a burden of guilt. Sometimes you have to sell your transportation to pay monthly bills. Sometimes a person wants to go to church but feels guilty because they hear so much about money that it feels like they shouldn’t be there because they aren’t able to pay enough to the church each month. I am a Real Believer in God and pray every day, come to church when I can, pay what i can and would pay a lot more if I had the money. Some of us struggle every day of our lives and are too proud to tell anyone at church because we can’t pay as much as others and, can’t do as much as others, so we feel less important. Just my feelings…….

  • Pastor Chris Enstad
    Posted at 10:27h, 06 July Reply

    Thank you for this response, Wanda!
    I think Louie’s intent in those words was tongue-in-cheek. In the sermon itself I reminded everyone that generosity is going to look different from every person. The widow’s mite is one of the more powerful teaching sermons that Jesus preached and it still holds true today. We are called to be generous with time, talent AND treasure of course. My hope would be that in all of the ways we give we do so joyfully and without expectation of anything in return so that those gifts are truly gifts… when we are all living in that mode of generosity rather than scarcity the church is truly on fire for spreading the Good News of Jesus!

    And I understand the idea of feeling less important when not able to contribute as much financially but I can tell you that that is not my intention. It is hard to change a culture to truly bring all voices to the table but that is the path we are on and I’m grateful that you’re hanging in there as part of it!

    Sincerely,
    Pr. Chris Enstad

Leave a Reply