“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.