November is a time when we talk about stewardship and gratitude. In all honesty, these are two sides of the same coin. To be a good steward is to care for a thing, and that means care in several senses of the word.
When you say you care for someone, you might mean that you take care of their physical needs. You might cook or clean for them. You might take them where they need to go. Or you might mean that you love them. In the best of all possible worlds, it means both.
A friend of mine wrote a story once about giving his brother some money for a present one Christmas. The giver knew that his family suffered from lack of money and his new job gave him the opportunity to share with them. He was proud of his gesture.
His younger brother, however, seemed to respond more to that pride than to the gift and would not accept the money. The men had a big fight, punches were thrown. It turned into a real brawl.
In the end, the younger brother did not want to accept the gift until he was sure that his brother loved him. A caring gift he’d take, but not charity from someone who thought himself better!
As stewards, we are called to that same question. Are you doing this out of love?
That brings us to gratitude. If we believe we obtained everything we have through our personal efforts, without help from God, from society, or from our family and friends, we might really have no feelings of being grateful for it at all! Though you’ll see that idea in the world, it is truly not the vision we have from our scriptures. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17.
We are taught, and come to believe, that our very life is a gift from God and the things we can do with it, even those requiring work, study, preparation, sweat, etc., are a result of that first gift. What’s more, our talents are also gifts from God. Though the work was ours, the ability to do it came from God.
It is that understanding of gratitude that leads us to be good stewards. Knowing that God gives the gifts that the world needs to use in the service of God helps us to see what our part is in the scheme of things. What we have is ours to use to take care of ourselves, our family, our community, and the world.
I am grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given to minister in this community. I’m grateful for the ability it gave me to take care of myself, to help those in need, and to support the church. That gratitude allows me to not only give, but to give cheerfully. As Paul wrote, “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Several things will make the difference as you decide if and to what extent you will support the ministry of St. Andrew’s. Each of us must look at our situation and determine our ability to give. Then, we need to ask ourselves how we support God’s work in the world. There are far too many scenarios for me to try to list the things that might go into this decision. But I hope it will start with prayers and a response to God’s love.
Our gifts and offerings make the work of St. Andrew’s possible. It is my prayer that our work will spread the Good News of God’s love to everyone in our community! Gratitude, love, and caring for others. That is our work!