Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
We’re heading into the “feasting season!” Starting with Thanksgiving, followed close behind by Christmas and New Year’s, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to indulge in copious amounts of gifting, delicious food, and drink.
We need special times of celebrations and, for the most part, we greatly look forward to them. We have so much to be thankful for and, after coping with the pandemic for so long, many of us are feeling a strong desire to gather together and will willingly open our wallets up a little wider to enhance the festivities.
In fact, it’s been estimated that folks in this country will spend an average of $998 per household on Christmas celebrations alone – not to mention what will also be spent on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve parties. Being blessed with so many resources makes me wonder if we might also create space in our holiday for some charitable generosity.
We’re in the middle of our stewardship campaign at Spirit of Peace, which reminds me that many nonprofits make one-third or more of their annual budget during the last two or three months of the year. It’s easy to become irritated at the earnest letters asking us to donate, which show up in our mailboxes this time of year, but they’re good reminders for us to think outside of ourselves and respond with generosity.
Our stewardship theme is James 1:27, “Every good gift is given from above and comes down from the Father of lights,” which teaches us that when we give, we’re not giving from something we’ve somehow generated; we’re giving back in response to what we’ve been given. So, as we move into this much-needed, joyful season of celebration, it’s important to take some time and consider how we can give back, in accordance to what we’ve been given. It’s also true that we need to give. Sometimes we experience giving as just another organization or person asking for a hand-out. The older I get, the more certain I am that generosity not only reminds us “it’s not all about us,” but also lets us see that, as we learn to be generous and let go, God will take care of us.
Learning to let go and trust God is a process of spiritual maturity.
The phrase “I’ve never met a former tither” is true because once people begin to give regularly, they rarely go back on their giving. It’s amazing how, when we express generosity, God’s funny arithmetic always works things out to where we have enough!
It’s a challenge to talk about money and generosity in the church.
People who don’t have a lot to give feel shamed, and people who have enough to give but aren’t doing so feel guilty and harried by pastors like me. It’s a tough needle to thread, but I’ve learned that sometimes people don’t give if we don’t ask. When churches and charity organizations find themselves lacking,it might be that we haven’t expressed a cogent ask for why we need resources and how we’ll use them to change lives.
As the pleas for support come in over the next couple of months, let’s remember to count our many blessings and be every bit as generous as we’re called to be.