Today we begin an important season in the life of our church. This is the day we officially start our stewardship campaign for this year. During the next four weeks we will look at this idea of stewardship through the lens of generosity. We will ask ourselves a very important question: What does God ask of us in response to the many blessings we have been given?
We all come to a stewardship campaign with different thoughts and expectations. Perhaps our initial thoughts or expectations are that this season is simply about finances and maintaining the church resources. True, stewardship campaigns have a lot to do with our finances and we will talk a lot about finances. However, a stewardship campaign goes beyond the financial. A stewardship campaign is a reminder of God’s blessings and a challenge to take a big step of faith and trust in the Lord.
It is a reminder of God’s blessings and our call to care for these gifts. Genesis 1 helps us to understand this. Where there was once nothing God created this world. The Lord created each of us to reflect the God’s very image. Part of this creation is the fact that God provides for our basic needs. Acts 14:17 echos this and talks of how God provides for things like food. The Lord is the true provider of our homes, finances, resources, and everything that we have.
Because what we have is given to us from the Lord it comes with some responsibility. This means we are to care for what we have been given. That is the essence of stewardship. Genesis 1:28 serves as a call to stewardship. The words remind us that God has provided various resources to us, and we are called to care for them in acknowledgement that we have is truly God’s. We are not simply takers of things, but we are caretakers of God’s resources.
This idea of stewardship comes with a challenge. The challenge is for us to take a risk, a big step, and see how God is calling us to use our blessings to bless others. Nothing happens in the life of the church unless we are willing to go where God is leading us. Stewardship reminds us of this. Stewardship is a reminder of our call to see ourselves in a mission to serve our community in the same way Christ loves us – without expectations, reservations, or fears. Stewardship challenges us to take a step of faith and trust that if we go where God leads that the resources to love and opportunities to serve will come together in some holy ways.
For the next four weeks, I hope this image of taking a big step will be on our hearts and minds. What are we willing to risk for the kingdom? How is God calling us to share with what we’ve been blessed with? Where are the places God is calling Trinity UMC to be generous in order to be a blessing throughout Latonia, Covington, and throughout Northern Kentucky and the world? My prayer is that this will be a life changing time for you, your family, and our church. I also pray that this season will unify us around a common mission and purpose to be used by God to bless and love others, because we first have been blessed and loved.
We start by trying to understand this idea of generosity. The Biblical meaning of generosity goes much deeper than its book definition. When we think of generosity, we think of our willingness to share what we have with someone else. Why? What motivation is there for someone to be generous, especially in this individualistic and isolated culture that we live in where we are sometimes disconnected from the needs of those around us? If we ask the world, our culture might say that the motivation of being generous is that it is expected or so that you might be seen as a good person. However, these are generated through self-guided principles that is centered on a form of generosity that is about us instead of the mission to serve Christ and love others.
Biblical generosity goes much deeper. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 gives witness to our calling to be generous in response to how God has blessed us with. Paul writes these words to Timothy as part of his commissioning to ministry. The entire letter is a discourse on what Paul hopes Timothy will express in his ministry to Asia Minor.
One of these hopes was tied to what people would do with their riches. Paul is writing to an area, perhaps Ephesus, that had a lot of riches. He was trying to help them see what true goodness looks like. In those days, goodness was connected to how much money you had, similar to how we can sometimes view goodness today. To have money in those days usually meant having connections to the Roman Empire. Those who were rich likely believed they had it all and were good people because of their financial wealth.
However, Paul wanted them to see something else. Having a life based on material wealth was no life at all. The reason is that riches will fade and resources will come up short. Being rich, Paul says, is not what defines a person as “good.” Having more wealth is not the ideal definition of our lives. Pope John Paul II wrote something similar. He said, “It is not wrong to want to live better; what is wrong is a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards “having” rather than “being,” and which wants to have more, not in order to be more but in order to spend life in enjoyment as an end in itself.”
Goodness is not defined by what we have. Goodness in the kingdom of God is defined by how wiling we are to be generous with what God has blessed us with. That is the message Paul expresses. Generosity is a fruit of a spirit that is a powerful response to God’s blessings. Paul says the Christian life is to take our blessings and use them to do good. We do this by being generous of ourselves in the lives of others.
When we do this we reflect one of the things that best defined the early church. They were not connected by what they had, but a desire to love Christ and share their blessings with each other and those in need. There are two key passages in Acts that define the early church as a community of sharing with each other. In Acts 2:45, we read that the early church sold their possessions and gave to those in need. Acts 4:32 echos this and says no one saw what they had was their own, but was something to share with others. Paul wants the church, both then and today, to continue in this. The desire for the church should be to be people who see their resources as tools to help care for the needs of their community and the larger world.
That is not just extravagant generosity, but it is deep and holy generosity. A generosity that sees others as important as ourselves and looks for ways to help the poor, the forgotten, the neglected, the abandoned, the struggling, the addicted, and so many others within our community. They are all around us. Generosity calls us to go out and find them.
When we do, we will do works of righteousness that are founded in a principle of serving Christ while loving others. That is why being generous is so important. It is a crucial way of loving Christ and loving others. Christ calls us to be a living response of love that is not based on seeing Christ in the lives of others. As Matthew 25 reminds us, when we care for others, when we love them, when we help them, we are truly serving Christ and receive the blessing.
This is true goodness! True goodness is by being generous with what we have so others may experience God’s love and grace. This is the type of mission that is part of a foundation of a healthy, lively, and powerful church that seeks to love Christ and love others. Can you imagine if every church, big or small, sought to be generous and see Christ in the lives of others. Can you imagine the lives that would be impacted and the hope that would be shared?
Could you imagine if we continued to be generous in how we live out our mission here at Trinity? In your bulletin, there is an insert that expresses just some of the things that we do to care for others in our community. These are some of the ways we have been generous with what God has blessed us with. We have cared for the people around our church through our Open Gyms and participation in the Summer Feeding Program. We have reached out to Ida Spence and shared our gifts and presence with them. We have helped to feed people in our community and have provided school supplies for children in need. In so many ways, we have been generous with what God has blessed us with, whether it is our time, our money, or our presence.
Being generous has defined who we have been. It can also define who we are today and tomorrow. God has blessed us as people, as families, and as a church in indescribable ways. It may not always seem like it, but we are blessed. That blessing calls us to go and be a blessing to others, to be generous with our selves, our money, and our presence, so others may feel the depths, widths, and heights of God’s love for them.
What is the big step of being generous that we can make today? Everyone of us are faced with a moment to take a step, to take a chance of faith, and to go where God might be leading us in being more generous. I know it is scary. It is hard to let go of what we have. It is hard not to be fearful that we will be used or taken advantage of. It is hard not to feel like what we do doesn’t matter. But, what if we took that big step regardless. What if every day … every day we commit ourselves to be a people, to being a representation of the love of Christ, who are defined by our generosity? What if we took a big step and say at Trinity United Methodist we are going to be a people who are defined by our generosity and our desire to love others in the ways that Christ loved us?
Could you just imagine the lives that would be impacted and the hope that would be shared?