I once heard the story of a young boy that was thrilled when his grandmother gave him a crisp fresh $100 bill. It was Christmas Eve and he was overjoyed. He had never received a gift that big.
Later that evening the entire family went to church for Christmas Eve. It was a small Lutheran Church and he had never been there before. When it came time for the offering, he reached into his pocket and made sure that he grabbed a $1 bill to put in the offering plate.
As he dropped the dollar bill in and watched the plate move down the pew, he realized he accidentally put in the $100 bill! He watched in terror as the $100 bill was passed down the pews and disappeared. He wanted to cry and felt awful.
For this young boy, giving was not something he wanted to do at all. Money was so scarce for him, this was not his home church, and he had no plans to give so much. Needless to say, we can identify with his mistake in giving away his Christmas money. This is not what Christian Stewardship is about.
St. Paul writes, “Each of you must give as you have made up you mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:7-8
We are called to give as a part of the wonderful things God is doing at St. Luke. We give as a fuel for mission. We give because God has already given us so much. As we see God as the one who gives first, our giving becomes a reflection of God at work in us.
The young boy did not give with a joyful heart, no he felt something was taken from him, and he wanted it back. We on the other hand, are to give freely, we give out of our baptismal identity, we belong to God, and God has invited us to join in ministry, and giving is a way to join in that ministry of God
Over the years giving for me has changed. These days I'm so enthralled with the mission of St. Luke Lutheran Church that when I give my tithe to this place, I often have joy in my heart as I give. The boy was saddened by watching his money disappear -- I have joy during the offering because I have seen firsthand how lives will be saved and changed by fueling the mission of this great place.
Our attitude of giving is often dependent on our connection with our faith. This season I invite you to examine your faith and examine your giving. If you can't give or don't want to give, know that you're loved and cared for just as you are. But I invite you into joyful giving. I invite you into a spirit of generosity that reflects all of the ways in which you have been blessed.
I invite you to worship and make an estimate of giving for 2018 on Consecration Sunday, Nov. 19 as together we "fuel the mission" of St. Luke.
May this season of Thanksgiving and graciousness truly fill you.
Pastor Cliff Bahlinger
St Luke Lutheran