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Stewardship: God's Gifts in Action

Monthly thoughts and newsletters from our synod concentrating on Stewardship

Stewardship is about being grateful, responsible stewards of the gifts we receive from God. The tradition of giving back to God and to the church comes from the Biblical practice of “tithing,” which means to give back a tenth of our earnings to God (Numbers 18:26). St. Matthew’s sees stewardship as more than simply contributing money to the church; it’s also about contributing time and talents, and volunteering for ministry and mission. It’s about reaching out to build relationships from a perspective of abundance instead of scarcity.

Our stewardship ministry wants you to use this page to read and pray over the importance of giving back to God and neighbor for the betterment of our community. We regularly post news updates from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and our New Jersey District to help focus our direction on serving all people.

April 2020 - LCMS Stewardship Note

On the topic of stewardship, one of the most common questions a person might ask is not whether a Christian should give to their church. Everyone knows this. Of course, Christians should give to their church.

The most common question: “How much should I give?” But what they really mean is this: “Should Christians give a tithe of their income to their local congregation?” So, let’s look at why you should or should not tithe.

Following are some reasons often offered for why Christians shouldn’t give a tithe to their church.

Some say you shouldn’t tithe because it isn’t expressly commanded in the New Testament. Lacking that command, there is no “Thus saith the Lord” and no “should” for giving a tithe to your congregation.

Others say that Christians give to their congregation in ways much broader than money. They give of their time and their talents, and these, together with treasures (money), add up to more than a tithe.

Still others say they give of their treasures to other things besides their congregation, and they want to support those things alongside their church.

And there are those who think Christians shouldn’t tithe because of fear. If they tithe, they are afraid their gift will be misused, and they are afraid they won’t have enough to get the things they use, want, or need.

Following are some reasons for why Christians should give a tithe to their church.

Even though the New Testament doesn’t specifically command Christians to give a tithe, the Old Testament people were commanded to tithe and did. On top of this, St. Paul often describes the giving Christians are to do in similar terms as a tithe: a regular and generous proportion of the first fruits of their income (1 Cor. 6:1–2; 2 Cor. 8:7–23; 2 Cor. 9:2–7).

But here’s another way to think about it. What was the point of the tithe in the Old Testament? Where did it go? The reason for the Old Testament tithe was to support the full ministry of the Levites. They were not given any land because they had no time to farm; their full-time job was the ministry.

What does it say in the New Testament? “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should make their living from the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). This is the verse that Luther put in the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties to cover what Christians owe to the support of the ministry.

It seems clear from both the Old and the New Testaments that the tithe is the goal of Christians in their giving. But what if we’re not there yet? How should we handle this? What are we to do?

Let’s answer this by asking a different question about something entirely different. What would you say to your adult children who only attended church quarterly or once a month? There, is after all, no passage in the New Testament that requires Christians to go to church weekly. Hebrews 10:25 is the closest we have, and it states simply for Christians to not neglect gathering together. Even though there is no passage that commands Christians to gather weekly, that is the implicit expectation throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is the goal.

So, what would you say to that son or daughter? I’d expect that conversation would be something like this: “I’m glad you’re still going to church. It is a wonderful blessing to hear God’s promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and to receive His gifts in the Word and the Sacraments. But you can do better, and it will only be a blessing to you. There is a better way, and I’d really like you to try to attain it.”

This same conversation is how we should approach the topic of the tithe. It’s not specifically commanded in the New Testament, but it sure seems like the implicit expectation of both the Old and New Testaments. So, the church is ecstatic that you’re giving when you’re giving in all these ways – time, talents, and treasures.

The Church Offering

August 2019

Have you ever noticed the subtle ceremony of receiving the offerings during the Divine Service? The offerings are collected in plates or baskets, and they are brought forward and given to the pastor or an assistant. The pastor turns toward the altar, and, as he slightly bows his head, the offerings are raised slightly to the Lord and placed on the altar or an adjacent table. 

Why do we have this ceremony? And what does it teach us? For that is what ceremony does – it teaches, as the Augsburg Confession tells us what we need to know about Christ (AC XXIV, 1–3).

Originally, this ceremony included more than simply bringing forward what was collected in the offering plates. The elements for the Holy Communion – the bread and the wine – were brought forward with the offerings. The offerings and elements were lifted toward the Lord and placed upon the altar. The altar, now made a table, would be set for the Lord’s Supper. 

Gifts brought to the altar come from the sweat of His people’s brow. They are the bread and wine, the fruits of His people’s labor in this fallen world. After six days of labor and toil, the people are to bring a generous proportion for the Lord’s work. Gifts set upon the altar are offered to the Lord for Him to take up and press into service for His gracious work.

For what is offered to the Lord from the sweat of His people’s brow – the bread of anxious toil – comes back to us as the bread of life. The bread comes down from heaven that whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup will receive life through the forgiveness of their sins. 

This is not unlike what the Lord did for His people in the Old Testament: 

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (Deut. 14:22-26) 

What a blessing! God provides for us in all things. He provides bread from the sweat of our brows. He receives this from us in the first-fruits offerings we give to Him in thanksgiving and praise, and He turns these into spiritual bread. He gives this heavenly bread – the bread of eternal life – back to us so we might have joy.

So, the next time you are in the Divine Service, watch this ceremony in wonder. The offerings we have given to Him, the Lord gives back to us in His supper so that we may rejoice in the salvation He won for us upon the cross.

Stewardship Newsletter for March 2020

We are at the beginning of Lent. During the Lenten season, the church calls to our attention the sufficiency of what God gives. It points to the sufficiency of God’s grace in the atoning work of Jesus. It shows us the sufficiency of faith in Jesus’ work for us. It makes known the sufficiency of God’s Word in faith and life.

But Lent doesn’t just remind us of the sufficiency of God’s spiritual gifts, the gifts that pertain to our redemption and salvation. Lent also reminds us of the sufficiency of the physical, temporal gifts of God, those that pertain to this body and life. In other words, it reminds us of the importance of godly contentment and of outward discipline and training of the body. 

This outward training of the body teaches us not to give in to every desire of our flesh but to learn to say no to them. And it does this in such a way that if you fail, it is no sin. It is a way to practice without putting yourself into a compromising situation.

The easiest example of this is fasting. When you fast, you are practicing saying no to the desires of your body. But if you fail in this, if you break your fast, you have not sinned. You have, though, learned something about how your flesh works, how difficult it is to fight against it, and how you need help from above in order to do it.

There is another example of this. It is alms-giving. This is an increase in giving to the church and its mission during this time. We all know that our flesh finds security in money and stuff. By committing to give more to the church, you are training your flesh. You are, by this outward discipline, training yourself to be content with what God gives. You are practicing saying “no” to your desires. Again, if you fail, you have not sinned. But you’ve learned just how powerful your flesh is in leading you instead of you leading it. You’ve learned how you need help from above in being content with what God gives.

This is why St. Paul instructs young Pastor Timothy in this way:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:6–10)

Our sufficiency is not of ourselves; it is in God. Let us learn this without sin by training our flesh this Lenten season.