One of the biggest complaints I have heard in my years of church work is that the church only wants your money. This is sometimes true – that second circulation of the offering plate – that visit from the clergy person telling you what to give – that incessant drone of begging leading up to Stewardship Sunday – the TV preacher offering you God’s blessing and favor – the church has a history of doing this money thing badly. The problem is, of course, that without money, the church cannot function. While we are tax-exempt, we don’t get anything else for free. Utilities, upkeep, salaries – not to mention the important tasks of needing money to help people in different ways that are a matter of life and death. I can’t even guess how much my congregation has given to strangers to help pay the rent or an electric bill. I bet many of yours have as well. That needs money.
I have never preached a sermon about money; at least, not directly. It is said that Jesus spoke more about money than any other topic, and although I have never gone through the Gospels and counted, I would guess the topic is in the top three. How we make it – how we use it – who we feel about it – all of these mattered to Jesus and those who followed Him. This is why tithing was created thousands of years earlier; it was a way for every person to give generously so that those without means could survive. Money matters.
More than that, though, money is a symptom of one’s state of generosity. It is not a cliche to say that people of faith need to have generous spirits to truly do God’s work. When someone joins our church, we ask them to be generous with their time, their talents, their gifts and their graces – and we ask them to give money. The church envelope is a way that any person can give any amount and not feel judged. Giving one’s time in volunteering is essential to whether a church is seen as doing God’s work or not.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity I have seen in my church, my community, and this country. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on every sector of the economy, and it has put a lot of people out of business, churches included. Our congregation has received thousands of dollars from people who knew that all of it would go directly to people in need. We have helped with rent and bills – we have given to local elementary schools and the Olivet’s Boys and Girls Club – we have distributed thousands of meals and necessities like toilet paper and diapers. We, the people, have pulled together to help each other, and for that generosity, I am deeply grateful. I have been lucky enough to keep my job and get paid, and that is only because of the generous hearts and hands of all of you.
The writer of Hebrews 13 said it well: ” Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Generosity is a sign of spiritual health, and so many of you have shown us just how strong your spirit is. Let’s keep it going – the poor, Jesus sadly said, will always be with us.
Prayer – Today we thank You God, for Your generosity to each one of us. We return that gift to others with thanks. Amen.
Today’s art is “Good Samaritan” by Dinah Roe Kendall.