O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
...There your Heart will be Also
"...There your Heart will be Also"
Based on Mt. 6:21, 1 Cor. 16:1-2 and 2 Cor. 8
Preached on October 21, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, how many managers does it take to change a light bulb? Is the answer:
a) None. They like to keep their employees in the dark.
b) Three. Two to determine it needs changing, and one to tell an employee to change it.
c) A roomful, because they have to hold a meeting to discuss all the ramifications of the change.
d) "This topic was resumed from last week's discussion, but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items. It will be continued next week."
Coincidentally, our topic this morning is a continuation from last week, when we heard about God being the owner of all things on earth, and us being the managers of His things. We heard that the owner will call His managers to account for the way we have managed His things. And we heard that God gives us the motivation we need to please Him in the selfless giving of His only Son for our forgiveness, life and salvation. You belong to me God says, for I have claimed you in baptism. And what can our hearts do but cry out, "I trust you Lord, teach me to manage your things well."
Two weeks ago we heard about managing our time, how we can hold God first in the way we use our time. Last week, we heard about using all that God has given us for the strengthening of our faith, and the faith of others. This morning we are going to consider the decisions we managers make about the use of our money, keeping in mind that we are not owners, but managers who are permitted to use money for a short time in this life.
Now this topic has the potential to make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially the preacher, so take it easy on me here ok? An older German lady once said, "The subject of money does not belong in church." And there are many who might agree with her. But Jesus spoke differently. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," He said. We might try to say the opposite of Christ, but He says our use of money tells a lot about our life, and our faith. Now He doesn't say this to make us feel guilty, for we know He is gracious. He says this to encourage us to grow. To show us He wants to see us grow.
Alright Lord, You want us to grow. How do we do that? Well, we don't look around at what other churches are doing, because we don't know if they are following what God wants. We look to God's Word. We listen to what the apostles said to the first congregations. We hear what God has to say to us.
Listen now to the words St. Paul wrote to the congregation in Corinth. He writes, "Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, in keeping with income, so that there will be no collecting when I come." (1 Cor. 16:1-2)
Can't we always depend on St. Paul to say ten things in one sentence? Let's take a closer look at what he said, shall we? He starts off, "Concerning the collection for the saints" - that is to say, when you give an offering it is not only for your operating costs. It is not only to ensure the proclamation of the Gospel in your congregation. It is for the saints, for the proclamation of the Gospel in other places as well, for the spreading of the Gospel. Thanks be to God.
He goes on, "as I directed the churches in Galatia, so you also are to do." In other words, every congregation is encouraged to follow this practice. Even our congregation, Beautiful Savior in Winnipeg. We are encouraged to follow this practice. Ok, ok, what is the practice? Out with it Paul. Out with it already.
First, he tells us when to collect an offering. "On the first day of every week" - that is to say Sunday, the day when you gather together for worship. Offering is collected during worship. Nothing new here.
But what Paul means to highlight is that giving money is tied to worship. It is an expression of your faith, as is the giving of your time or talents through the week. Offering is not about money, it is about faith. This is why Paul says we are to do it "every week," because our faith needs the practice. It needs to regularly focus on what is truly important. To be disciplined in righteousness. To keep our thanksgiving fresh. As our Lord said in our Gospel reading, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" For our faith cannot grow when we are holding back our money. Our faith cannot grow when we are holding back anything. Paul wants to see faith grow, so he encourages us to give.
He continues, "each of you is to put something aside, in keeping with income." Now he is getting to the core of the matter. He says we are to "put something aside" in a deliberate, planned way. To set our offering apart from the rest of our income, because it will be used for holy things. We take it off the top, first, and dedicate it to the proclamation of the Gospel as a priority matter. We do not offer God our scraps, or what is left over. Your offering is sacred. It is to be set aside for holy purposes.
Finally, St. Paul teaches us to give an offering that is "in keeping with income." God intends to exercise our faith by having us give out of the pool of blessings He has already given us. He wants us to give a percentage of what comes in, so we are not giving to God, we are giving from what God has already given. In the Old Testament, the percentage was prescribed. Ten percent. It is a good starting point, but as my old seminary professor used to tease, "We Lutherans living in the freedom of the Gospel should not give the ten percent the Law demands. We should start by giving either 9 percent or 11 percent, but never 10." Regardless of the percentage, this is the practice St. Paul taught to all the congregations he founded.
And this Biblical teaching could not come at a better time. For at the most recent Central District Convention, the delegates received a cry for help from the missions of our district. Mission givings are down, and though the missions are growing and thriving, some with over 30 youth, such as the one in La Ronge, SK, they face potential closure due to lack of Central District mission monies. Beautiful Savior has the opportunity to directly fund the proclamation of the Gospel in that place and others, by increasing its budget line for missions each year. We are able to do this, for St. Paul's words are trustworthy.
This leads us to the private moment you will get to share with your Lord this morning. As you read before the service, we are going to pause now and reflect upon all that God has given us in this life, and prayerfully consider how we think He wants us to manage His money. In your bulletin is a blank envelope. Inside are two small forms to be seen by your eyes only. This is your chance to make a faith promise to Christ. One between you and Him. Be generous. Push Him even. See how He will care for you. Write down an annual amount and seal it in your envelope, putting your name on the outside. When it comes time for the offering, each of us will privately go forward to the altar and place our sealed envelope in the "commitment" box. It will be returned to you unopened in one year alongside a statement of your actual givings.
No, this doesn't have anything to do with whether you go to heaven. It doesn't have anything to do with your forgiveness. For Christ held none of His riches back. He left them all behind in heaven and spent His blood on your behalf when He spilled Himself out on the cross for your salvation. The onomatopoeia that secured your salvation was not cha-ching, but drip, drip, drip. You have what Christ offers. It is already yours by faith. And you will it have again in moments as it drips into your mouth at this altar rail. Forgiveness. Life. Salvation. He has given you everything for free, even the treasures of His kingdom, now go and do likewise. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr