Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, LA
There’s still some summer left in this season, but already I’m thinking about the Fall stewardship campaign. Every church I’ve served and most churches of which I’m aware conduct a stewardship campaign in one form or another. If the church budget runs on a calendar year, then most churches run their stewardship drives during October and November. That’s why the stewardship team and I are thinking about stewardship in the middle of August.
The thickest file in my office is the one marked STEWARDSHIP. It’s stuffed with articles and clippings and sermons I’ve preached. Every time I give a message on stewardship, I remind people that Jesus talked more about material things and possessions and money than he did about anything else.
We Americans like to think of ourselves as a generous people. When there’s a natural disaster somewhere in the world, often Americans are the first to respond with money and supplies. But if you look at American foreign aid as a percentage of our total budget, we are far more miserly than other industrialized nations of the world. According to the Center for Global Development (www.cgdev.org) U.S. foreign aid amounts to about 1.5% of our total budget. Hardly worth a pat on the back. Defense and war preparation gets 15%.
The picture is somewhat better in churches. In most congregations people give about 2% of their income. It’s probably accurate to say that people spend more on a two-week vacation than on what they give to charities. It’s probably also true that households spend more on the cable TV/Internet industry than on religious and charitable causes.
I haven’t tithed for all my adult life, but since I started I’ve never looked back and wished I hadn’t. As odd as it sounds, I could give more. I found a definition from The Episcopal Network of Stewardship that says it all: “Stewardship is not a program. Stewardship is not about raising money. Stewardship is not here today and gone tomorrow. But . . . Stewardship is a journey. Stewardship is about life. Stewardship is a way of life.”
Hold things loosely. Let them dangle if you must. Give more. Be free.