A Bound Giver

shackles-4-696065-mArticle 18 of the Augsburg Confession asserts the Lutheran belief concerning the will of man saying,

“Concerning free will it is taught that a human being has some measure of free will, so as to live an externally honorable life and to choose among the things reason comprehends. However, without the grace, help, and operation of the Holy Spirit a human being cannot become pleasing to God, fear or believe in God with the whole heart, or expel innate evil lusts from the heart” (Augsburg Confession XVIII.1-2 Kolb-Wengert).

Stewardship is a constant issue in every church. Just as a family must sit down and write out a budget for the days, months, and year, so the Church gathers to decide what she needs to continue supporting the work of the Holy Ministry. So, the question is. Is stewardship or tithing a matter of free will, something reason decides? Or, is stewardship a fruit of the faith; therefore, a work of the Holy Spirit? I would assert that it is a matter of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be treated as such.  As St. Paul declared to the Church in Corinth, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2nd Corinthians 9:7 King James Version).

Man must not be compelled to give, nor reluctantly give to God.  But this is what most stewardship programs look like. The Church didn’t meet budget, please give more. The Church has a building project, we need to buckle down and make some sacrifices.  If stewardship is a gift of the Holy Spirit, a fruit of faith, will any of this law encourage the individual to give more? Will convincing arguments assist them in sacrificing the treasures of this world for the sake of heavenly treasures? Can the preacher, president, elders, or individual members bark threats like, “If we don’t shape up we will have to close the doors,” and expect people to rise to the occasion and save Holy Mother Church? No, the law is no use in matters of Tithing except to say how much things cost. Reason is used to tell you the cost of health insurance, electric bills, and the price communion wafers. However, lady reason must be left at the door when it comes to any discussion concerning how the money will be given. Only the Gospel declares begrudging penny pinchers to be hysterical and unreasonable givers. Only the Holy Spirit returns back to the Father what belongs to Him. The law cannot accomplish this. The law says, “Give, and it is never done.” The Gospel says, “It is given for you. Be at peace, you will never lack anything.”

Luther wrote in his preface to the book of Romans saying,

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire” (Luther’s Works 35:370-371).

This is a well known quote from Luther, quoted in the Formula of Concord. It speaks is a helpful guide in how we should approach any stewardship issues in our Church. The problem is not an issue of the left hand kingdom, the secular realm. The problem isn’t the economy. The issue is trust in our Heavenly Father to provide all that we need to support this body and life. The problem is that we love this world more than we love God. The problem is that Christ died for us, giving us the priceless treasure of forgiveness, life, and salvation and what do we do? We don’t trust that even if we were to put 50% of our paycheck in the offering plate, our Heavenly Father would still take care of us. We say we don’t do this because our Father takes care of us by means of that paycheck. No, we have made that paycheck god in place of our Heavenly Father. We must repent. We can’t argue our way out of this. No piety will save us. We love money and earthly treasures more than Jesus Christ.

This is the law preached. We can’t tame it. Let the law do it’s work of putting that Old Adam and his weak justifications to death. St. Paul declared, “ For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20 ESV).  Trust then in Christ. Trust that just as your Father in heaven gives good things to those who hate Him, will He not much more clothe you, o you of little faith. Trust is what makes a cheerful giver. Trust comes only in the proclamation of the Gospel.  Christ relieves you of your frugal spirit and exchanges it for His unconditional and sacrificial love.

The law and the Gospel proclaimed should be he focus of stewardship. The law is always accusing, but the Gospel is usually forgotten in stewardship discussions. The forgiveness of sins must begin, sustain, and complete any discussion and action concerning stewardship and tithing. Only if this is done is there true giving in the life of the Church.

 

 

Pastor Chris Hull

About Pastor Chris Hull

Chris Hull is the Senior Pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Normal, Illinois. He was married to Allison Desiree Monk on June 3rd, 2006. They have been blessed with two boys, Lochlann Richard Patrick and Eamonn Julius Luther. Their third son is due in July. Pastor Hull graduated from Concordia University in River Forest, Il in 2006. He received his Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 2010. Presently he is under the supervision of Dr. James Nestingen in the Master Of Theology program through the Wittenberg Institute.

Pastor Hull has been at Christ Lutheran since July of 2010 where he was called as the Associate Pastor in July of 2010 and then called as the Senior Pastor in March of 2011. He posts his sermons, based on the historic lectionary, online and hosts Tuesdays With Luther which can be viewed on his youtube page.


Comments

A Bound Giver — 7 Comments

  1. Isn’t the gospel confessed in First Article gifts as well. Seems as if generosity of life would flow from a generous God.

  2. “Is stewardship or tithing a matter of free will, something reason decides? Or, is stewardship a fruit of the faith; therefore, a work of the Holy Spirit? I would assert that it is a matter of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be treated as such.”

    False dichotomy. This denies that the Holy Spirit also works through human reason, which also is effected by God-given faith.

    “Reason is used to tell you the cost of health insurance, electric bills, and the price communion wafers. However, lady reason must be left at the door when it comes to any discussion concerning how the money will be given.”

    Nonsense. One sins when one doesn’t take into account all of one’s financial obligations, including bills outside of the church. Anyone that doesn’t feed one’s children because he’s given all of his money to the church is an idiot, and should be publicly flogged.

  3. @Robert #2
    Robert,
    You misunderstand me. The law must be proclaimed. What does it say? You have responsibilities. You are a husband, father, or a single person who has bills to pay. I don’t say that the law is completely obsolete, but that it must remain in its proper place. When we talk about money given, it can only come from a heart that desires to give for the proper reason and this comes only from a heart that trusts, not one that is terrified. This is a small article meant to say that we shouldn’t encourag giving by means of the law in congregations, but proclaim the law and the gospel and let the Word of God do the work. The law convicts and the gospel works in the heart of the believer. I would recommend you read the article in it’s entirety instead of taking a couple quotes out of context to dismantle it.

  4. @ Robert so you would flog the widow who gave all she had even after Jesus called her blessed? Would you flog her before and/or after she gave her mites? I would live to see the study of people who give money away to the Lords work recklessly who are blessed by their perspective in money no matter the amount. I’d like to see a study of congregations in the LCMS who have pastors that don’t tithe and how their congregations are doing financially. Bet we could figure out how that works. Peace

  5. @Tim Klinkenberg #4
    I would live [like ?] to see the study of people who give money away to the Lords work recklessly who are blessed by their perspective in money no matter the amount.

    Years ago, when we worried about the bills first and gave the “Lutheran tithe” (about 3%?) expenses always rose to meet income and the next raise was always “just in time”.

    I don’t think I am “reckless” now, but I can give a good bit more and always seem to have enough.

    I’d like to see a study of congregations in the LCMS who have pastors that don’t tithe and how their congregations are doing financially.

    I don’t know that there is a rule about this. Certainly Pastors who do tithe can advocate it with more conviction, but many Lutherans will unfortunately proclaim their “freedom” to give the church the leftovers, anyway. And we are not bound to the tithe (which was something like 30% anyway). We can give more than a tenth. :)

  6. Tim Klinkenberg :
    I’d like to see a study of congregations in the LCMS who have pastors that don’t tithe and how their congregations are doing financially. Bet we could figure out how that works. Peace

    Dare I say it? In some congregations – and this has never been my problem – the attitude toward the Word of God and those who preach it is such that the Pastor and his family can barely make ends meet on his salary – which usually comes a couple of days late, by the way, after normal due dates, since the congregation has financial obligations that are considered actual obligation – not even after using their food stamps.

    In some places the closely related attitude is widespread also – and I have heard it expressed by congregational members as well as by my fortunately former District President – that the first place one should look when things are not going too well financially is neither the Law nor the Gospel, nor any kind of stewardship thinking, but rather in which ways money could be taken away from the Pastor, such as by reducing the benefits promised to him in such inconsequential informal greeting cards as the call papers – particularly when it comes to Pastors who have brought it upon themselves, really, as they are guilty of being young, being married, and still having young children.

    I would suggest that Pastors not tithing might not always be the first place one should look in search for an explanation as to “how their congregations are doing financially”.

    But I would not be surprised if some would consider the Pastor’s financial contributions something that should not be between him and God, or between his family and God, but should rather be subject to critical scrutiny; in fact, I more or less expect it – that is probably the main reason why my family’s donations to our congregations are cash only, straight in the plate, with no envelope.
    Even where an unfortunate attitude is not present, it is just better for people not to know.
    Just as I have always made it a point as a Pastor not to know who in my congregations contributed how much or how little – for fear that I might be subconsciously affected by it in my ministry to them.

  7. I grew up in a parsonage with a family that had nothing, my mother even made our clothes and we ate a lot of mac and cheese with soup, but my parents taught me about tithing, you give 10% of your gross income away as a start and then from there can do other things. My sense would be that a pastor’s income is between him and the church and his generosity is between him and God. Tithing is 10%, giving and tithing are two different things with different Scripture pieces for each. I like the piece from 2 Corinthians, God loves a cheerful giver:)

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