I blogged recently about being a Pastor’s wife. The truth is I, and all of you, have many roles. We are mothers and wives, employees and daughters, friends and neighbors, church members and siblings. In each of these roles we have a responsibility to be God’s hands and feet in the world. On a Via de Cristo weekend, we call the team members who are serving others chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in Action. When you think of your whole life that way, it puts a different perspective on the smallest and most mundane actions.
Martin Luther, changed the whole understanding of vocation. In his time, those who had a “vocation” were the priests, nuns and monks. These people were the ones who were giving their lives to God. Luther said everyone could do this; those in religious orders were no different or better than the ordinary person who was striving to dedicate their daily life to God. Milking cows was as holy and important a role as leading the Mass.
This doesn’t mean we can go about our lives without any thought of God; instead it means that we should be thinking of God and trying to do His will ALL THE TIME. Imagine how the world would change if every one of us did this? It would put an end to a lot of cursing, gossip, insults and other kinds of careless talk. It would lead to productive employees, concerned parents, helpful neighbors and caring friends. I suspect that the harder I try to do this, the more contented and peaceful I’ll become.
The work I have in this world is the work God has given me. The roles I fulfill are the ones He chose for me. Each of them will teach me something and bring me closer to Him if I just remember who I am: a steward of the King.
Yesterday I wrote about taking care of God’s stuff in a really simplistic manner. I even said that I didn’t want to get into a discussion about original sin, free will and the evil in this world. After I slept on it I thought, why not? Why not go into the reasons we have so much trouble with this subject?
Our free will got us in trouble from the start. It’s the Adam and Eve thing. God wanted us to be with him but to also be free in our decision. To freely love Him without any problems. So God created the evil (serpent) and the Tree of Life. We were to choose Him over the Tree. But that free will thing got in the way and Adam and Eve got curious…
When I was writing the blog yesterday I could almost hear everyone going “But…” I agree, this is a really hard thing to do. We need to take care of everything and everybody. Do we do that? No. And now more challenges have come our way; Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and the evil that happened out in Las Vegas. These are large things that are happening. Many people are there, right now, to help. If I jumped on a plane to go help I don’t think I would have much to offer, but I would if I had the means to do it.
So we give money to the church or to an organization like Samaritan’s Purse to help. I’m not knocking that, I wouldn’t be able to go to the corners of the earth to help and they do. Do we give that magical ten percent? Some do and some don’t. It really doesn’t matter as long as we give.
But then, what about your neighbors? They weren’t effected by flood. But they have other needs. We need to be actively looking around at the needs that surround us. We need to be asking “Lord, what can I do?”.
In the Old Testament God made it a law that ten percent of the first-fruits should be tithed to Him. I have one of the scriptures up in the meme at the head of this blog. God wants us to test him. But I don’t think that he only means our income. Yes, we can give of our income and support our church, organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, the local christian radio station, the homeless shelter down the street; the list is endless. We also need to give of ourselves. Help our neighbors, friends and others through the needy times. Be there for them. Give them hope and encouragement. Pray for them and for all these other organizations that are the hands and feet of Jesus. Then we need to get up to join them.
Yup, I’m the one that said that. Stewardship is all about taking care of God’s Stuff. Oh, I know that a lot of people get bent about the 10% and the giving to the church. “Does it have to be 10%, and is that from the gross or the net?” I just shake my head… They don’t realize that Stewardship is about much more than giving to the church.
There are those people who give, and give generously, to the church, christian missions and other christian endeavors. I’m not going to put those people down in this blog. However, (here it comes, you think) if those same people think their work in God’s Kingdom is done BECAUSE they give generously then I’d have to say they are wrong. Let me start at the beginning, literally…
If you believe that God created this earth, then it’s all His. He made it, it belongs to Him. If you believe that God created humankind, then we’re all His, everyone of us. There is no getting around this. Think hard about it for a minute. Everything on this earth his His. EVERYTHING!!! This would include the animals, the trees and the sea. Everyone of us belong to Him. We owe every breath we take to our creator. I don’t want to get into a long discussion about original sin, free will and the evil that walks this earth. Those are, indeed, complications. That’s not where this blog is going. I want you to think simply. Go back and then come forward in time and you’ll see it. It’s all His.
We are called upon to take care of God’s stuff. So when you start thinking about money, that is only the beginning. We need to take care of ourselves since we were created by God. We need to take care of others since they were created by God. We need to take care of nature; the animals, trees, plants. We need to take care. Period. When we have taken care and God has blessed us we can only give Him the glory. That’s when the giving and the taking care come full circle. As we are blessed, we give more blessings (and more care) to others.
The author of “We give Thee but Thine Own” was William Walsham How (1823-1897), an Anglican bishop. He was known as “the poor man’s bishop” because of his concern for the poor—and “the omnibus bishop” because he used public transportation rather than a private carriage for travels around town.
Bishop How wrote a number of hymns that reflect his concern for expressing the Gospel in terms that the average person could understand. This hymn is a good example. It speak of stewardship, not as a church budget concern, but as acknowledgement of the blessings that we have received from God.
We sing this hymn every week in our worship service as the collection is taken.
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.
May we Thy bounties thus
As stewards true receive,
And gladly, as Thou blessest us,
To Thee our firstfruits give.
The national women’s group of our denomination (AFLC – Association of Free Lutheran Churches) has a blog especially for Pastor’s wives. Recently I was looking at some of the articles and posts, and found one that dealt with the role of the Pastor’s wife within the congregation, the expectations that members may have. That got me to thinking about how I perceive my role of Pastor’s wife, and how I use my gifts and talents in that role.
I think I’m lucky to have become a Pastor’s wife later in life (my husband is a second career guy). I know what my abilities are and I’ve learned which tasks I’m good at, and which ones I should probably avoid (for everyone’s good). Since I spent a long time as a lay person in a small, mission congregation, I thought things wouldn’t change much as a Pastor’s wife. I’m still a lay person within the congregation, and my job is the same as everyone else’s — to use my spiritual gifts within the congregation and community where I’ve been placed. I’m an introvert, so I don’t really enjoy standing out, I just want to be one of the team.
I still think that, and our congregation has actually been a blessing to me by letting me join in whenever I want, appreciating me and allowing me to use my own talents. I have, however, come to see that there’s a little more to being the Pastor’s wife than that. Often I hang back from leadership positions because I don’t want the congregation to become dependent upon me in a particular position — after all, the time will come when we leave, either for another call or for retirement. Sometimes I do feel a little pressure (which may be self-imposed) to participate, if only by showing up, in everything. I worry about having favorite friends within the congregation, and try to take an interest in everyone. In fact, I am interested in everyone, but even within a family, we gravitate toward others who are similar to ourselves. Even though all of us should be good examples to others, I realize that being the Pastor’s wife is a pretty visible role and people are watching and noticing what I do.
Now, as Sarah said in her last blog, I’m not whining. I love our congregation, and they have been a joy and a blessing to me. Pastor’s wife is just what my life is right now, but I’m honestly curious. I’d like our readers and authors (some of them are Pastor’s wives as well) to tell me — what do you expect a Pastor’s wife to do? What is the proper way to be a steward of the role we’ve been given?
The only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. Our charities should pinch and hamper us. If we live at the same level of affluence as other people who have our level of income, we are probably giving away too little.
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
What is your reaction to this quote? I find it challenging. I fear few of us could meet C. S. Lewis’s standard–I know I don’t.
“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver. I always want to hang on to things and people tightly. Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example; but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing. I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much. Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money. None of this gets me off the hook, however. God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.
What do I do about this? Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow. When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more. When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem. I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy. When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.
Has it worked? Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully. I’m seldom spontaneously generous. It will never be my gift. But I have grown. I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either. As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.
I’m open to other suggestions. Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity? Have you grown in this discipline?
The very first talk on a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is called “Ideal.” The premise of the talk is that everyone has an ideal in life; a goal they are aiming toward. It’s this goal that gives life meaning.
Now, we can have a good ideal (living to serve others) or a bad one (the one who dies with the most expensive “toys” wins). We can have a realistic ideal (owning our own home or business) or an unrealistic ideal (becoming the queen of England). We can devote ourselves to a false ideal (such as a political party or candidate) and be devastated when it proves to be disappointing. The big problem is we often fool ourselves and fail to recognize and admit what our ideal really is. For example, I may tell myself I am working 60 hours a week in order to support my family (a laudable goal) when what I actually desire is just more money to spend on luxuries, or the admiration of others.
The talk ends with some practical advice I’m going to share with you. Examine your checkbook and your calendar. Look hard at how you are spending your money and your time. Remember, we all find the money and the time to do the things we really want to do. So, does your stewardship of these things reveal an ideal worthy of a disciple of Christ? Or does it show you something else? What is your true ideal?
This month’s theme is one that is often ignored, because we really don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s not death, but close — stewardship: or as Beth Anne told me, taking care of God’s stuff. We don’t like to talk about it because down deep, we can’t bring ourselves to admit it’s God’s stuff. We fool ourselves into believing it’s ours. We have money because we got a good job and worked hard. We’re talented because we recognized an innate ability and developed it. And time! Don’t even go there! Surely any time we can carve out of our busy, productive life is our own. We’ve earned the right to some relaxation!
The Bible tells us this kind of thinking is dead wrong. We’re the managers, not the owners, of everything we have, even ourselves. God made the world, and God made us. He gives us our daily bread, and so much more. He expects us to use all these things wisely.
So this month I hope we’ll see lots of posts on our time, talent and treasure. What are we doing with them? Are we being good stewards? Are we multiplying them or squandering them? Are we using them to build up or tear down? Will we hear the words “good and faithful servant” the day we meet Jesus in eternity?
Of course, at times we may be led to go off topic and post what the Spirit has put on our heart. We are after all “free in Christ.” I look forward to this month together. Readers, don’t hang back. Use your ideas to encourage us. We want to hear from you.