No more stingy stewardship

 

We give because God first gave to us

By Chris Roseland | Presbyterians Today

Stewardship is not simply asking for pledges at the end of the year to meet the needs of the church’s budget for the following year. Stewardship is a theological statement — a way of life. And it comes from believing that we are beloved children of God.

But what are the obstacles that keep us from believing that we are beloved children of God?

That question was asked earlier this year during a Mission Engagement & Support staff devotional, and it got me thinking that when in doubt about being one of God’s beloveds, go to the very beginning for a reminder.

In Genesis 1, we read that God created humankind in God’s image. Imago Dei, Latin for “image of God,” is crucial to our understanding of who we are as the direct creation of God — as one of God’s beloveds. But then the question becomes: What image do we have of God? And how can that image impact our giving?

On one hand, some view God as a righteous judge sitting high on a throne, ready to condemn all evildoers — to separate the sheep from the goats. On the other hand, others see God as a loving, benevolent Creator, who is always ready to forgive and embrace all those who fall short of God’s intention for us.

As faithful Presbyterians, we know that there’s a deep-rooted tension in our theology. When we speak of good, we also talk about evil. When we talk of light, we also talk about darkness. And when we talk about God’s love, we also talk about God’s justice. This theological tension shapes our image of God. In God’s love, God is just. In God’s justice, God is loving. Each idea exists in tension with the other.

So, when it comes to generosity in the church, what image of God do we reveal in our giving? Do we give out of a spirit of fear — fear that the righteous God is going to punish us if we don’t? Or do we give in a spirit of gratitude for the grace that our loving Creator has given us?

Several years ago, the Office of Theology, Formation & Evangelism at the Presbyterian Mission Agency provided a revision of the French Reformed Church baptism liturgy:

For you, little one, the Spirit of God moved over the waters at creation, and the Lord God made covenants with his people. It was for you that the Word of God became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. For you, [insert name of child], Jesus Christ suffered death, crying out at the end, “It is finished!” For you, Christ triumphed over death, rose in newness of life, and ascended to rule over all. All of this was done for you, little one, though you do not know any of this yet. But we will continue to tell you this good news until it becomes your own. And so, the promise of the gospel is fulfilled: We love because God first loved us.

At our baptism, God claims us as God’s own. God loves us even before we know what love is, or even who God is.

Everything we have — everything — has been graced to us by God. And so, as children created in God’s image, we give generously, because our loving and just Creator first gave to us.

Chris Roseland is the lead mission engagement advisor for the Mission Engagement & Support team at the Presbyterian Mission Agency. An ordained minister in the PC(USA) for 30 years, he provides mission support to the congregations and mid councils in the Synods of the Covenant and Lincoln Trails.

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