November 4, 2009

Stewardship vs. Sacrifice

At lectionary group yesterday Scott raised an interesting point. One which I've chewed on for 24 hours now. Scott is big on language, wanting us always to be careful of what we say and how we say it, and so he takes issue with Stewardship.

"We are not stewards of time, talent, and treasure. We are stewards of Jesus' ministry."

And he's right. Jesus didn't leave his disciples with instructions about how to order themselves as Church, how to raise funds, how to make promotional fliers, or how to get volunteers. Jesus told them to preach the good news and baptize. The rest, the administrative stuff, well that is mostly just a continuation of the Temple.

But Scott didn't stop there, and that's dangerous. Because, he notes, the origin of the Biblical tithe was not food for the priests or coin for the treasury, but burnt sacrifice. He's probably not the first to say this, but the first I've heard admit it.

"If we were going to be true to the basis of the biblical tithe, we give 10%, in cash, and burn it, and then raise the money to run the church."

The problem, it seems to me, is that we see a direct line between my pledge card and the budget of the church. Thus our giving is to the church and not to God. Instead, if we saw our role in life as Stewards of the Gospel and our giving as sacrifice to God, the Church would be an entirely different place. One not worried about mortgage payments or salaries (stipends - another big language thing for Scott). We'd find a church run amuck, doing Kingdom work, whether or not the money was there.

We'd see the Kingdom of God.

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