by Lisa Neilson
At this time of year in most Episcopal churches there is increased talk about Stewardship. These conversations about Stewardship focus on examining our own personal situations and then deciding what financial commitment we can make to our parish for the coming year. Stewardship involves an offering of the abundance that God has given us. This should not be a contribution of our funds for the purpose of getting something done or paying for something that the church needs, rather it ought to be an offering of the first and best of our gifts in thanksgiving to God for all the blessings we have in this life. Scripture teaches us that the first 10% of the fruits of our labor should be given as an offering to God (a tithe). Scripture does not teach that we should give the amount we think is our fair share to support paying the utilities and staff salaries… and maybe a little more for mission and outreach.
So then, when I make my financial commitment to St. Martin’s, am I making a contribution or an offering? I believe an offering is when I give the gifts (financial or otherwise) that I give in faith that they will be received and used in the best way by those presiding over them. On the other hand, a contribution is when I give for a specific purpose knowing that my gift will be used as I wish for it to be used. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 4:17 that all that we have comes from God “What do you have that you have not received? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” When I give, financially, to the church I believe it is an offering. It is giving of myself or of the gifts that I have received as an offering to God, a faith response.
The Episcopal Church is organized with a Vestry to act as good stewards of the temporal resources of a parish. We elect from amongst ourselves those people who we believe have been blessed by God with the gifts necessary to preside over the finances of the parish. We sometimes forget that we have prayerfully elected those 12 people to be good stewards of our resources. I have been tempted to make a ‘contribution’ and make sure it is used for those things that I intend for it to be used – that’s not God’s will but mine. Then I need to step back, pray, and be reminded that my pledge and all that I give is an offering. Anything that I give is not really mine to begin with. Everything I have is a gift from God. I will make my pledge as an offering in faith and then trust those who I have elected to the vestry to faithfully administer the finances of the parish.
All things come of thee O Lord. And of thine own have we given thee.