Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Short Stewardship Message

Do you give regularly to your church and to world hunger or other ministries? If not, this is a good time of year to sit down and think about your giving.

Especially in difficult economic times, rather than this being a time to hoard your money (gifts from God) to yourself, it is important to give it away to help those in need.

First, figure out what your responsibility to your church is. For example, in our congregation each giving unit would need to give approximately $800 to fund the annual ministry of the congregation. Look at your own income, figure out whether you are above or below average, and then give accordingly.

Then, start working on tithing above this. Give first to those ministries you believe truly accomplish God's command to love your neighbor as yourself, and accomplish the prophetic ministries of the church--feeding the poor, clothing the naked, healing the sick, giving drink to those who are thirsty, sheltering orphans and widows, welcoming strangers (immigrants and refugees), visiting those in prison (see Matthew 25).

For example, in our household, we give away about $4000 per year. This includes our giving to church. Since our church supports a wide variety of ministries including the synod and ELCA churchwide, this means at least some of our money goes to support things like global missions, prison chaplaincy, campus ministry, etc.

Then we give to our highest priority benevolences-- Lutheran World Relief and ELCA World Hunger. We also give regularly to our local food pantry and to the ministry of LIRS and Lutheran Social Service of Wisconsin. This year we have given extra to Lutheran Disaster Response as well.

We also give to Wisconsin Public Radio, our local WORT radio station, our alma mater, Luther College, Luther Seminary, and Bread for the World.

It might be important to mention that are very intentional about making a list of who we give to. Lots of places send us letters asking for money. Those letters go in the recycling, not because the organizations are necessarily unimportant, but because it is better to give intentionally than haphazardly, as the letters arrive, and all the organizations we give to we have thoroughly researched and vetted--the majority we even participate in in some way. We believe this is wise.

Corporal works of mercy

Corporal works of mercy are those that tend to bodily needs. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) enumerates such acts -- though not this precise list -- as the reason for the salvation of the saved, and the omission of them as the reason for damnation. The last work of mercy, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit.

1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty
3. Clothe the naked
4. Shelter the Homeless
5. Visit the imprisoned
6. Visit the sick
7. Bury the dead

Spiritual works of mercy

The spiritual acts of mercy provide for the needs of the spirit.

1. Admonish the sinner
2. Instruct the ignorant
3. Counsel the doubtful
4. Comfort the sorrowful
5. Bear wrongs patiently
6. Forgive all injuries
7. Pray for the living and the dead

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