When we read a sermon title on “Stewardship”, we know we are going to hear about giving our money to the church. The “money part” is often couched within the other aspects of living a life of faith. As members in the United Methodist Church, we vow to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. A sermon on stewardship in the Methodist tradition correctly admonishes us to be good stewards in all of these ways.
Often we limit stewardship to the amount of money we give. Traditionally and from Old Testament mandates, one tenth is the standard given for a tithe. As New Testament Christians, we are under a new order, a new way of being faithful. No longer is the Old Testament our only standard for living. Now we live by the standards that Jesus Christ has set.
One example of Jesus teaching his disciples and us about giving is found in Mark 12: 38-44. He warned the disciples to “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.” Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” The Message. Eugene H. Peterson
You will not find any standard percent of giving discussed by Jesus in the New Testament, rather he does talk a lot about how we give and why. The story of the widow’s mite shows us two things: how not to give as demonstrated by the religion scholars, and how to give as demonstrated by the widow. No doubt the religion scholars gave their tenth and did it out of an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical heart. The widow, on the other hand, gave a measly two cents. Jesus compares her giving to theirs and calls her giving extravagant, sacrificial, and all of what she had. She gave 100%!!
The widow reflects another standard of giving that is at the core of our being as people of faith and that is the standard set by Jesus himself. Jesus gave his all—100% even unto death. He gave his life willingly, out of love, and of course he gave sacrificially.
Nowhere do I find in the New Testament that Jesus will be satisfied with a tenth of who we are or what we have. He wants all of us—100%. When we are really understanding stewardship as Jesus taught us, we are “all in”.
Our percentages of giving in dollars may vary, but our commitment to discipleship should not. We are all uniquely gifted by God to serve and follow him. In order to be good stewards of what we have been given, we must seek ways to be faithful in all aspects of living a life that produces fruit for the Kingdom. We ask ourselves, “Am I 100% committed to the “body of Christ” with my prayer life; my faithfulness in attending church; my gifts, both monetary and spiritual; my service and ministry to others; and, my witness, sharing with others what Christ has done for me”?
Chances are we will not be perfect in our 100% commitment, but we can certainly strive to live a life of faith dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us. Ask yourself, “Am I ‘all in’ “?
Rev. Nancy Cole is an ordained Elder serving in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Coordinator of Natural Church Development and Coordinator of Disaster Recovery. Nancy entered seminary after a thirty-year career in education where she was a teacher for 18 years, and a psychometrist and guidance counselor for the last 12 years. She is married to Steve Cole and has one daughter, Tammy, two sons, Jason and Bo, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Before being appointed to Connectional Ministries in the Conference, Nancy served churches in Harpersville, Mignon, Tuscaloosa, and Gordo. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.