Giving hilariously: No-nonsense stewardship

By the Rev. Ronald Lavin, May 21, 2010

On stewardship Sunday, 1995, at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Fountain Valley, California, we enclosed an insert in the bulletin that included seven practical questions and answers about the biblical view of stewardship. Perhaps this format will be helpful to other congregations seeking to raise the stewardship vision of their members.

You will find the questions and answers at the end of this article along with objections that people often raise to pledging. In addition, we passed out a Bible bookmark on the theme of the day: “On Eagles’ Wings.”

Why preach on Isaiah 40:28-31 on stewardship Sunday? Because we need people to rise above the barnyard of the world to fulfill the purposes to which God calls them.

The sermon for stewardship Sunday was titled Joyous Generosity. Following are some excerpts from that sermon:

“Some weeks ago in a sermon I told the story of a naturalist and an eagle that had settled down in a barnyard and began to think that he was a chicken. The eagle began to think like a chicken. The naturalist took the bird to the top of the barn and said, ‘You’re not a chicken; you’re an eagle.’ The bird stiffened, looked at the sun and flew off to fulfill its destiny. One of our teenagers said after worship that day, ‘At first I didn’t know what you meant when you said that we like the eagle should fly. I guess what you mean is that we can fulfill our potential as Christians.’ Today I again challenge you to fulfill your destiny, to get out of the barnyard or the warm nest and ‘fly’. What I mean is that we can rise above our circumstances if we ‘hope in the Lord.’

“Those who hope in the Lord can rise above greed. Greed is the excessive focus on money, things, fame, and control.

“Jesus said, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ (Luke 12:15)

“St. Paul tells us that the biblical corrective for greed is joyful generosity. He describes the Macedonian Christians as a practical example of what this means.

“The Macedonian Christians gave out of ‘rich generosity … giving themselves first to the Lord … they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing this service to the saints’ …(2 Cor. 8:2-5) St. Paul expands on the Macedonians’ attitude toward giving: ‘Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Cor. 9:6-7)

“When greed is in charge, we cling to money and possessions as if they were permanently ours. When we rise above greed, we give to God’s work ‘hilariously’. The Greek word we translate ‘cheerful’ is ‘hilarious.’ Paul challenges us to give ‘hilariously.’ That means giving spontaneously and giving joyfully. The Macedonians rose above greed by giving hilariously. So can we!

We can also rise above selfishness. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

‘Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.’ (I Cor. 16:1-2)

“The Corinthians were called to give regularly, ‘on the first day of the week’. The first day of the week is Sunday. They also gave proportionately, ‘a sum of money in keeping with his income,’ according to the New International Version of Paul’s words. The New English Bible puts it this way:

‘And about the collection in aid of God’s people: you should follow my directions to our congregations in Galatia. Every Sunday each of you is to put aside and keep by him a sum in proportion to his gains, so that there may be no collecting when I come.’ (1 Cor. 16:1-2)

“By giving regularly and proportionately, these Christians rose above mediocrity, greed, and selfishness. We are invited to do the same.

“The Bible teaches us that we can rise and fly like an eagle. We can rise above mediocrity, greed and selfishness. We can also rise above fear.

“Those who hope in the Lord can also rise above fear. In our Gospel for today (Luke 19:11-27) the master goes away to be crowned king in another country. The servants resist his orders to ‘put this money to work until I return’ (19:13). They say ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us’ (19:14). That stubborn, willful resistance is based on fear as we learn later in the story.

“When the master returns, he finds that the first servant had produced ten minas (about $200) from the ten he had been given. The second servant produced five. These two servants who ‘put the money to work’ were rewarded. The third servant, filled with fear, buried the ten minas his master had given him. He was cast out! Why? Because he did not use the money his master gave him. He was filled with fear, so he buried the gift his master gave him. The Bible teaches, ‘Don’t bury your God-given gifts. Use them to the glory of God!’ What a message for stewardship Sunday!

“Those who hope in the Lord can rise above mediocrity. Recently I asked a young adult about her faith. ‘I’m not active in any church now,’ she said. ‘I used to be a Baptist Lite.’ ‘A Baptist Lite?’ I inquired. ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘not like those died in the wool strong Baptists.’ You mean like Bud Lite? I asked. ‘Something like that,’ she replied. I got to thinking about that afterward. Does that mean less filling? Great taste? Or just mediocre? Every church has folks like this. How many church members do we have who prefer Lutheran Lite! Just enough religion to make you feel good temporarily, but not enough to make you a dedicated disciple.

“The biblical corrective for mediocrity is joyful generosity. Stewardship Sunday is challenge to stop having a Lutheran Lite faith, rise above mediocrity, and get involved as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Rise above mediocrity, greed, selfishness, and fear. Get out of the barnyard where you have settled down with those who have forgotten who they are. God is like a mother eagle who wants her baby eaglets to get out of the nest and soar above the earth, fulfilling their destiny.”

At King of Glory, we take what is called a no-nonsense approach to stewardship to help people soar like eagles. King of Glory does not work through committees, not even a stewardship committee. The council receives and acts on proposals that come from the staff and the people. Task forces are assigned to action. There is no stewardship committee, only a once a year emphasis on stewardship Sunday. People are treated as responsible adults. This is a major part of the no-nonsense approach.

Passages from the no-nonsense brochure that is distributed to all members include the following:

Nonsense:                                        No-Nonsense:
worthless                               direct and to the point
pointless                                has finger on pulse
without direction                   knows critical needs
futile                                     sense of direction
does not compute                   goals set and obtained
without solution                     straight talk
no excuse

The No-Nonsense brochure includes this approach to stewardship:

· Stewardship is a joyful response to what God has given us.

· We treat people as responsible stewards of God’s gifts.

· Tithing involves returning 10 percent or more of our income to the Lord’s work.

· Many at King of Glory practice tithing as a sign of their trust in God. All are invited to move toward this biblical goal.

· We are truly blessed to be a blessing!
Our stewardship effort for 1996 resulted in an increase of $71,691 over the 1995 pledges. Amazingly, 34 percent of the pledges were from members who had not previously pledged, and 33 percent were increases over the previous year. In spite of the California economy, which still is poor, we exceeded our goal of 50 new pledges by 31 (160 percent) and both of our monetary goals.

The no-nonsense approach works.

Seven Stewardship Questions and Answers

What is stewardship?
Stewardship is what you do with your life after you say “Yes” to Jesus Christ. It is how you live out the faith.

How does stewardship relate to money?
Stewardship includes all of life, including time, talents, and treasures.

How does stewardship relate to giving offerings at church?
One of the most important ways to respond to God’s gifts of his Son is by showing joyful generosity in our tithes and offerings.

What Bible verses relate to stewardship?
Many, but two good ones are:
2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9
John 3:16

What does John 3:16 have to do with giving?
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son …” Therefore we are called to live our faith by giving. St. Paul said that we are to give because out of God’s unspeakable grace he gave us his indescribable gifts (2 Cor. 9:14-15).

What is the motivation for giving?
There are many, but the three most often mentioned ones are:
1. Duty it is the believer’s responsibility to give. See Malachi 3:8-10.
2. Opportunity – it is for a good cause … I believe in what the church is doing. See 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.
3. Joyful Generosity — “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. “(2Cor.9:7). 2 Corinthians 8:2 says: “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. ”

What is this “No-nonsense” approach to stewardship?
Christians are called to give. Some give more, some less, but all are called to give generously and proportionately as St. Paul says . . . “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. ” (2 Cor. 9:6). First fruit proportionate giving means setting aside a portion (5 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent or more) of your income for the Lord’s work first. Giving 10percent is called tithing. Tithing is a biblical standard for giving.

St. Paul writes: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Cor.16:1-2).

“Yes, but … ”

• “I’m retired.” You, too, can give, as you are able.

• “I’m a teenager.” If you are confirmed, you are an adult member of the church; you can give too.

• “I’m not a member.” You too can pledge. Even if you are a non-member, you are receiving God’s blessings through His church.

• “I’d rather just give, not pledge.” You can do that, but you are more likely to give God leftovers that way. God deserves first fruits, not leftovers. Trust God to provide for your needs, even your pledge.

• “I don’t have much.” Pledge and give what you can. No one expects you to do more than you can give. Our all-knowing God knows our circumstances.

© Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in the Summer 1996 issue of Faith in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
© Copyright 1996, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an article from the archives of the Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. For nearly a century, LLM assisted, inspired and trained congregations in important ways. LLM ceased operations on May 31, 2003, but the Stewardship of Life Institute is proud to continue its work by making its web resources available to a new generation of stewards.

About the Author

The Rev. Ronald Lavin, a retired pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is author of more than a dozen books. See the Rev. Ronald Lavin's website.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Sandy,

    We are delighted to be the ones to publish the essay from your former pastor, Ron Lavin. From the research I was able to conduct online, I do believe he is the same one who shepherded St. Paul in Davenport until he was called to Tucson, Arizona.

    He is still listed as a retired pastor in our denomination’s archive. If you’d like to reach him, his email address is listed as

    Blessings, Rob Blezard, Web editor

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