The overall goal of stewardship ministry is to help God’s people grow in their relationship with Jesus through the use of the time, talents, and finances God has entrusted to them. It is about discipleship. It is about people’s relationship with their Lord. Responsible stewardship will draw people closer to Jesus.
One of my favorite novels and movie is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Each year at Christmas, it is one of my family’s traditions to watch several versions of A Christmas Carol including The Muppets Christmas Carol. A big part of the appeal of this story is the incredible contrast between Ebenezer Scrooge at the beginning of the story and Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of the story.
Have you ever noticed Dickens’ description of Scrooge from the first pages of his novel, “Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster” (New American Library, 1984, p. 31).
Many, many pages, and three Christmas ghosts later, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning. To say the least, he is a changed man. He remembers a huge turkey he has seen in a poultry shop. “‘I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s,’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. ‘He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim’” (p. 133).
Send it he does. In fact, the turkey is so large that he says to the delivery boy, “You must have a cab.” And then Dickens writes, “The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried” (p. 133).
Well, one does not wish for any of God’s children to be scared to their senses by night visits from past, present, or future ghosts. But see if you can create a vision of people in your congregation so enjoying their generous giving that they chuckle until they cry. Create a vision of people in your congregation who discover the radical truth of Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Create a vision of people in your congregation whose generosity grows by leaps and bounds, and who discover that this generosity has indeed led their heart to Jesus. Imagine the people of your congregation chuckling and smiling as they drop their offering into the plate on Sunday morning because it brings them so much joy! What a vision indeed it is!
(Adapted from Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation by Charles R. Lane)
Deborah Rexrode, Associate for Stewardship
Presbytery of the James