Our Charge: To Do God’s Work

By Lt. Col. David Penman, February 7, 2011

By David Penman

Any statement on stewardship must be kept in the context of who and whose we are. We are charged with taking care of things until Jesus comes again. But this is certainly not a passive supervision of God’s creation. We are all charged with doing his work.

Our Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW), page 199, says in part, “In Holy Baptism our Lord Jesus Christ received you and made you members of his church.” (Notice the action is strictly on the part of Jesus, not us.) The LBW continues, “In the community of God’s people, you have learned from his Word God’s loving purpose for you and all creation. You have been called to be witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So, stewardship is a question of what we do with what we are given, and the foremost gift we have been given is the Gospel. It should be easy to see then that as “our selves, our time and our possessions” are truly signs of our Lord’s gracious love to us. We are strictly accountable for the use of each gift toward the accomplishment of our mission and to God’s service.

Each of us should ask ourselves what we are doing with the gift of the Gospel. Are we watering and fertilizing the seed so that it will grow and bear fruit? Are we letting the light shine into the world around us so that it will be a testimony to Jesus? As adult members of the church we make the following affirmation about the aforementioned mission:

“…To live among God’s faithful people, to hear his Word and share in his supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”

Jesus knew his disciples each had their own gifts, unique and different as our individual spiritual gifts are today. He continually prodded them into action through the parables he told, arming them with the knowledge they needed to spread the good news with strength and courage after he went away.

This same challenge remains for us. In a recent letter, Tom O’Brien summarized the stories and letters of the Bible by writing,  “All of this is to help to move God’s people into action. To: 1) help them to realize how important they are in God’s plan; 2) help them to realize what they have and who it came from; 3) challenge them to make a decision and set some priorities in their lives so that God’s will be done (recognizing whose they are); and 4) taking what they have been blessed with (the Gospel) and sharing it every way possible so that all of humankind can ingest it.

That is the challenge for all of us, to take the love and joy and peace and justice that is the hope for all of humankind out there … to all of humankind.”

We must provide a way for each member of the body of Christ to exercise his or her gifts, including the gift of financial support to the church. We believe it is essential to ask for regular commitments which address the basic needs of the church. The early church took care of the basics by the people sharing everything they had, something that is probably not practical with today’s lifestyle, but the concept provides the foundation for the commitments we make today.

Acts 4:32-35 speaks clearly on the subject: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With gnat power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

So it should be with our weekly tithes. We give them to be distributed as necessary to take care of the basic needs of the church.

But in the same way as the apostles realized there are special needs, we should provide for them as well. It is commonly held that some of the most informative writing on the issue of stewardship for the early church is found in Paul’s two letters to the church at Corinth. Therefore, it is of particular note that when Paul writes, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not  reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor.9:7-8). And later, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor.9:ll). Paul was actually addressing the special gifts he wanted to take to the church in Jerusalem!

In closing, let me refer to Tom O’Brien’s questions: “If Jesus walked through the door right now … would he be really interested in our investments and savings accounts? Or, would we be held accountable for the injustice in the world?”

Doing all we can to spread the good news, acting with the conviction of our faith, carrying out God’s plan for each of us as an important part of the plan, is how we should address our stewardship of our gifts – “our selves, our time and our possessions, signs of your gracious love.”

From the Spring 1995 edition of Faith in Action, the publication of the Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. At the time, Lt. Col. David Penman, USMC, was stewardship chairman of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Stafford, Va.

© Copyright 1995, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
This essay first appeared in the Spring 1995 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 1995, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author

Lt. Col. David Penman, USMC, wrote this in 1995, when he was stewardship chairman of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Stafford, Va.See Lt. Col. David Penman's website.

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