Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Faith Works 9-25

Faith Works 9-25-10

Jeff Gill

Or We Could Talk About Money . . .


In churches around our area, fall is usually the time for a swing
through Stewardship Land.

You remember Candy Land, right? With the Gumdrop Mountains and the
Molasses Swamp and the Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House?

Stewardship Land is more of a hazard filled board with Mission
Statement Mountains and a Deficit Swamp and a Optimistically
Projected House of Pledge Cards. Everyone knows the rules, everyone
has played the game, and everyone looks forward to reaching Home
Sweet Home, which is moving on to November and preparing for Advent.
There aren't really winners or losers, it's just the act of everyone
getting together and playing the game.

Sometimes there are congregational leaders who step up and say "let's
play a different game!" They get out "The Game of Tithe" or "Monopoly
on Decision-Making" or "Stratego Vision Planning."

And there are a number of outside "manufacturers" who create new game
boards with different pieces and counters and layouts, which can make
for a brief buzz of excitement . . . and after a few years it's
become a sort of "Candy Land" repetition itself.

Then there's the fellow who said "What good is it if you pass Go,
collect $200, and win the game, but lose your soul?" (GSV translation*)

In Christian churches we've usually made sure to say at least once,
with much head nodding, that it's not about our giving, but about our
everything. Plucking the first fruits off the Gingerbread Plum Tree
is all well and good, but only if it is, itself, a reminder to us
that the entire game board is a gift, and this span of time where we
get to draw cards and move around together has a beginning and an
end, but there's a wider reality out beyond the kitchen table which
our time here is part of.

We all know that Cousin Ernie always tries to palm the "Get Out of
Jail Free" card, and we recall guiltily that we've nudged a top hat a
square ahead when everyone was looking at the cat; likewise we're all
quietly calculating what the minimal amount is that we can give and
still feel like we're good people, while speculating on what others,
especially "others like us" are giving as a measure of our basic
obligation – and then working up quickly, but at length, our
justifications for not giving more.

Here's the easiest way out of all: we're not good people, and there's
no amount that can be fit into an offering plate or wedged into a
pledge envelope that will change that. It's all gift, everything we
have, and the truth of it is in how much of what we "possess" comes
from someone and somewhere else (check the tags on your clothes, for
instance), and how much we will take with us when we die.

Yeah, I had to go there.

So if we can't look at what we make as what we deserve – and c'mon, I
know I just heard you say you deserve much more than you get, right?
– and our assets are ultimately going to be used by others someday
anyhow, can we skip the game and get real about what Stewardship
really is?

This is a useful season in the life of any faith community to look at
our own income and outgo, consider where our values and priorities
lie, and ask if our spending and supporting accurately reflects who
we aspire to be, how we want to be seen in that large, wider, even
eternal sense; by the One who sees things in that way.

"Where your debit card statement itemizes, there your heart will be
also." (GSV*)

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around
central Ohio; occasionally he looks at the Hebrew & Greek of the
Bible and does the *Gill Standard Version, which is, to be fair, a
paraphrase. Sort of. Contact him for translation assistance at