“We’re All in This Together”
Text: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
We’re All in this Together
Welcome to Pledge Sunday. Today is the second of two sermons you are getting this year from me regarding stewardship.
Last week, if you were here, you will recall that we talked at some length about Martin Luther’s assertion that we have to be converted three times (heart, head, and wallet/purse). We discussed how there are 800 verses in the Bible, 16 of 38 parables and one out of every ten verses in the Gospel that discuss money, and how we approach money. And we also talked about how God wants us to be eager to give a portion back to Him and to share with each other from what He has first given to us.
If you remember your catechism and the third article, you will remember a key phrase to what we are doing here today. “I believe the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, and enlightened me with His gifts.” God is a giver. God gives to you and to me. God gives us forgiveness and salvation won by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then there is also clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, career and income, talents and abilities. God even gives the gift of faith so that we can believe in Him. We are gifted by God so abundantly. We have more than we need, yes?
So now what? Being saved, God wants to use us as instruments in His hand that He can use to touch the lives of others in a way that makes an eternal difference.
That’s the very issue our text verses are addressing. In verse seven, Paul says: “Now to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We are not to keep to ourselves that which God has given to us. We are to take from what God has given us and put it to work in His kingdom.
In verse eleven we read: “All these [gifts] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.” Again, it is God who does the giving. All of us are to discover those special gifts, abilities, and resources that we have and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, put them to work as members of one body. We need to look deeply in here, realize what God has given to us and then give back: to God, to our Church, to each other.
We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. One of the best Bible accounts to put forward in a sermon like this is Cain and Abel. Abel gave his best sheep in worship one day, what the Bible calls the first fruits. Cain was a farmer and he kept the good stuff and put the broccoli, the Brussel sprouts, and the cauliflower on the altar for his sacrifice. He gave the leftovers. God was NOT happy with him. God wants us to happily give him the first fruits, not the leftovers.
I told you the following story a few years ago but I am going to share it again. It was right before Thanksgiving that the home economics department of the University of Minnesota received a phone call. A lady wanted to know if a turkey was safe to eat. She had been cleaning out her mother’s freezer and had, at the bottom, discovered a turkey which had, according to a date on the tag, been there for 23 years. “Is it safe to eat?” she asked. The expert replied, “I don’t think you should eat it. In fact, it could make you pretty sick.” “I thought so,” said the woman, “I’ll just give it to the food bank for Thanksgiving.”
Can you imagine? This is not the kind of thing you or I would do, I would hope. We shouldn’t give a 23-year-old frozen turkey to a food bank, but there are times when we might give that spiritual equivalent to the Lord: you know, our leftovers.
If you think that statement is a little harsh, I understand. Even so, it’s true for a lot of Christians. If you doubt me, here’s a little experiment. Figure out your income per week. If you make 50K a year that is 1000 bucks. A tithe for 50K a year would be 100 bucks a week, 400 a month. If you make that much and put a twenty dollar bill in the plate the weeks you are here, you are giving God your leftovers.
In Malachi 3:10, we read “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10). Now tithing is not a hard and fast rule for us Christians. We live in grace and not by the law. But it is a guide. Tithing leads us to give God the first fruits, and not the leftovers. In our house, the first check I write for the month is my tithe plus for God here at St. Mark. The Bible clearly says we are to give God the firstfruits, that our worship/our gifts come first. When we put something in the offering plates that is an act of worship. And God wants us to want to worship Him with all of our hearts, and all of our soul, and all of our everything!
All too often the Lord gets the leftovers. That’s true when it comes to our financial pledges, our worship, our singing and everything else. If you are daydreaming during this or any sermon, you are giving God leftovers. If you are thinking about what you are having for dinner later or what you have to do at work or school this week while you are singing the hymns/songs today, you are giving God the leftovers. If you pay all your other bills first and go out to eat and buy your Starbucks and then give God what is left, that is the leftovers.
This is a shame because the Lord didn’t send some low-grade angel, some left over to be our Savior. He sent the best He had. When you look in the Bethlehem manger or on the cross, you will see God’s only Son. And that only begotten Son died and rose for us.
God gave the best. God gave His best. And God wants us all to do the same in thanksgiving, in worship. Because there is something else you need to remember: You do not put money in these plates to pay the budget for this congregation. It is true. Your act of putting the envelope here is not to pay the budget. You are not giving to a budget, you are giving to God. Putting something in here is an act of worship. After that worship, your church council, in agreement with you, takes these funds and pays missions, salaries, and bills. You might think that is a small distinction, but it is not. We give here in thanks to God, in praise of God, in the worship of God for what He has done for us.
This is something we all need to do. This is not a deal where we can say to ourselves: “I’ll let the other folks take care of this.” When everyone is doing their part, then things go well. When folks are not doing their part, the group, the team suffers. Too many times Christians will think that this tithing stuff is for everyone else but not themselves. Now if you have 11 guys on a football field, and eight of them say, “I’ll let the other guys do what they are supposed to do,” how successful will the next play be? Remember what I told you last week about the church I grew up in? More than a thousand members who gave nothing? This is not what the Bible says. I asked for some demographic numbers for our church, and based on that info, if every family here tithed, our giving would go up to over 600k dollars per year. Last year we received 314k dollars. Think of how our congregation here would change if the offerings went up that much. Think of how easy our Voter’s Meetings would be, right? And I will tell you this, bluntly: if you are thinking this morning that you wish I had a different topic for this sermon, that I shouldn’t be talking about this, if we get 600k, let’s say 500k in the next year, then I won’t preach this because that means most of you will be tithing. And right now, most of you are not. Based on the overall numbers (I do not know what you all give individually.), 15-20% of our families are tithing.
Now I know that economically, things are not booming right now. If you have never tithed before, you might be thinking you can’t afford it. Well, I can guarantee you, your kids will not go hungry, you will not go broke because you tithe. God just doesn’t work that way. In the more than 170 years of the LCMS, no one ever went broke because they tithed. Remember what I read before? In Malachi 3:10, we read “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10).
Here is one example of what I mean. Do you remember Danny Thomas? He had a 1950’s sitcom “Make Room for Daddy” that was huge. He was also the founder of St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN. If you are young, take it from me, he was a big deal back in the day. Early in his career, he had no job, a kid on the way and eight bucks in his pocket. He went to church and figured he would put one buck in. But it was a mission service, and he put in seven, all his bills. He then prayed to God that he hoped God would give him back ten-fold, what with the kid coming and all. The next day, he got a call with a job offer, to shoot a commercial. The pay? $75. God thing.
God gives to us. We give back to Him in gratitude and worship. One Christian years ago who understood stewardship was once asked how he could give so much to the Lord’s work and still possess great wealth. He replied, “Oh, as I shovel it out, He shovels it in, and the Lord has a bigger shovel.”
Here is the reality and the challenge: You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. We are to give freely and generously of our time, talents and financial resources in thanks for what God has first done for us, and we are to share the good news of Jesus, and that He died and rose for us, and share this with as many people as we can reach! That is our calling, each one of us. We are all part of the team. We all have a part, a position to play. We can’t sit here and let someone else “run the play.” We have all been gifted. We are all called to give: especially God’s love that is here inside us all. Until then, God grant us the strength and wisdom to do what He wants us to do for His team!
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.