Inviting Generosity: Your Sacred Calling
Written by: Pastor Ed McLeod
First Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC
To invite the folks under your care to discover the joy of generosity. This, I was told, by a mentor I trusted, was one of the most important callings of a Presbyterian pastor. Yes, I was to try to be a faithful preacher; yes, I was to try to be a diligent teacher; yes, I was to be attentive to the pastoral needs of my flock; but to help people discover the joy of generosity, to help them come to believe what surely seems counter-intuitive, and is most certainly counter-cultural, will be one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
A generous life is a life responsive to a generous God. A generous life is an offering of gladness, an act of worship, an expression of trust which is rooted in the confident faith that I need not grasp too tightly to what I have, for God is a God of gracious provision. When we are held prisoner by a fearfulness rooted in an assumption of scarcity (an assumption pervasive in our culture), our lives turn inward, our own hungers and appetites become our chief obsession, and we miss out on the joy God intends for us, the joy of a shared life, where our neighbors matter, and where a Kingdom worthy of our investment is at hand.
A colleague once made the following observation: I have never met a former tither. I take that to mean that no one who has discovered the joy of generosity ever turns back and chooses to be less generous. On the contrary, the most generous people I know are always on the lookout for new ways to give of themselves, new ways to share in what God is doing in the world.
We are in the business of inviting people to an ever deepening engagement with the God we know in Jesus Christ. We rightfully encourage people to pray more, to worship more, to study more, and to give more of their time and energy in acts of love and justice. But if we fail to invite their generosity, their tangible, financial generosity, or are timid when we do, they may never discover the liberating power of holy extravagance. The tragedy of this is not that our church budgets won’t be underwritten. We invite generosity not because we are trying to raise budgets. We invite generosity because we are trying to nurture disciples, and if we do that, church budgets usually take care of themselves.
Questions for Reflection
- Who modeled generosity for you?
- How were conversations about money handled in the home and church of your childhood?
- How have you decided to reflect generosity in your own life?
- Does the connection of “joy” and “generosity” make sense to you?
- What makes you nervous about preaching or teaching about financial stewardship?