Editor's Note: This article is one in an occasional series called "All About the Benjamins," running this fall on Fidelia's Sisters. As many congregations and organizations are running stewardship campaigns and lining up budgets for 2012, we'll be taking a look at the sometimes-taboo topic of money, and the role it plays in our ministries.
First, I have a confession to make - I am uncomfortable talking about money. One of the things that I dreaded about going into the ministry was knowing that one day I would have to preach on stewardship. Those Sundays always come around once a year and there is hardly any way to get out of it.
I know the importance of ministers challenging their congregations and I know how vital stewardship campaigns are. While money is just “paper”, it has theological implications and it impacts our faith life in more ways than I think we will ever understand.
I went to a very rural village in Africa for 2 months last summer to work in an Orphanage and United Methodist church. There I learned more about stewardship than I’ve ever learned from listening to any minister or theologian. This church had no electricity and most people in the congregation did not even have running water. Many were dying from AIDS. They were hungry, frightened, homeless and didn’t know where their next meal would come from.
Every Sunday in worship the offering was one of the highlights of the service. Instead of the ushers passing around the offering plates, the people went to the altar and gave their offering to God. It was a sacred moment for them with God. I was amazed that these precious people, with so little to give, always gave an offering. It was something that they just did. The amount the church collected did not really matter; it was all used for helping those within their community.
One Sunday morning I was asked by one of the orphans if he could have some of my money. I asked what he needed the money for and he said, "I want to give it back to Jesus." With tears in my eyes I handed him some money. When it was time for the offering, the orphan, with a huge smile on his face, walked up to the altar and gave the money back to Jesus. I thought to myself, “How many times have I been greedy with money and thought it was mine, instead of God's?” This child had never had any money of his own in all of his life. Although I’m not certain, I can’t help but wonder if this might have been the first time he had even touched money. Notice what he did. He never once worried about his tomorrows. He never once considered keeping some of it. He never once considered his hungry stomach. For the first time in his precious little life he had money and he gave it all to Jesus.
Let us always be mindful that money is not our own. May our hearts be as generous as this precious child’s heart. For where you treasure is there is your heart also.