One of the themes of this year’s Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference here is generosity. But it’s the flip side of that quality — gratification — that brings us true contentment, participants learned in worship.
“How do we get to this blessed or happified state?” asked the Rev. Tom Taylor, president and CEO of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation, preaching March 12.
The March 12-14 conference, hosted by several presbyteries, synods and agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), focused on several angles of stewardship — its theological and spiritual basis, new ideas for campaigns and ways to encourage giving in a time of economic worry.
Speaking on Acts 20:32-35, Taylor pondered what Jesus meant when he said that it’s better to give than to receive. Taylor outlined four reasons that support Jesus’ claim.
First, Taylor said, giving gratifies us because it puts us in relationship with other people, which is vital to every aspect of our beings. We can be wealthy but unhappy unless we have someone to share our wealth with.
“When we give what we have, we bond our lives to other people’s in meaningful ways,” Taylor said.
Second, he continued, when we give, we gain perspective. We realize that we’re all in this together. Scripture tells us over and over again that we can’t navigate our lives without each other. We all have things that we can’t do for ourselves and that only God can do for us, Taylor said, often through other people.
Giving reveals to us that money and material possessions are cheap — we can give away the things that have power over us.
Third, Taylor said, giving gratifies us by revealing God’s blessings in our lives.
“In my experience, givers have tended to be happier people,” Taylor said.
Generous people rarely complain about how much money it takes to run a church. There’s a direct connection between generosity and vitality of faith. People give because they have a deep-seeded motivation for gratification — that sense of knowing that all is well because they’re following their calling, Taylor said.
It’s a spiritual fact that God’s people are generous, Taylor insisted. It’s a revolutionary spirit within their hearts that compels them to give to others.
“When you lend without getting anything back, it’s called giving,” he said.
Fourth, giving gratifies us by assuring us that our hearts belong to God.
“Does this mean we’re children of God because we give?” Taylor said. “No, it means we give because we’re children of God.”
Although we don’t think twice about tipping waiters 15 percent after meals, tithing 10 percent of our income to the church is harder, he noted. But not giving also bothers us, giving us a nagging inner voice. We’re confused about our relationship to things in this world, often forgetting that we’re temporary stewards of a few things while God is the permanent owner of everything.
Giving can be a confession of faith, Taylor said, allowing us to state that we place our faith not in money but in God to fill our needs.
“Giving is a spiritual matter,” he said. “It’s a matter of your spiritual life and spiritual heart.”