Becoming the divine agency of Christ through stewardship
May 10, 2018 by Rob Hagan
“There cannot be a surer rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than when we are taught that all the endowments which we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being distributed for the good of our neighbor.” – John Calvin, “On the Christian Life (Annotated Edition)”, 2012, p.23, by Jazzybee Verlag
Stewardship in the Reformed Tradition has always affirmed our time, talent, and treasure. It is always a response and not a condition of God’s grace. The “divine deposits” which our Lord grants to us is to be invested wisely, handled carefully, and distributed extravagantly not only to the church, but to raise the common good in our neighborhood, town, city and country in which we live. The call by Calvin and by Jesus Christ is to see our lives and our resources not in the perspective of scarcity, but of abundance. Abundance is not continued accumulation but living in the sufficiency that God has given us enough. Enough is the enemy of scarcity. Yet living in scarcity draws us like a magnet into worry and not contentment in God’s grace for us in our finances.
Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, writes,
No matter who we are or what our circumstances, we swim in conversations about what there isn’t enough of. I see it in myself. For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of. We don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough rest. We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough wilderness. We don’t have enough weekends. Of course, we don’t have enough money—ever. We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough—ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack.
Christ gives us the antidote to scarcity. In the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew, he sees hurting people and compassion stirs his heart. The disciples tell him, yes tell him, to send these crowds away to the surrounding villages so they can eat. Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples responded, “Are you kidding? We don’t have the resources or the distribution service to provide for them!”
“Give me what you have,” Jesus said. He takes, He blesses, He breaks, He gives. This is the order of grace in our lives. We do this action every day, don’t we, as we follow him. We give him our doubts, fears, concerns about our money, and He gives us back reassurance of his grace. He gives us the sufficiency of his love and the desire to give to our neighbors. We become the divine agency, used by God to bring abundance and not scarcity. According to the USA Giving Statistics, 50 percent of worship attenders don’t give anything! When will they experience this order of grace and the joy of living in this type of abundance?
The Foundation places itself in the historical tradition of concentrating on abundance and not scarcity. When we gather, invest, and distribute funds for mission it is a holy calling. We deeply desire to become that “divine agency” fully enveloped in the order of grace of Jesus Christ. We give, He blesses, He breaks, He gives back. We marvel at his generosity and extravagant giving to enable the local church to live in abundance.
Rev. Dr. Rob Hagan is the Ministry Relations Officer serving the Northwest. He works with pastors and church leaders to cultivate generosity and promote stewardship within their congregations. He also meets with donors to assist them in making gifts to support their church and other ministries. You can find your congregation's Ministry Relations Officer here.