Church Budgets and Stewardship

I have been pondering church budgets at charge conferences and wondering how the economy is affecting giving. There are lots of ways to give that don’t include money, but churches have to pay their light bills, etc. Thankfully there are lots of church members who, in spite of their economic circumstances, are stepping up to the plate.

We have heard it said about certain people, “There will be stars in their crowns.” Usually these are folks who have had to endure a lot. If there is such a thing as earning stars in crowns, I think the people receiving them would be the most surprised. Anyone who does things to purposely get either earthly credit or heavenly reward will be sadly disappointed. The kingdom of God most often rewards the last, the least, and the lowest. The humble who help others without any expectation of reward are the ones who will be blessed, “The branch that hangs the lowest bears the most fruit.

Many people don’t bear any fruit at all! Instead they give God their leftovers. Paul Harvey reported that a woman called up the Butterball Turkey Company’s consumer hot line and asked about the advisability of cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The customer service representative told her that it might be okay to eat it if the freezer had maintained a below-zero temperature the entire time, but even so, the flavor would have deteriorated so much that it wouldn’t be very tasty. Said the caller, “Oh, that’s what we thought. We’ll just donate it to the church.” The church has received more than her share of “old turkeys.”

How can we do a better job in humbly helping others? I read of a woman who recently confessed her struggle to find ways of responding to her elementary-aged children when they drove by a homeless person holding a sign that read “Hungry. Need food.” The children wanted to stop. They insisted that something should be done to help this person get food. The woman said it was obvious to her that this man had been drinking and that while he might be hungry, he probably was more interested in drinking beer. But her children were not convinced. She was caught between her desire to teach generosity to her children and her reluctance to give money that would be spent on alcohol. In addition, this man was not the only such person they passed on their regular route to work and school. She talked with her children about it and they decided to keep a bag of groceries in the back of the car – mostly bread and peanut butter. When they came upon a hungry man or woman, they reached into the bag and handed them food. What a great lesson in stewardship!

 This is exactly the kind of altruism that is taking off with today’s young professional families. This kind of helping the poor is a lot better than the lifestyle of self-centered Yuppies from a decade ago. The word “Yuppies” was an acronym for “Young Urban Professionals.” It became a universal synonym for greed and me-firstism. Things have changed! Volunteerism among this age group has overtaken the old attitudes of selfishness. New Yuppies don’t care about reward or recognition. They simply want to help people. The only reward is a sense that their lives mean something because they’re doing something for somebody else. Today’s “Yuppies” should stand for “Young Understanding Professionals.” I hope this trend continues! This depends, to a large degree, upon a person’s attitude about work. Some people live to work and others work to live. Some see their job as a benchmark for success and self-esteem, while others see their work as a means to live, to help others, or to find satisfaction in “making a difference in the world.”

 How do we determine our value? Do we count our worth in salary or in charitable giving? Reaching the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked a young engineer fresh out of MIT, “And what starting salary were you looking for?” The engineer said, “In the neighborhood of $135,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.” The interviewer said, “Well, what would you say to a package of five-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50 percent of salary, and a company car leased every two years — say, a red Corvette?” The engineer sat straight up and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?” And the interviewer replied, “Yeah, but you started it.”

What are you working for? Is yours a heavenly reward or an earthly one? True satisfaction is found in helping others without any thought of “What’s in it for me?” I am grateful for those who, like the widow and her mite, are doing their very best for Jesus!

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