“Would you be our Stewardship speaker this year?” It was one of the first questions I got as I accepted this position as Regional Presbyter. Of course, Presbyterians love pastors talking about Stewardship almost as much as they love us preaching on Evangelism … and I have had the priviledge of being the “guest speaker” on both topics. Great. (sigh) Well, Stewardship time is upon us. I’ve been in two congregations this week preaching on the topic of giving … and it’s actually been fun.
I’ve been focusing on the attitude of the disciples in the story of the feeding of the five thousand as told in Mark (6:31-44). Yearning for a “day off” after a full schedule of teaching and healing gigs, the disciples are excited when Jesus suggests they get away for a bit out in the country. But things don’t go as planned … their quiet day in the country is hijacked by the crowds who are just as desperate for the opportunity to be with Jesus as the disciples are to be away from the crowds. And Jesus, also longing for a day of prayer and rest, is “filled with compassion.” He begins teaching and the time is slipping away.
I can imagine the grumpiness that must be settling in with the twelve. Not only have they given up their day off, but now they’re hungry, and the crowd appears to be overstaying their welcome. You’ve seen it … the meeting drags on, the guests lose track of the time … meanwhile stomachs growl, bladders are full … and someone has to address the situation. So the disciples tell Jesus to send the people home, it’s time for supper.
Jesus, as if he’s oblivious to the obvious concerns, says “go ahead, feed them.” To the disciples this is as unrealistic a response as “let them eat cake.” The disciples, if nothing else, are grounded in reality. They are the trustees of the situation, they know the budget and a little about crowd management and event planning … and uh, they just don’t have the resources for this kind of sit-down dinner. The disciples are operating from an attitude of scarcity … there is not enough to go around.
Often the church operates from this attitude. It’s realistic and pragmatic. Don’t aim too high, don’t commit too much, don’t bite off more than we can chew. It’s the kind of attitude that feeds low giving to the church … there isn’t enough, so I need to say no.
Jesus doesn’t operate from the premise of scarcity; he knows that what we have is enough. He says, “what do you have?” That’s all Jesus ever asks of us … what do you have? Living in abundance, Jesus knows that what we have is more than enough. And then he asks us to give it up. What we have is enough, if we’re willing to give it all for the work of the kingdom.
Dwayne and I struggled hard before deciding to build a pool and hot tub in the backyard of our house in Texas. We struggled with the faithfulness of spending a lot of money on what seemed a luxury to us and others. Our prayers, though, were consistently answered with … I give to you so that you enjoy and your responsibility is to share … remember what you have doesn’t belong to you, but to me.
We built our pool … and it became a sanctuary for a number of boys in the neighborhood on hot summer days; it was the fellowship hall of a Southern Baptist emergent church plant that we were involved with; it was the baptismal font, as well, for that church as young men and women came to know Jesus and were baptized in the pool; and it was a ripe mission field during many community theater cast parties when we built relationships, counseled, and witnessed to Christ’s love and compassion.
We have enough, Jesus says, and we’re called to offer it up … when we do, the work of Christ is real and miracles happen!