The Joy of the Dance
Most people I know (including myself) do not like stewardship messages/talks/etc. Most of the time we don't like them because the approach includes something like:A sermon in the archives that puts this into a biblical perspective is The Story of Bread.
- if we don't give more, we can't pay the bills
- we're behind budget and we need to dig deeper
- we want to do A, B, and C and it is going to cost us D, E, and F
The problem is we view stewardship as giving towards a campaign, paying dues, or contributing to the membership fee and not giving as a natural response of gratitude for God's goodness. The Episcopal Church has established that the biblical tithe of 10% is the norm, or minimum standard in giving. Most communicants give between $2500 and $3100 a year, which suggests two things:
- the average income is between $25,000 and $31,000 a year or
- we are not giving a tithe.
One of the things A.L. mentioned, and he is right, is that we should not be caught up in percentages and questions of pre-tax, after-tax, and the like. He called this negotiating with God. He tells the story of how he learned to dance. He learned to count, one, two, three, and four, as he moved his feet in the shape of a square as he lead his partner in the dance. Over time, as his buddies were, in his words, "whispering sweet nothings in the ears of their dates," A.L. was counting "one, two, three, and four."
In other words, A.L. was so focused on the numbers, on getting it right, that he missed the dance—the joy of the dance, the beauty of the dance, and whom he was dancing with. Giving to God should not be about counting the steps, but about enjoying the dance. How are we doing? The tithe (10%) is not meant to be a stumbling block, but as a reference to help us determine if we are truly enjoying the dance, or if we are standing by the punch bowl.