Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stewardship, Hardness of Heart, and a Fallen World

A lot of Charity happens this time of year - especially in our congregation. We put on a Thanksgiving dinner, free to the public. We do an angel tree - this year 36 kids. We will make food baskets up for 10-12 families. A lot of things.

Then of course, I myself get requests for aid. Some of these are outlandish (for another pastor's example, check out post on one of his recent encounters), some are iffy, and some are matters of serious need.

How do you respond? At what point does it become a point where you can harden yourself to another person's request? I'm sure if it is a matter where you end up merely feeding an addiction or something like that - but there are times when your giving, your aid has to stop so that you can take care of your own responsibilities (not that most of us approach that point).

But this highlights something that we must accept. There are limited resources in this world, and you have been made steward over some of them. In your role as steward, you have been give certain areas of special focus - your family, your Church, your immediate neighbors, and then others. In your stewardship, you must make decisions, you must prioritize how you handle things.

At this point, one might say, "Well, you should just trust the Lord, that He will provide." Does that mean you should give the family's groceries for the week away... every week? Or would that be an abrogation of my given responsibility (my family) for some sort of feel-good at the best, works righteous at the worst holiness kick that brings harm to those entrusted to my care? Is it "faithfulness" to put God to the test while at the same time depriving those He has already entrusted to my care?

I think sometimes, and perhaps this is just a product of being in the bible belt, that we can forget how the Lord already *has* provided, that we are to be stewards of what He has given, and run and tend to the responsibilities He has already given us. Find your responsibilities (including the stranger), and work through them, balance them, and in all things pray for the return of Christ.


Bror Erickson said...

Hey, Eric,
thanks for "blowing up" my blog. Was wondering why there were so many coming over from yours, and why "Random Dude" was so popular, yesterday it was my post on the Pink guy and discerning if you are elect. I have yet to figure out what was driving that.
Yeah, I sometimes wonder about the hardness of heart bit. My congregation donates monthly to the food bank, and a Pregnancy Resource Center. These places are set up to help better than I am, to weed out who needs help and who doesn't. I think it is a better use of our time and resources to partner with them.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This gets to the heart of the matter (as I get ready to run into town to pay a fine for someone) - use your sanctified common sense. Be one who gives aid, not a mark. Support your neighbor, but not at the expense of those under your care.

Ideally we wouldn't have to have any balance - but in a fallen world, balance can be hard to find.

Phillip said...

The Methodist pastor here on campus actually made a good point on this subject. (Don't you hate when that happens.) He said, "Jesus said, 'You will always have the poor with you.' We're never going to be able to take care of everyone in need. There will always be more."

Mike Baker said...

I follow a self-imposed rule that is just a matter of personal conscience:

"If it belongs to you, be ready to give it away. If it is something that you have control over that belongs to someone else, keep it protected for them."

So if it is my lunch money and someone asks for it, I give it to them. If giving means cutting into my family's grocery money then I keep it (because I have already allocated it to be given it to someone else). This topic is closely tied to the idea of overlapping vocations and who gets priority... it's a personal decision that is made in Christian freedom based on the best available information at the time.

...but, in America, what we consider "needs" are just "wants" most of the time so we rarely fall into these really hard giving decisions even though we pretend like we are confronted with hard choices all the time. :P