Monday, May 14, 2012


I had an epiphany while attending a stewardship workshop a couple of years ago. (Stewardship is a profoundly rich concept that has gained a very boring reputation because it has become synonymous with “fund-raising” – which is like defining poetry as “making up rhymes.”) The presenter was emphasizing the need to “thank, thank, thank” those who give, and my epiphany was this: Nobody gets thanked in the Bible. (Well, Paul does thank a couple of people who “risked their necks” to save his life, but that’s about it – and certainly no one is thanked for giving. Paul’s style instead is to lift up the contributions of the impoverished Macedonians in order to shame the wealthier Corinthians into giving more.)

I have become convinced that a “thanks”-based approach to stewardship is short-sighted, unbiblical, and an insult to the giver, who doesn’t give in order to earn thanks, but out of a compulsion of faith and love – a variation on the old spiritual, “How can I keep from singing?”

This is not to say that Paul and other biblical writers are not purveyors of gratitude – It’s just that the one who is thanked is God. “I thank my God every time I remember you…” is Paul’s expression of gratitude for the “partnership in the gospel” that the Philippians’ have shared with him.

Jesus is not so magnanimous. Here is Jesus’ thanks to those who have accomplished something good:  “When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say. ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done.’”

Now, I have to confess that my  “epiphany” may be a little self-serving because I do not, in fact, thank people enough – for all kinds of things. So I’m thinking of having some thank-you cards made up. To be true to my convictions I can't simply say, "Thank you," so I’m trying to decide between having them inscribed with, “I thank my God for you…” or “Dear Worthless Slave…” Hmmm….  


Anonymous said...

Richard, you are back. Good. I've been chair of our stewardship committee for the last two years. I appreciate your comments! Dealing with "sell all you have and give it to the poor" was so much fun two Octobers ago. I gave 10 consecutive 2-min temple talks on Sunday mornings leading up to pledge Sunday. Luke was a challenge to any kind of selfishness, that's for sure.

My general approach has been--- it's all God's money and stuff in the first place, so how can you keep it all for yourself and your own biological family? I guess the "worthless slave" moniker is implied.

Our council president insisted on sending thank-you notes for pledges. I was uncomfortable with that but didn't know why. You made it clear. I think I'll suggest the "Dear Worthless Slave" note to him. Maybe he'll get the picture and do something else.

Bill G

Richard Jorgensen said...

Bill: Thanks. And I certainly need all the stewardship help I can get.

Charlie Ruud said...

This is great insight, Dick. "I thank God every time I remember you". One of our standard sayings that we've used at our church is to highlight a various ministry or benevolence and to say "Thank you for all that you give." You've got me thinking that maybe a way to tweak it would be to say, "Thank God for all that you give." Really nice to ponder this. Thanks much.

Charlie Ruud said...

This is great insight, Dick. "I thank GOD every time I remember you...". We've used the common phrase "Thanks for all you give" when highlighting specific ministries or benevolences at our church, but now this has me thinking that it might be appropriate to say "Thank God for all you give." This is great to ponder. Much Thanks.