“WE GIVE THEE BUT THINE OWN”
This is the first line of a hymn that was sung every Sunday in the church of my youth when the offering was brought forward.
The first verse reads:
We give thee but thine own, whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from thee.
This verse, and the three verses that follow, revolve around our fundamental belief that we are merely stewards or trustees of all that we have. It began in the story of the Garden of Eden, where God placed Adam and Eve. In Genesis 1.28 we read, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it: and have dominion . . . “ ‘Subduing’ and ‘having dominion’ means being stewards of that which God has entrusted to you.
In our Bible Studies, we have had two interesting stories. One story was about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31). In this story, the rich man was very wealthy and he ignored Lazarus who had nothing and was begging at his door every day. When they died, Lazarus was carried by the angels to heaven, but the rich man went to hell. The point is made that he was in hell because he hadn’t listened carefully to the Scriptures and how he was to use his wealth in service to others.
The second story was about Zacchaeus of Jericho (Luke 19.1-10). Zacchaeus was also a wealthy man. He welcomed Jesus into his home. After dinner, he announced that he would give half his wealth away to the poor and repay those he had cheated with four times as much as he had gotten from them. Jesus declared: “Today salvation has come to this house . . .”
These two stories (one a parable, the other a true story) challenge us to consider what kind of stewards we are of all that we have. Surely, we take care of family, we buy life insurance and use other ways to save money, and we buy what is necessary to sustain our life.
The question before us is this: How do we reflect these two Scripture lessons? Do we lavishly enjoy what we have or hold on to it tightly in a spirit of ownership. Do we give away a portion of our ‘wealth’ to causes that aid the poor, the homeless and the immigrant? How do we decide how much our offering to church will be? Is it small, because we don’t want to give away our hard-earned dollars; or is our offering 10% of our income, given in gratitude for all God has done for us.
I am constantly reminded of the lessons of the manna. Remember how God provided food for the Israelites in the desert? (check out Exodus 16)
The lessons were twofold:
1) Trust that God would provide manna fresh every day (no hoarding!).
2) Take just enough for your household (no one was to be richer or above another).
What a wonderful story this is. It helps us remember - how we use our ‘wealth’ tells others how much we trust God to provide for us and what kind of stewards we are. Whether you have abundant resources, a moderate amount of this world’s material things, or you are a pensioner living on meager resources, we are all called upon to be faithful, helpful stewards for God.
+Pastor Paul Koch
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600