When you stop to think about it, God has given us so much: life itself, a beautiful planet, energy, gifts and talents, family and loved ones, not to mention our work, interests and possessions. In addition, of course, he has given us the greatest gift of all – himself – through Jesus, in the power of the Spirit. God’s lavish grace is truly amazing.
Stewardship is one way we can respond to the amazing generosity and goodness of God.
You might wonder what on earth we can give back to God. But we can give him:
- ourselves in worship, by who we are and what we do with our lives, day by day;
- our gifts, talents and time, in serving him and others; and
- our money and material possessions, for the work of his kingdom and the relief of others in need.
So the giving of our material wealth is an important part of being a follower of Jesus Christ. It is a joyful and liberating thing to do.
Why is stewardship of our money so important?
Jesus taught us more about our attitude to money and the right use of it than about any other subject except the Kingdom of God. He challenged us as to what is more important to us – our love of God or our life in this world? He said, “You cannot serve both God and money”. Matthew 6:24
Money is therefore a deeply spiritual issue, and an integral part of our worship of God. Developing the habit of regularly giving money to God is the best way of putting it in its place, and making sure that God comes first in our lives. It also enables God’s kingdom to grow, and his love to be shown to his children in need around the world.
But how do you decide how much to give?
This is of course entirely up to you, and what you sense is right in your circumstances before God. Luke records that Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them, for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on”. Luke 21:1-4.
Paul encouraged Christians to give “regularly, generously and in proportion to their income“. 1 Corinthians 16:2. And again, “a person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Some people try to give a tenth of their net income (after tax); others give less; a few are able to contribute more. But we need to be sensitive to others, particularly where a partner or other family members are not churchgoers. So how much you give is a decision you take in the light of God’s goodness and love, and the great needs of those we seek to serve in his name.
To whom should you give?
God does not have a bank account. So we can give to the church community to which we belong, and to our neighbours in various kinds of needs around the world.
Many members of St Mary’s direct all their giving to the Church, and rely on the Church to pass on some to others in need; the PCC has in the past recommended that one fifth of what it receives is allocated to mission outside the parish. Some like to specify where their allocation goes; others are content to let the PCC make the choice on their behalf.
The Stewardship Form details the organisations that St Mary’s is currently supporting, financially and in prayer.
Others give some money to St Mary’s, and some elsewhere. The Church of England nationally recommends that, as a minimum, we give 5% of our income to the Church, and 5% to other deserving causes.
It is also very helpful, both to givers and to the Church, if money is given on a regular basis, by standing order. That way, you do not need to remember to give week-by-week; and the church can be assured of a stable income.
Wills and one-off donations
Finally, it is always worth considering what you want to do with your money when you are no longer here to enjoy it.
It is right that you will wish to make proper provision for those you leave behind, particularly your spouse and children. But it is also a unique opportunity to make a generous donation to the church or to your favourite charities. Here at St Mary’s, we know full well the benefit that such giving can bring; two-thirds of the cost of the major reordering a few years ago was met by a single, very generous legacy.
If you want to consider this, you should discuss it with your solicitor or other independent advisor.
Alternatively, you may wish to make a one-off donation in memory of someone you loved, or for some other reason – the installation of the screens and projectors were covered by such a gift.
If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this leaflet, do not hesitate to get in touch with the Clergy or Churchwardens, or any other member of the Finance Team – Justine Bird, Beverley Everett, Wei Hei and Robert Kipling, David Morrow, Hazel Neaverson, Steve Paynter, Zanda Russell.