Summary: When you "mind your thoughts," you don't have anything to worry about.
Next Sunday is Stewardship Commitment Sunday. You and I recently received pledge cards from our Finance and Stewardship Committee, and they are asking us to make a commitment about what we will give in the year 2015. There will be a time set aside in next Sunday’s service for those of us who want to do so to bring our cards forward and place them on the Lord’s Table. If you prefer, you may also mail in your card, place it in the offering plate, or bring it by. We’ll take it any way we can get it.
I personally hope that everyone will pledge. Even if you have never filled out a card before, I encourage you to make a pledge of some amount. It could even be a dollar a week. Now, of course, that’s for those of you who have not pledged before. For the rest of us, we ought to pledge for 2015 to give at least what we are giving this year and, if possible, to raise our pledge.
At the beginning of this year, our Session approved a budget deficit of some 70,000 dollars. At the current moment, we are 81,000 dollars in the red. So, you can see, we need to step it up in the year ahead if we are not to lose ground.
This passage from Philippians is not, of course, a traditional stewardship text, but I think we can apply it to the practice of giving. This is especially true when comes to how we think about money and giving and such. Because that’s what this passage is about. It’s about how we think. It’s about what we let go on in our minds.
Paul says, “Do not worry about anything” (v. 6). And, of course, “anything” would include money, wouldn’t it? So what if we rephrased Paul’s words to say something like, “Do not worry about anything, including money”? Or, what if we just said, “Do not worry about money”?
Tall order, right? I’m afraid I have to confess to you that I probably worry about money more than anything else. As Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, I worry about the fact that we’re 81,000 dollars in the hole. I worry about what it means. I worry about what it says about how our people feel about the church.
Some years ago, Ed Draper was moderator of our Finance and Stewardship Committee, and he said something to the committee that I have never forgotten. He said, “Money never follows need; it always follows vision.” I think that’s true. I think that, if I were to get up here and tell you that we have an aging building and we need you to help us fund its maintenance and repairs – that would be true. Right? It is true. But it’s not very motivating.
Likewise, if I were to tell you that expenses are greater year to year – the cost of insurance and utilities and that sort of thing – it would be true. You know that. I don’t have to tell you. You live with these realities every day. If the church’s bills are going up, I’m sure yours are, too. So, while it’s true, it doesn’t inspire any of us to give.
I could go on an on like this. It’s all things you need to know, because you have a stake in this church, just as much as I do. But just knowing these things doesn’t make us want to give.
Now, on the other hand, if I were to tell you that we’re going to be a church that trusts God for what we need…. If I were to tell you that, as a congregation, we’re going to follow Paul’s instructions here in Philippians 4, where he says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God….” If I were to tell you that we are not going to worry about money but, instead, we are going to trust God for every outcome, two things would happen.
First, this church would model for you the kind of faith that it counsels you to have. You see, if you were overtaken by worry about anything – money, family, your future, whatever – I would have you turn right here to Philippians 4 and urge you not to let worry have the upper hand. Instead, I would tell you, trust God for what you need. I would suggest that you pray – that you give thanks to God for all his blessings and, then, that you lay out for him all your needs. Do you have a child who has turned away from you? I can only imagine how painful that is. Have you been given an unwelcome diagnosis by your doctor? I can’t think of anything that might throw you off balance quite like that. Are you in a job search and there just don’t seem to be any opportunities that fit what you’re looking for? That can make you feel unsettled about your future and your ability to earn what you need for you and your family to live. I can see how that might affect you.