Munificence —Though the Word May Not be Much Used Today,
I Pray We Christians Might be Characterized by It.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (esv)
Munificence = n. The quality of being munificent; splendid liberality in giving; great generosity(i).
I am so thankful for the opportunity to publicly praise God for the generosity of the saints. Over the past year our church has been the recipient of several large bequests. We do thank God for those who showed such “splendid liberality in giving” even when they are not here to be thanked personally or directly benefit from the use of those gifts. Patty Ludwig, Kathryn Fagan, and Bill Carlile have blessed us as a congregation through their estate planning and have provided significant resources to further the work of the Kingdom of God here. We have been able to complete all the payments to those who so generously provided non-interest-bearing loans which allowed us to build the addition. Those gifts also have given us the money needed to demolish the church house and regain a beautiful lawn for games and gatherings outside. Additional funds have been distributed to the Missions Committee and the Deacon Board for scholarships. We pray that God would give us wisdom from above (James 3:17) as we all seek to “manage our minas in the meantime” (see Luke 19:11-27 and the sermon on Aug. 22nd)!
What a wonderful blessing that church members, having been blessed, would be a blessing to the church below even as they are taken up to live in eternal blessing above!
As believers we no longer fear death for Jesus Christ has overcome the grave through His death and resurrection. But death is still a present reality for all of us until He returns (ii). An important question for us then is this: Are we living in light of both our own death and the reality of eternity? That is, are we living out of the understanding that this world is not all that there is? OR, do we give the distinct impression that our own comfort and convenience is the most important factor in how we spend our money and use our resources?
And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
Jesus certainly has a lot to say to us about what has been given to us and how we are to use those gifts. Take time to read and meditate on the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and the parable of the 10 minas in Luke 19. And if you haven’t ever memorized the verses at the beginning of this article, please do so! Our materialistic culture and consumer mentality make it so hard for us, but have we reckoned truly with the sinfulness of our own hearts? How many of us need to hear again Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12! I have seen numerous commercials from financial planners eager to help you have lots of money in your retirement, but do we have God’s kingdom priorities in mind when we plan for our death? Your faithful and generous giving throughout your lifetime and (as you are able and willing) after your entrance into eternal life is a true and tangible act of worship to God and blessing to the church. To God be the glory!
But those unexpected donations after a saint’s triumphant translation to heaven are like the icing on the cake—a very sweet and wonderful addition, but not the main thing. It is the ongoing faithful and generous giving of the saints that allows us to have and use the property and building that we do; to engage in ministry in all sorts of are as and support all kinds of mission endeavors; to have a full-time minister and look ahead at the possibility of another pastor! Thank you to all of you who give week by week or month by month! It is by God’s generous gift of grace that we are saved; and our great generosity reflects the greatness of God’s gifts to us. We give to God even as we write a check to the church.
But as we think of being people who are characterized by “splendid liberality in giving,” we must remember that we have all sorts of resources of which we need to be good stewards. We should want to exercise great generosity with our time and talents as well as our treasure. We should be praying about how we can better use the things we have to further the kingdom of God, to share and show others the beautiful, amazing truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s transformative power in our lives. Do you have a home? Do you eat meals regularly? Will you recognize the Christian practice of hospitality and, as you are able, love both your neighbors as well as those who are normally marginalized (exactly because we normally wouldn’t and they cannot repay us)—have we read and heeded Jesus in Luke 14:12-13?!
Each of us must pray for wisdom and grace as we do this (as well as talk and pray to whoever else is in the home and around the table as it impacts everyone). There is not a set formula to follow. And not only are our resources different, but so is everyone’s life situation. Depending on what season of life you are in, you may find it difficult or even impossible (or at least impractical) to practice hospitality in the traditional way of inviting someone into your home as your guest. As Christians, we are glad to have God’s clear direction in the Old Testament of a tithe which is so helpful in establishing a baseline for our own giving (a goal of 10% as an initial foundation and which increases as God blesses us). However, as the parable of the Good Samaritan makes plain, if a person is in need, we need to stop and help; we can’t excuse ourselves by saying ‘I’ve already given my tithe in church, I’m unwilling to spend/give anything else to help (love) my neighbor.’ Will you ask God to open your eyes to the needs and opportunities all around us so that we, the church, can be witnesses to God’s love and grace through our wise stewardship to a broken world that desperately needs the Gospel.
We haven’t yet touched upon the precious gift of family and friends that God gives each of us! How are you investing in the relationships that you have? Even if our relationships are hard (whether at home or work or with our neighbors or even in the church), we have the privilege of blessing those around us and using our time, talent, and treasure for God’s glory and their good. What R.O.I. (Return On Investment) are you praying for? Recall what God says in Galatians 6:9-10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Let’s move forward by faith and glorify God as well as bless many by being increasingly munificent!
p.s. Please pick up a copy of The God Who Gives, a 5-day Generosity Devotional outside the sanctuary.
i The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, © 1993.
ii The Heidelberg Catechism helps us here: “42. Q. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die? A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.” How beautiful! An end of sin and the entrance into eternal life!