From the pastor…
In recent years I’ve gotten interested in the hobby of genealogy. I wish I’d gotten into it earlier, like when my parents were still alive, but I still remember some of the family lore, passed down from generation to generation.
My dad’s branch of the family tree is made up of German immigrants who came to America in the 1880’s. They must have been farmers in Germany because they immediately started farming in Carlton, NY. They didn’t actually own a farm in Carlton, though. They were tenant farmers on land that belonged to the Craddock family. Later, after saving up some money, they moved to Hamlin, NY and proudly farmed their own fields.
In both locales they were merely stewards of the property they lived on. As renters, they couldn’t claim to own a piece of Carlton. The best they could hope for was to earn enough to pay the rent and sock away some money to secure their future. Even in Hamlin, though the land they farmed is still in the family, they only lived on it for a few decades before they went to their heavenly homes.
The truth is, they were never more than stewards of the earth. That’s what all of us are. We may claim to have ownership rights, but it’s God’s land to own and ours to occupy as tenants.
If so, then we have a good and gracious landlord. He gives us everything we need for this body and life. He provides the rain, the soil, the seed and the manpower to produce a good harvest. He is deeply interested in our welfare. As Luther points out, He provides us with “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all [we] have.”
As it turns out, God is more than a landlord and we are more than His tenants. “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” [Psalm 95:7] Our relationship with the Lord goes way beyond the parties to a business deal. We haven’t been the most reliable tenants. God has suffered through some great lapses in our faithfulness. And, instead of evicting us, He’s sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem us. The “fields” of our lives produce more than we deserve. All our blessings can be attributed to God’s providence. And we have the assurance that God loves us with the patience of a Father.
If we were just tenants of God’s land we would owe Him more than we could ever pay, for sure! But, because we are His grateful family, our offerings take on a different purpose. They reflect the heartfelt worship of a people who trust in their heavenly Father to provide us with a rich harvest.
Sometimes we look at our offerings as a form of tribute to the Lord. If God just wanted to enjoy our first fruits that would be His prerogative.
But, that’s never been the Lord’s motivation. In this Shepherd / sheep relationship He cares for our needs. Our greatest tribute to Him is thanksgiving!
In this Father / child relationship He raises us up for service in the family name. Our greatest tribute to Him is selfless generosity!
As Martin Luther taught, “The Lord doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.” We have the resources to supply our own needs and to still collect our offerings for the benefit of our neighbors. Let’s share the abundance that God has blessed us with – spiritually and materially.
Living in our Father’s world,