I realize this is a touchy subject. Believe me, I know firsthand that when you ask parishioners to open their wallets, many people turn a deaf ear. Yet, as stewards, we are called to give of ourselves entirely – our time, our talents, AND our treasure. So, we don’t want to shy away from talking about it. Rather, we want to talk about it in such a way that will touch the hearts of our parishioners, hopefully evoking a desire in them to give of themselves to the Lord.
To that end, my first suggestion to you is that you INVITE your parishioners to give of themselves. When you preach on stewardship of treasure, extend an invitation. The Lord has given us all that we have. The truth of that matter is we wouldn’t even have five dollars in our pocket if it weren’t for the goodness of God. Help your parishioners see that stewardship of treasure – responsibly using the money God has blessed us with and gratefully giving it back to God – is an opportunity for us to thank Him for His incredible generosity.
The second thing that is vital when preaching on money is to do so in conjunction with the other components of stewardship. Don’t separate the three. Stewardship is a way of life, after all. It is not an effort for the parish to increase the offertory or even parishioner involvement. It is calling people to follow the Lord. So, invite parishioners to give of themselves. Help them see that in giving of themselves, they must give of their treasure, but not on its own. Without the Lord’s goodness, we wouldn’t have anything – not our time, our talents, nor our treasure. We wouldn’t be alive. And stewardship is all about giving back to God in gratitude for all He’s given us. Make sure, even if your particular focus for one homily or another is on treasure (or time or talent for that matter) that you touch on all three. Never lose sight of the fact that stewardship is a way of life. It is the way of life of a Christian disciple, and all we say and do as pastors (and lay parish leaders) ought to be said and done in such a way that we are living as Christ’s disciples and inviting others to do the same.
My final suggestion, which I believe is necessary if you are going to preach on true stewardship regardless of which individual component you are touching on, is lean heavily on the scriptures. Draw from them constantly.
There are a number of references to tithing in scripture. The Book of Sirach tells us, “In generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as He has given to you, generously, according to your means” (Sir. 35:7-9).
What’s more, Jesus Himself spoke about stewardship of treasure, telling his disciples how important it is to not only pay the tithe, but also to live one’s life according to God’s laws – giving of one’s self entirely. (Mt. 23:23; Lk. 18). And in Matthew 21, Jesus drove out the moneychangers in the temple, making it very clear that the temple is a place of worship, and, when it comes to giving God our finances, we are to do so in a gracious, self-giving manner.
When you talk about money, do so in such a way that you call your parishioners to grow closer to God. He is, after all, what the life of a Christian disciple is all about. Even in giving of our finances, we are to put God first.
I have found that when I preach on stewardship of treasure in such a way that it is all about giving generously to the one who has given so generously to us – the one whose generosity cannot be matched – people not only listen, but they respond in gracious gratitude.