“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, NRSV)
The Epistle of James makes the radical assertion that anytime we see an act of generosity, God initiated it. That means if I see a homeless person at an intersection and I give him a couple of dollars, God was not only a part of that transaction, but God was the source of it. God provided the gift I gave. When Ann and I make our contribution to Canterbury, although it comes out of our checkbook, James would argue that it is coming from God. Every gift is “from above.” How can this be?
The Bible teaches that everything belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24). Even though we may think all our stuff belongs to us, the biblical perspective is that we are merely stewards or caretakers of these things for a brief time. We are managers of God’s stuff, and the Bible further teaches that we will be held accountable for our management. This is true of anything we consider to be a resource in our lives—money, time, relationships, skills, knowledge, etc.—and it is essential to recognize that all of these resources belong to God first. Through God’s generosity and grace, we are given access to these resources to be used for our benefit but also for God’s glory.
This calls for two equally important responses if we desire to be faithful in following God. The first is one of gratitude. I am grateful for Ann because she is a gift God has given me. I am grateful to God for our children, for our home, for our friends, for our work, for our bank accounts, for our investments, and for our influence. A grateful attitude toward all these relationships and resources ensures that I won’t take them for granted and that I won’t forget that these are all ultimately gifts from God to me. That also means I will treat these relationships and these resources with reverence and care because I could lose them at any time.
The second response is for me to find ways to let God use these relationships and resources in my life to his glory. One of the best ways to allow that to happen is to “give it forward.” I can share what I have with others because God is both the source of all that I have as well as the source of my desire to give to others. My time, my money, my influence, and my affection are at God’s disposal to be used for his glory because I am merely a manager of all these things God has given to me first. The degree to which I am grateful for these resources will have an impact on the degree to which I am willing to share these resources for God’s glory.
By now you should have received a pledge card in the mail, and I encourage you to carefully and prayerfully consider the teachings of James 1:17 as you complete your pledge. Take stock of the blessings God has provided to you to use for your benefit and the benefit of all his creation. Give thanks to God for these blessings. I shared recently in a sermon a quote from Neal Maxwell that says, “We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” And then decide how you can best glorify God in your giving to Canterbury in the coming year. We have many challenges, but we also have many opportunities for Canterbury to have an even greater impact on our community and in our world. Please allow your generosity to reflect the generosity of God, and we’ll all be blessed.
Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church