Around ten years ago I had finished preaching at a church as a guest speaker when I asked for a copy (on CD) of the sermon. I like to watch ” game film, ” and simply wanted to listen for the purposes of trying to improve. I was referred to a lady in the back office, who was responsible for these sorts of things. She said she’d be happy to give me a copy…for two dollars.
For a copy…
Of my own sermon.
At first, I thought she was joking. She didn’t see the humor in it and insisted. I obliged and paid two dollars for a copy of my own sermon.
On the way home, I thought about how before the sermon and following the Lord’s Supper an elder stood before the church that very morning and urged the church to give generously as God had asked us to. Then I thought about the two dollars. I thought about the giving talk. I thought about the two dollars. I thought about the inconsistency of a leader asking the church to give generously while the church itself didn’t.
Later, a friend was considering taking a position at the same church as their pulpit minister. He said they were demanding he tithe, and when he asked if the elders were doing the same, they took offense. I relayed, confidentially, my experience. He then said they charged him two dollars for a copy of his sermon, as well. Thankfully, he took a pass.
That church struggled for years. Not because they didn’t have money. They had plenty. They just didn’t have generosity. They didn’t have consistency between what they asked others to do and their own responsibilities before God.
That church is now doing really well and is actually becoming known for their generosity thanks to God’s work of transformation among them. However, the lesson I learned from them a decade ago has stuck with me. If you ask others to be generous to your church, be generous as the church. If you ask church members to give generously, choose to act generously with their generosity. This is much closer to the picture of biblical stewarship reflected in the Scriptures.
Requiring guest preachers to pay two dollars for a copy of their own sermon isn’t good stewardship, it’s poor stewardship—because biblical stewardship isn’t based on preservation of assets, it’s based on generosity. You can preserve everything God entrusts to your church and be a wicked, lazy steward (see the Parable of the Talents).
Choose generosity, and you’re well on your way to hearing God’s, ” well done ” as a steward. Choose to be stingy, and you can’t be a good steward.