From discernment to generosity

By Lizbeth Johnson

How can we be generous in multiple ways with our financial resources?

When St. John Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Texas needed new hymnals, Ben Marek was drawn to meet the need. He and his brother decided to purchase the hymnals themselves. He included a tribute to his wife with a marker for the hymnal as a tribute to her generosity in life and what they had learned together about giving to the work of the Lord.

When you attend a worship service at St. John, you will be drawn to the inscription that tells you someone named Ben loves the Lord, loved his wife, and loves his church. Ben Marek wants to bless others with a way that extends worship through  praise and adoration in song. 

Down the road, Immanuel Lutheran Church of Wiedeville is home to a new water well that will nourish the grass and landscape around the church building and cemetery. Doug Maurer considered the need, discerned his own ability to meet it, and paid for a reliable friend in the well-drilling profession to provide a long-term solution. Doug saw drilling a well as a way to meet the need and honor his mother, Evelyn, who loved her church and had recently gone on to be with Jesus. 

Happy the well was pumping water to the right places, his heart was pleased, but he moved on to walk the grounds methodically and took note of other needs. “Ball moss is growing on those oak trees” he mentioned to the pastor and two council members as they walked the grounds. “We need to take care of it,” he said. A new water well did not stop his eyes from sweeping across the landscape looking for other opportunities to help make Immanuel a more appealing place. 

Having Ben Marek and Doug Maurer meet church needs through their own insights is a wonderful gift of generosity to their congregations. What about those of us who don’t think about the new hymnals or have connections to drilling services?

Without support of the annual church budget, the church could not function. We all have the responsibility to provide the “tithe,” considered 10 percent for the church. 

The good news is that in addition to returning “first fruits” to the church through our tithe for general support, special gifts and offerings can be made when we recognize a need.

But how do we get beyond our duty and discernment to leave our “mark” in God’s economy to spread the gospel beyond our duty? Usually, it is out of two other pockets.

The second pocket holds the “special offering” beyond our duty, and the third pocket is for the “legacy” that goes beyond our discernment to recognize what is needed in the church beyond what we see. Legacy requires extra trust in God, our congregation, and our will to put the Lord first, giving beyond our own lives.

When we give a “legacy gift” we are usually building an endowment that sustains ministries unaffordable in other ways. Blessings to all givers, and special blessings to those who include a gift in their long-term planning—in wills and estates bequests that make significant impact on a church or ministry. Let’s make it a practice to consider all three pockets for comprehensive generosity!