There is this tree in a church that at first glance is quite beautiful.
It's fake and is on one of the main walls. It has bright colors on it; all the perfect colors of fall and the leaves and hands that are on the tree have names on it.
It's stewardship month for most churches- the time of year that a lot of Pastors (myself included) dread because it is the time that we have to talk about money. It takes money to run a church, yes I know this, but talking about money is uncomfortable and while it is a part of my job it can send people into a deep pit of shame.
This particular tree is for anyone that increased their giving or began pledging for the first time. I couldn't quite figure out what about it bothered me until yesterday.
As I looked at the tree, I felt shame in the pit of my stomach. The thoughts went through my mind "if I attended here would my name be up there?" "would my family be able to increase our pledge?"
And the truth is, not likely. Living the life we live right now is hard financially and not because we live extravagantly. Cost of living is up, prices of houses have risen, daycare fees, school fees, etc.. it all adds up.
Some people are struggling to pay medical bills, dealing with the loss of a job or a spouse that provided more income- it is all hard and it is the reality of most people's lives.
Walking by this tree sent me into a shame spiral and I have to believe I am not the only one. The tree symbolizes the very essence of what people fear church is. That church is about money, taking your money and then glorifying those that give said money. Making the "less than" feel unworthy and perhaps like they do not belong.
Jesus preached against this very thing- against making people feel any less than a child of God. Jesus threw over the tables in the temple for they were mis-using the temple and what it was built for. Jesus got angry at how the people were being taxed, how the rich were only getting richer while the poor were just trying to get by.
When we glorify the wealthy or the ones that are just a bit wealthier than we are; it begins to send people into a dark place and away from God. Making them truly believe that they are not worthy enough, that maybe they don't belong and that God doesn't love them enough.
Stewardship, while necessary, is not just about the money and it is certainly not about rewarding the ones that give the most. The person that pledges the least and the one most are equal in the eyes of God and at our church. Both people have gifts beyond money to give. Both people have devoted their life to Christ and both people are worthy of being recognized for the work that they do.
This stewardship month, I promise to all of my congregants- I will talk about money but I will do everything possible to not make you feel as though you are not worthy because you are not able to give more. I will stress the importance of not just our monetary gifts but our spiritual gifts which are needed more and more every day in this broken world.
Being a good steward is taking care of your church, God's creation and each other.
Do this every single day without allowing anyone to tell you that you are not good enough or you don't do enough.
Go out and be the light of God to those in the world that need it the most and you my friend, will begin to see the change that the very light can do.
We are all worthy, we are all enough and we are beloved.