Another Name. Another Pledge
By Rev. Keith Turman | 2023-02-11 | 4 min read
Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
A newcomer walks into my office. I feel excited—knowing that I’m on the cusp of new friendship. I also feel proud—knowing that I’m on the verge of fielding questions about our life together in this place. And, I feel unashamed—anticipating the moment I will share the stewardship card—which asks for a name and a pledge.
You know, the offering plate conversation can be loaded with emotion. Some shy away from it altogether, knowing how quickly the darts can fly. I’m not afraid of darts. The overwhelming emotion that emerges from our offering plate theology is joy. People need to know what they’re getting into when they join a church. The expectation to give is simply an invitation to live as God lives—to love as God loves. There’s something holy and mysterious about generosity. It seems to make sense that if I give away my money, my time or my resources—my life will necessarily be diminished by the amounts that I give. And yet in my experience, the opposite proves to be true. My life is enhanced—not always with ‘full barns or vats bursting with wine’—but always with joy.
Fred Craddock tells his story: “My mother took us to church and Sunday school; my father didn’t go. He complained about Sunday dinner being late when she came home. Sometimes the preacher would call, and my father would say, ‘I know what the church wants. Church doesn’t care about me. Church wants another name, another pledge, another name, another pledge. Right? Isn’t that the name of it? Another name, another pledge?’ That’s what he always said. Sometimes we’d have a revival. Pastor would bring the evangelist and say to the evangelist, ‘There’s one now, sic him, get him, get him.’ And my father would say the same thing. Every time, my mother in the kitchen, always nervous, in fear of flaring tempers, of somebody being hurt. And always my father said, ‘The church doesn’t care about me. The church wants another name and another pledge.’ I guess I heard it a thousand times.
One time he didn’t say it. He was in the veteran’s hospital, and he was down to seventy-three pounds. They’d taken out his throat, and said, ‘It’s too late.’ They put in a metal tube, and X rays burned him to pieces. I flew in to see him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat. I looked around the room, potted plants and cut flowers on all the windowsills, a stack of cards twenty inches deep beside his bed. And even that tray where they put food, if you can eat, on that was a flower. And all the flowers beside the bed, every card, every blossom, were from persons or groups from the church. He saw me read a card. He could not speak, so he took a Kleenex box and wrote on the side of it a line from Shakespeare. If he had not written this line, I would not tell you this story. He wrote: ‘In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.’
I said, ‘What is your story, Daddy?’ And he wrote, ‘I was wrong.’”
Malachi 3:10 “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”