How amazing that God works in and through the material stuff of this world—you, me, bread, wine, money, etc. Other religions and spirituality in general can see the physical world, that which is material, as more of a problem than something sacred. But God actually likes "stuff" .. He spent six days of creation inventing "stuff".
How often does Jesus use ordinary physical things for communicating his love and ministering his grace? He turns water into wine .. He feeds 5,000 men with bread and fish. He actually invites us to use what is in our hands to serve his greater purposes (just like Moses and his staff) and to draw us closer to Himself.
In these words of Jesus there is an outrageous promise, an invitation and a problem to wrestle with, and then a desired result to discover:
The promise: Jesus likes stuff. He uses stuff, the material of this world, to draw us to him. He has given everything to us; it is not ours, it is his. The promise is, give it back to him, and more will be given to you.
The problem: we don’t believe it. I mean no disrespect, Lord, but I can’t really see how that works. This stuff is mine. I have earned it. I know better how to use it. What if the promise is true? What can we expect? The result: when we take this leap of faith and give back to God a part of what he’s given to us, the good news is we gain a sense of doing the right thing; we have more trust, less anxiety, more joy. We also get to break the deceptive power of the "love of stuff" that can then begin to own us. This is never more true than when it comes to finance, which is why the principle of tithing can be so life-giving.
Tithing is not a commandment for the Christian like it is within Biblical Judaism, but neither is it a limit. God is concerned about our stewardship of all that he gives us but also that He be the God we worship and not that which is created. We express that in part by exercising faith in our giving ... with cheerfulness (cf. 2 Cor 9:7) Nevertheless, God works through the stuff he gives us; therefore, we are a sacramental people, coming to the sacred through the materials God has created and ordained for us. God works through these means, whether people, circumstances or material goods, to accomplish his ends, his will, for our good. He could unite us to himself without any means, but he chooses to bring us into his Church through material, sacramental things: into the Body of Christ through baptismal water, at his table with bread and wine, healing us through anointing oil. He could have done those things in all kinds of other ways, but he chose the material—the stuff—of this world.
In this same way, God works through stewardship to accomplish his ends. God wants the orphan and widow cared for, and He chooses to work through us—our time, our effort and our money—to do it. In other words, our checkbooks and our calendars are sacramental. Through our giving, God feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, cares for the sick and visits the imprisoned, and He grows the Kingdom through our service to Him. God could have accomplished the above laundry list of blessings without a single dollar from any of us, but he didn’t.
We are all being invited into the greatest honor one can know this side of heaven: the opportunity to partner with God in the redemption and transformation of the world!
With love and prayers,
(Credit to my old Bishop, Philip Jones, for inspiration behind this article)