Funny You Said That
Live LeaderWorks C4SO Workshop/Webinar for Clergy
Thursday, August 11 at 10:30 AM CST.
“Ways to Increase Generosity in your Church this Year”.
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Fifth in a series…from LeaderWorks
The topic of stewardship and giving is not an easy one to speak about. It makes some people feel very uncomfortable. Both speaker and listener share long moments of angst when the topic is raised publicly. But humor is a great equalizer. It eases the tensions and diffuses the inherent discomfort in a subject.
No pastor or preacher should allow the pulpit to become an entertainment venue for jokes and quips. But, a little humor may make an important point a bit easier for some to grasp and accept.
In an article defining humor as a literary device, we read: (Humor) plays many functions in a literary work, such as it arouses interest among readers, sustains their attention, helps them connect with the characters, emphasizes and relates ideas and helps the readers to picture the situation.
So why wouldn’t we use humor in situations where we wanted the undivided attention of those in our congregation?
Tell it Slant…
Emily Dickenson coined a vivid phrase in a short poem:
Jesus told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But sometimes he mentioned it in the context of a story, a parable, or symbol. He told it slant.
Consider, for example, Jesus warning about treasures. It is non-direct:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
This is not a joke as we might call it today. But it is a very earthy take on deep spiritual issues. You get the stewardship lesson immediately. He is NOT promising that we can take treasure to heaven. But he is telling us that our use of money in this life will either work against us or for us.
The following ludicrous story makes a similar point:
A man died and went to heaven. He is at the Pearly Gates by St.Peter, who led him down the golden streets. They walk by mansions after beautiful estates until they came to the end of the road where they stopped in front of a little shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a simple hut when there were so many mansions where he would be more comfortable. St. Peter replied, “I did the best with the money you sent us.”
We should not preach a “Prosperity Gospel”. However, we do know that givers will prosper, in many ways. Solomon has this to say about it: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25 NIV) Jesus and Paul say the same thing: The more we give, the more we receive. (Compare Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6.)
We should want to preach this incredible truth, but it’s best to preach it ‘slant‘.
Help is on the way
In an earlier post, I encouraged church leaders to devote series of 3-4 weeks to preaching and teaching about stewardship. Every year. Yes, every year. Knowing that the church and the preacher are going to focus on stewardship every year will give great comfort to the members of the church, even if they cannot attend for whatever reason.
Here is a great joke that will set the congregation thinking about stewardship…and a few other things. It is a great introduction to the subject and it will help every hearer laugh.
Two men were marooned on an Island. One man paced back and forth worried and scared while the other man sat back and was sunning himself. The first man said to the second man, “Aren’t you afraid we are about to die.” “No,” said the second man, “I make $10,000 a week and tithe faithfully to my church every week. It’s Stewardship Month at my church. My Pastor will find me.”
Perfect joke! Why? Because it allows the preacher to talk about a ‘peace that passes understanding‘ that comes with generosity. In a wonderfully subtle way, it also throws the preacher under the bus and makes fun of his efforts to teach and encourage giving. It is a great joke to tell just before you list the true benefits of sacrificial giving.
Jesus said that too?!
Finally, Paul quotes Jesus directly only once in the New Testament. Yes, it is true. Quotes from our Lord never appear in Paul’s letter directly, except one time only, and then from Paul’s lips (in Acts, not his letters). And the subject of that single, non-Gospel quote is, you guessed it, about money and giving.
“…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35) This is slant too. Rather that tell people to give, Paul is telling them to remember how Jesus told them to give…and not to focus on how to receive.
It also means that Jesus’ teaching on treasures, generosity, and stewardship were so widely known and followed that they didn’t have to be written down. They were ‘memes’ in the ancient world.
They were understood as Gospel, even if they were not in the Gospel!
Giving is part of what it means to follow Christ. No joke!
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