Charity. Generosity. Stewardship.

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Today’s quote is from Francis Quarles, an English poet who was born May 8, 1592 and died September 8, 1644: “Proportion thy charity to the strength of thy estate, lest God proportion thy estate to the weakness of thy charity. Let the lips of the poor be the trumpet of thy gift, lest in seeking applause thou lose thy reward. Nothing is more pleasing to God than an open hand and a closed mouth.”

These are powerful statements, each of which is corroborated by the following equally powerful Scripture passages:

Luke 6:38: Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you … For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

1 Cor. 13:3: Paul wrote, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

Luke 21:2: Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 18:9-14: The Pharisee boasted about his tithe but the tax collector dared not to lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2 Cor. 9:7, 11: “God loves a cheerful giver … You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God bless your generosity through charitable giving, demonstrating your faithful stewardship of the blessings he has entrusted to your care!

Biblical Ethics for Electronic Blogging

Laptop 1Several months ago a friend and colleague of mine, at my request, offered a few suggested topics for Perspectives articles. Today’s topic is one of his suggestions.

Suggestions like this are not made in a vacuum but on the basis of personal experience. I’m quite certain that such is the case with my friend and his recommendation.

Electronic blogging, practically defined, is anything a person writes or posts on the internet on a regular or irregular basis. Some consider my Perspectives articles blogs, which is OK with me.

The problem arises when a blogger (the author of the blog) violates the will of God, especially the eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) Newer versions say: “You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor.” In both cases the meaning is the same and sets a biblical, ethical standard for any kind of communication.

The Catechism’s explanation to this commandment says: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” An older version uses slightly different words, adding the injunction to “put the best construction on everything.”

There are blogs written by people who claim to be Christian, even some who belong to our own Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, including pastors on the LCMS clergy roster, that fall far short of this standard. Self-justification for judgmental and caustic characterizations is based on insistence that their interpretation of the topic at hand is the only correct and orthodox one and that anyone who disagrees with their way of looking at the matter is dead wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with expressing respectful and even strong disagreement with someone else’s understanding of what the Bible says (or doesn’t say) about a particular matter of faith and life. The problem is that some bloggers don’t stop there but continue with ad hominem personal attacks against the one(s) with whom they disagree. Some get downright nasty and vulgar!

Bloggers fall far short of putting the best construction on everything when they do just the opposite of what the eighth commandment commands. Jumping to and writing judgmental conclusions about the person with whom they disagree, they often betray, slander and hurt the other person’s reputation rather than defending and speaking well of him or her.

The Bible says: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect …” (1 Peter 3:15) That’s a biblical ethic for any kind of communication, including electronic blogging!

Relationships among Pastors

Credit: potomacag.org

Credit: potomacag.org

Recently a seminary student asked me to address the question: “As a pastor, what is your relationship with other pastors?”

As written, the question is a bit non-specific and unclear. I responded to the student’s request: “Do I understand your question to be what is or what should be your relationship with other pastors, or both?” His response was also non-specific, so here’s how I answered:

Ideally, my relationship with other pastors should be characterized as (in alphabetical order):

  • Collegial and cooperative: As colleagues in the ministry, we work together, not at odds with one another. We might actually be helpful to each other in addressing issues/questions that we have forgotten from seminary or perhaps didn’t even hear or learn about there.
  • Respectful and tolerant: While individual personalities, ideologies and philosophies often lead to differing perspectives on ministry issues, I need to realize that my way is certainly not the only way and, whether I believe it or not, my way may not always be the best way.
  • Selfless and cooperative: For any of many reasons, parishioners may be inclined to leave the church I serve and go to one served by another pastor, who may or may not be a close colleague and friend of mine. When such inclinations are properly motivated, it may be in everyone’s interest for me to swallow my pride and assist in such a move. Special care, concern and cooperation are necessary when authentic reasons for church discipline exist.
  • Sensitive and supportive: All pastors experience times of trial and tribulation, both personally and professionally. Pastoral ministry is not easy these days! Sensitivity and support from fellow pastors, which may not be available from parishioners in an equally meaningful way, often help immensely!
  • Transparent and truthful: Fellow LCMS pastors and I have the same commitment regarding Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Yet varying interpretations will arise from time to time regarding specific questions, both in matters that are adiaphorous and also in issues on which different pastors with the same level of commitment simply disagree. Pretending those differences don’t exist is not helpful. Only when pastors speak the truth, in love, will such issues ever be able to be addressed and maybe even, by the grace of God, resolved.

Much more could be said about relationships among pastors. Perhaps these thoughts will prime the pump for future conversation in pastoral circles. Although not addressed only to pastors, St. Paul says it well: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11)