“It takes a noble man to plant a seed for a tree that will someday give shade to people he may never meet”    By: David Trueblood

I was reading this quote and thinking how interesting.  There is nobility according to this author to do something that will benefit someone we will never meet.  Then I thought how the quote would look different if we said, “There nobility in hanging onto the seed until you die and then having someone else plant it to give shade to people that you will never meet?”.  I was thinking of course about giving in such a way that we use what we have now and help people when we are dead.  It matters not that there are real people dying right now. 

Lorne Meade said that there would be a meltdown in the mainline churches partly because we don’t get our stewardship right and we are seeing his predictions come true now.  Many churches languish now to pay expenses and refurbish plant and equipment that serve fewer and fewer people but they are waiting for that big endowment from Granny Schmidt and granny keeps on keeping on.  The church by this definition is dying but granny is very much alive.

Christ gave a new commandment to love another and unleashed something new in the world.  People who loved because Christ first loved them.  They were made new creations by his suffering and death and resurrection.  They gave and the giving was often done for people that they did not know.  The new commandment of Christ created new creations.

We have gotten ourselves into an interesting bind where it appears that the old human nature that Christ died to free from its bondage is actually more powerful that the “new man” that the Holy Spirit of God creates.  That is, I believe, a denial of the Gospel.  We know all about the “old man”.  Our catechesis on this point is excellent and beyond reproach.  We reinforce it every Sunday when we confess that “we are poor miserable sinners”.  I tend to think that we dwell a bit much on that facet of our existence,  but that is another topic for another time.  Suffice it to say that in absolution I am spoken free.  As Luther said, “after confession and absolution we can do a lot of good works to the glory of God alone and the benefit of our neighbor…. For God gives us His grace freely and without cost; so we also serve him freely without cost”.[1]

I believe that we have got to get this right because misunderstanding this has real practical consequences in our “stewardship” and in our life together.  It we do not “get” the enormity of what happened when God created this “new man” and set him loose in the world to do the good works that He (God) prepared from before the foundations of the world we will never understand the difference between egoism and altruism.

Altruism is giving freely without counting the cost like Christ did.  Egoism is the opposite.  We hear stories of people denigrated for freely giving and lavishly giving as if they are “trying to buy God off”.  We have in place a system where people can give after they are dead when there are real needs now and they are praised.  Something is off here.



[1] Luther’s Works, AE 35:17