Stewardship is not a dirty word
We often pray on Sundays that "all that we have and all that we are is from God." In the creation stories, God made all things good and then put humans in charge of it—not to set us up with all our needs met and no responsibility, but to entrust us to take care of all God's creation which God loves. We get to participate in the love and care of creation with God—it's our privilege to be given such responsibility. That's what Stewardship means. We are trusted by God to be stewards of all that God has given us.
What has God given us? Everything: basic needs of life, all the good and enjoyable thing son top of that, loving relationships with each other, purpose, skill, intellect, our very selves. There is no end to all the things God has blessed us with. When we pray "All that we have and all that we are is from You, O God." even the very self that is praying that prayer is a gift to us from God.
What are we supposed to do with what we've been given? To begin with, we are to take care of it and not squander it. Squandering creation would be polluting or destroying without sustainability. Squandering money would be spending it on things that do not bring glory to God or that do not show God's love for the people or creation that God loves. Squandering relationships might be letting them devolve into annoyances and eventually cutoff. Letting things that God values disappear, whether creation or blessings of money or relationships, is the opposite of stewardship. Caring for people and living things so that they flourish is God's greatest desire for them—and for us. The care we give is itself a blessing on us.
When the people brought their tithes and offerings, they brought animals to the temple, or if they came from far away, they exchanged animals for money because it was easier to carry, and when they got to the temple they bought animals there. When the animals were sacrificed, everyone was instructed to eat them there. The image I get is a giant community barbecue! It is an odor pleasing to God when people live in unity. The smell of charcoal and slowly charring meat is not the least of it. When we give tithes and offerings today, it is to support the community that is our congregation. We basically pay to throw a party every Sunday at 11:00AM. We pay for utilities and materials and, yes, some leadership, in order to get together in friendship and enjoy each other and give our thanks and praises and prayers to God and to enjoy God.
It doesn't matter how much we give. If we give our skills or just our participation, God honors that gift. If we give a little money, God honors that gift, too. If we give a lot of money, God honors that gift, too. One thing for sure, though, God does not want anyone to give money to the church if it hurts their own living. While God honors the widow's mite, God still wants that widow to flourish—and eat, and pay utilities, and pay rent. On the other end of the spectrum, no one will give back to God all that we owe God. "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." We can't out-give God. If we give a little money, God will give more. If we give our time and talent, God will give more. If we invest in relationships in God's community, God will enrich us with love and relationships and blessings beyond measure.
May you receive rich, overflowing blessings from our Lord,