Episcopalians are generally rather careful that their liturgies come directly from our Book of Common Prayer. We see this as an integral part of our shared life, using common words of worship while holding diverse views and opinions. We’re joined by worship of God, not by ideological preferences.
It’s interesting, then, that so many parishes have a very strong tradition of a liturgical exchange between the priest and people at the offertory. Particularly at liturgies that don’t have the people sing a hymn when the offerings are presented you will hear the priest say, “All things come of thee, oh Lord.” The people will respond, “And of thine own have we given thee.”
The exchange is drawn from a verse in 2 Chronicles, chapter 29, verse 14. In that text, King David acknowledges that his son, Solomon, will build the Temple in Jerusalem. However, he wants to provide the gold, silver, wood, and other materials for the building. So he offers some of his own and also invites the people to make a free-will offering to provide for the building of the temple. After the offering, David prays a prayer of thanksgiving that includes the line above that many Episcopalians use in worship. The line represents David’s realization that though this offering was significant, it is a strange thing to make an offering to God. All things are God’s, David says, and we are just sojourners who have them temporarily.
It’s so very easy for our lives to be controlled by our possessions. We buy into the consumerism surrounding us, believing that one more purchase will make us happy or that a certain level in our savings will make us safe. Scripture and tradition are insistent about the importance of wisely planning for life, but they are also equally clear that in the end we leave with what we came with: our bodies formed of dust and filled with the breath of God.
Christian stewardship isn’t about how much of your money you give to the church. Rather, Christian stewardship involves the acknowledgment that everything we have, from the money in our pockets to the breath in our lungs, has been given to us by God for our time on earth. The question Christian stewardship should provoke is what is the most faithful and just use of our time, our talents, and our treasure?
Thus, questions of stewardship are at the core of Christian Spirituality because they remind us that truly Christian spirituality is concerned with all of our lives. Spirituality which considers only a personal relationship is profoundly anemic. Spirituality looks at everything that makes up who you are, what you do, and what you have, and then helps you ensure that all of those are oriented towards the God who is always drawing us into deeper relationship with the Divine and each other.
So, as a part of our spirituality as Christians, it is wise to take stock of what you have and ask if your use of it accords with the divine will. And a part of that taking stock, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is deciding upon a proportion of what you have and giving that to the work of God in the world.
And of thine own have we given thee.