A Glimpse at a Culture of Gratitude and Generosity
By Ken Sloane
The following is from a stewardship talk given by Martin Lee, Director of Congregational Development and Redevelopment for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. It gives us a glimpse into the culture of gratitude and generosity of our Korean sisters and brothers in Christ.
How many of you have ever received a card in the mail with a gift in it? What kind of occasions prompted those gifts? Maybe a birthday, a wedding, a baby, Christmas, or just to say thanks.
In the United States we give one another gifts to mark important moments in our shared life together. Sometimes we give those gifts because we are supposed to. But most often we give gifts as way to say “you are an important part of my life. And I want to honor you, thank you, or bless you with this gift.”
Every few years, I bring a group of pastors to South Korea on a Vital Church Immersion Experience trip. When they experience a South Korean Methodist church, they are often confused when they see people putting their offering in not just one envelope, but several. “What are all these different colored envelopes?” they ask.
Many Korean churches have color-coded envelopes to signify different reasons for making an offering. There are normal “tithes and mission” offerings. Almost all leaders tithe. But above and beyond that, people wish to express thanks to God for the many ways God has blessed them. People give thanks for birthdays, for wedding anniversaries, in celebration for one’s first paycheck, and for all sorts of celebrations.
They give when they have recovered from illness, and to show thanks for birth, death, and resurrection. There are so many things to be thankful for, and in the Korean church culture, one way to celebrate and give thanks is by giving. It shows appreciation for the church’s and for the Lord’s presence in their lives.
There are so many things to be thankful for, and in the Korean church culture, one way to celebrate and give thanks is by giving. It shows appreciation for the church’s and for the Lord’s presence in their lives.
Giving is a not only a way to support your local church, but a way to show your thanks. When I was a college student in late 1970s (a poor student in a poor country at that point!), I was once so moved that I took out all the money from my wallet and put it on the offering plate in a thanksgiving envelope. It wasn’t until after the service as I was heading home that I realized I didn’t save any money to take the bus back. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to walk back home!
I guess I was living by John Wesley’s words of earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can! While it wasn’t easy to walk so long home, this is one my most precious memories of how I was moved by God to give.
What do you have to celebrate today? A birthday? An anniversary? A blessing from God? Might that blessing you celebrate move you to give to the giver of all good gifts? What might God be able to do if we thought about thanking God in this way beyond just what we are supposed to give?
Are you grateful for your church? How has your church blessed you and the community you live in? As you give to its ministry today, perhaps consider an extra gift in honor of the many blessings of God in your life. You don’t have to put in a special envelope, but you could make a note that it is given in honor of a birthday, anniversary, or simply in honor of the love of God in your life.
At least while worshiping at home, you won’t have to worry you give so much you won’t have bus money to get back! Amen.
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.