As the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Romans, he paints a picture of the human condition which is so stark and bleak that we find ourselves without any hope of avoiding the wrath and punishment of God. But when it seems that all is lost, Paul, in Romans 3:21, uses the words “but now…,” as he begins to describe the wonderful plan of God to rescue us from damnation by giving the righteousness possessed by his Son Jesus, as a free gift of grace to those who believe in him. This gift is beyond measure and is for all people, but not all receive it. After describing many of the benefits of God’s gift of salvation, Paul then says, in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
Did you notice the progression in these verses? Only those who believe in Jesus can call on him. We have no ability to even call on him unless we are given faith to believe in him. And we are given that faith, that belief, by hearing the Word about him, so that only those who have heard of him can believe. But how can they hear about him if no one preaches the good news to them? Notice that good works alone are not enough to cause someone to believe. They must hear the good news! The Word alone brings faith. Our good works must always be accompanied by the Good Word. But how will someone go and preach the good news to the lost of the world, to those in the unreached places on earth, unless someone sends them to speak the words of life?
We could continue the progression by asking the next question, “How can they be sent unless faithful stewards provide the resources to send them?” You and I are the ones that God uses to provide the means by which he sends people who proclaim the Good News. Our missionaries to the Bilala, Bagirmi and Fulbe are sent as we provide the funds for their living and travel expenses. The same is true for our missionaries to Taiwan, Japan and China. Our missionaries and pastors are trained by our Lutheran Brethren Seminary through our gifts which cover two-thirds of the cost for their education. Our gifts provide for our Regional Pastors as they care for our pastors and congregations, lead efforts to plant new churches and plan our youth conventions. New congregations such as Epiphany in New York City are able to begin through our gifts and offerings. Our Communications and Prayer Ministry, the Office of the President and the Finance Office—which exist to serve the needs of all of the ministries and congregations of the CLB—are supported through our generosity.
So, here are the questions for each of us: Why do we give? Is it important? Do we care if people hear the gospel? The answer is easy. Because we have experienced the grace of God that Paul describes in Romans, we are compelled to give so that others may hear and believe and be transformed by the Word into brothers and sisters in Christ who will one day join us in praising and worshiping the Lamb of God forever!
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.