Joyful giving

Last month, Lesley’s Blog riffed a little on post by Seth Godin. Lesley quotes Godin:

“If you are walking by a pond and you see a child drowning, do you save her? What if it means ruining a very fancy pair of Italian shoes?” Okay, if we assume the answer is yes, then why not spend the cost of those shoes to save 20 kids who are starving to death across town or the world? There’s really no difference.

Lesley explores the question of how much is enough?

This got me thinking about the Christian take on tithing. Traditionally Christians were taught to give away a tenth. My policy is I budget to give away a percentage and then also expect to give away a small sum each month to charities because friends will email me to sponsor them for this or that. Occasionally, a crisis will happen and I will give a lump away that I haven’t budgeted for and need to make it up somehow. I feel I can give joyfully because it is in the budget and because my budget balances these days. Is that sacrificial? Does it have to be?

Here’s my theory on giving. The tithe is the minimum biblical standard. I think the spirit of the law, as opposed to its letter, is that we should be sacrificially generous. When we begin to notice it in our spending, then we are noticing our giving and we are constantly calling to our mind the generosity of God in blessing us with all “our” things.

A number of years ago, when was serving as the organist in a congregation, I was moved by the minister’s stewardship talk. He said he had been tithing for over ten years. It had become too comfortable, so he was changing his gift to 15%. He wanted to notice it. By the way, Lesley, you sound pretty generous to me. I think you might a good model for the rest of us.

That, it seems to me is the answer. For people who are just getting started on proportional giving, a gift of five percent might be almost impossibly generous. Later on, the percentage at which giving is felt will increase. Usually though, people who give more find that it gets easier to increase giving again and again. it’s the mystery of God’s abundance that we share in through our generosity.

In my view, our giving does have to be sacrificial. For one thing, the needs of the world are great. Relative to most of the world, I live in extravagant luxury. In fact, if you know where you are sleeping tonight, if you know where your next meal will come from, and if you have clean water to drink, you are rich. Those of us who are rich must share what we have with those who have less. It’s ethically right, and it’s the Christian thing to do.

As I read the New Testament, I don’t think we have much room to be complacent about much of anything in our world. There’s Good News to share and a world to heal. Setting aside a percentage of our income to give back for God’s work helps us always to remember from whom all good things come.

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