Give ’til it Changes You

Dear Covenant Kin,

So here we are—Stewardship Sunday. Stewardship Sunday is when we collect pledge cards from the gathered community so that we can plan for ministries in the coming year. Most of the world hears pleas for money on this morning, but that, as you well know by now, is not how we do it. So at this point, you haven’t heard much about money, instead, you have heard a whole lot about the plans that you all made during New Beginnings for what ambitious future ministries you want to take on as a community. Hasn’t it been exciting to hear all of these future visions? And this week, all of the Young Adult Volunteers we have supported throughout the years will be casting a vision for us about how we, as a single, mid-size congregation can have an impact on global mission—talk about ambitious.

So here it is—the ask. Our Covenant family has remarkable visions of a future where we are being sent to make a difference in the world. Of course, that only happens if we have the resources to support those visions. So I want you to prayerfully consider your giving this year.

Some interesting thoughts on pledging and tithing to the church: First of all, this is an ancient concept that seems to have it’s roots in the most ancient scriptures of the Israelite traditions. Genesis 14 and 28 are occasions where early church patriarchs offer a tenth of what they have to God as a tithe. The Mosaic laws in Leviticus 27, Numbers 18, and Deuteronomy 14, 18, and 26 speak of tithing as well.

Now I know what you’re thinking—WHOA! Slow down there, I am no where close to a tithe and now you are making me feel guilty—Don’t worry, just keep reading and all of this will make sense soon enough.

I had to stop for encouragement there, because the reality is, the New Testament’s version of tithing is even harder for us to palate. Of course, the passage from last Sunday (Acts 2:42-48 see also Acts 4), suggests that all the followers of Christ sold everything they had, put it into a big pot, and lived in a totally communal way. And Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook either; in Luke 18, Matthew 19, and Mark 10 Jesus tells the rich young man to sell everything.

Okay…are you panicked yet? Are you still reading or did you give up? I know that at this point you are either seething mad or nervous or feeling guilty—DON’T FEEL THAT WAY! Giving to the church should have nothing to do with guilt, nervousness, anger or anything else. And let me further let you off the hook—That is not how I or my family gives to the church either.

Let me explain…We would love to be fully tithing, but we just aren’t there yet. We have been steadily working our way there for several years, but we still have a ways to go. We certainly haven’t sold everything we own and given it to the church, so you can breathe a sigh of relief there too.

Here is what we do: we figure out how much we need to be giving that it really effects all of the other decisions that we make. We know that we can’t live the same way if we are giving that much—this is really important to us. For us this is a deeply prayerful and faithful decision, because it is something that affects our every day life. My family pays its gift to the church at the beginning of the month—knowing full well that every other financial decision we make for the rest of the month will be impacted by the money that we have already given. That is what I think faithful giving looks like. We give at the level that changes how we live our day-to-day life. That is ultimately what this faith stuff should be all about, our everyday lives should be affected by our faith—ALL OF OUR EVERY DAY LIVES! Not just Sundays. Not just during prayers at meals or bedtime. Every moment of our lives should be impacted by how we practice our faith.

We full well know that our lives are changing in every possible way next year with a new child on the way. Finances included! But that reality has not changed our level of commitment to the church or to how we live our lives of faith.

So…don’t take up the biblical practice of tithing unless it is right for you and has an impact on how you live your day-to-day life. Don’t sell everything you own and give it to the church. Though that would certainly change the way you live your every day life, I don’t think that is the best way to approach your giving. Find a way to give meaningfully that causes you to make decisions in your everyday life a bit differently. Consider finance as a field in which we live out our faith. And most of all, stop feeling guilty, or angry, or nervous about talking about money in church. Remember, this is about living out those future visions of ministry together—this should be exciting, invigorating, and relieving.

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