Church people sometimes ask me to tell them how much they are “supposed” to give to the church. Is there a set amount? Is a tithe ten percent of gross income or net? Can they “count” all money donated to other good causes as part of their tithe? How much is the “right” amount?
They’re lucky they ask me, and not Jesus. I tend to be nice and affirming; Jesus doesn’t sugar coat it! One day he and his disciples were standing in the outer courtyard of the temple, watching the people come and go to worship God. He pointed out a poor, down-on-her-luck widow, probably in ragged clothes and looking like she hadn’t had a decent meal in a long time. He saw her take two pennies from her pocket – all the money she had in the world – and gladly place it in the offering plate. Jesus compared her with the many rich people who had given much more, but whose offerings cost them nothing because they were their “spare change,” while this woman, he said, had given everything she had. She was the one he praised. Jesus revealed that it wasn’t about the amount that was given, but what the amount represented in gratitude, trust, and sacrifice. He knew the woman would be provided for by the One who gave everything he had – even his only Son – for her.
As we are deciding this week how to fill out our Estimate of Giving cards and our Time & Talent forms to bring to the altar on Sunday, realize that this is not a financial decision. It’s a faith decision. I invite us all to reflect on some questions: How much is God’s love and care for me worth? How much do I depend on God every day? How much do I love Jesus Christ? How much does Dilworth Church mean to me and add to my life? How much do I want it to be here for others? How much do I want to be a true disciple of Christ? How much do I trust God to take care of my needs? How much can my giving make a difference in others’ lives? How much gratitude can I show for the forgiveness of my sin, the price Christ paid on the cross for me, and the abundant and eternal life he gives me? How much joy and goodness do I want to experience by giving more than what is easy? How much do I want to grow in my Christian faith and life? When you have answered those questions, you’ll be able to answer the question of how much to pledge to give to Dilworth Church to help us live out our mission every day, of being a sign of Christ’s love for the world.
Here is the breakdown of what was pledged for 2015:
Over $20,000 per year 1 household $1,001 to $2,500 45 households $15,001 to $20,000 2 households $ 501 to $1,000 31 households $10,001 to $15,000 4 households $ 101 to $ 500 57 households $ 5,001 to $10,000 13 households Less than $100 63 households $ 2,501 to $ 5,000 39 households Where are you in this picture of gratitude and faith? It is surprising how many households are clustered at the bottom of the list. Maybe some of these are like the poor widow, who are giving all they can and are grateful to be able to do so. Jesus would praise them. Or perhaps many of these are people who haven’t yet added up how much they have to be thankful for and how much they want God to be thankful for them.
Was the poor widow going into the temple, or going out? Had she already spent time on her knees thanking God for God’s steadfast love and care, for her community of faith and the relationships that sustained her there, for her health, for the ways her community of faith provided food and clothing and help for her? Or did she add her pennies to the offering before she entered the holy temple, giving in faith that God would see her and have compassion for her and take care of her, whether she had her own savings or not? Either way, how much she gave flowed from her gratitude and her rock-solid faith in God.
May that be said of us as well.
Thankful for each of you,