Giving for the Future
Stewardship Meetings – October 6 and 13 at 11:45
Please attend and pick up your pledge packets.
During the month of October every member of St. John’s will be asked to make a financial pledge to the parish for 2020. You will be reminded of the foundational truth that in giving we grow closer to God. You will see some of the good things going on in the parish. You will be shown numbers reflecting our current financial status. And you will hear about what the parish leaders hope to accomplish in the year ahead. It’s not a dreary obligation that we carry out. In asking us to give, the Church offers us a great opportunity for growth. We are asked to give for the future of the church and our own individual future development as faithful Christians.
One challenge we face in our giving to the church is that we often equate it with our financial transactions. Sometimes we think of giving like we think of paying the electric bill: if we don’t pay the bill, we won’t have what we need when we need it. Sometimes we think of giving to the church as our evaluation of the service we have received: if the church didn’t meet our needs the way we think they should be met, we might withhold our money until they improve their services. If we’re particularly pleased with how we think things went last year, we might give more. Sometimes we think of giving to the church as paying our club dues: we reduce it to paying our fair share in order to have certain benefits. None of that is giving; it’s paying.
In our teachings on stewardship we try hard to correct some unhealthy notions of giving and remind each other that our giving to the church is our major way of making a healthy sacrifice. In giving, we make a commitment to having less for our own use and then coming to trust that God will provide us with enough. We give more, not so that we will have more but so that we will have less and learn the benefits of living with less. In having less, we learn to lessen our fears about money. We come to see that God provides for us abundantly. We learn the truth that accumulating more and more does not bring us happiness. We give more, not to pay for services but to introduce healthy struggle into our lives. In giving more, we learn to lean on God more. True giving comes not from what we can afford but from what we hope to experience.
Too often our giving to the church is based on the past rather than the future. We give more or less as sort of a reward or punishment to the system. We think about how the church has delivered on our expectations the past year and then we make a pledge based on our evaluation of performance. As long as we are stuck in that sort of transactional thinking, the church will just be one more place that is sending us a bill. Paying bills isn’t fun at all. It’s dreary and mundane, frustrating and resentment-building. Giving is much different, however. When I can get out of the bill-paying mindset and move into the giving mindset, life becomes fuller and more joyful.
It’s significant that the church asks us to make a financial commitment to next year. The church doesn’t come to us in the fall to say, “Here’s what last year cost and this is your portion of that cost.” The church comes to us and says, “How will you help us move into the future? How will you extend yourselves so that we might take some risks? Will you commit to something that isn’t here yet, something that cannot be here until we all commit to it together?” We give to the future. We pay for the past.
Will you give to the future? Will you give to the future of St. John’s? Will you give to the future of your own spiritual growth? Will you give to the future of God’s work in the world? Will you participate fully in what could be? Or will you just pay the church what you think you need to?
The Church isn’t sending us a bill. The Church isn’t asking us to pay for services rendered. The Church isn’t asking us to look to the past and stroke a check. The Church is asking us to commit to the future in hope. The Church is asking us to open our hearts to all that could be. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.