How Much Should I Give? (February 17, 2019)
Someone asked me last week, “How much should I give to the church?”
It’s a great question, and particularly apt for the day we’re holding our AGM. So I’m going to ignore today’s readings and talk about the question of giving instead.
Here’s the short answer: I can’t tell you how much you should give. That’s a decision each of us has to make for ourselves.
The longer answer is that I can share some principles which I and other people have found helpful in our lives to help us make the decision of how much we want to give.
And just so you know … full disclosure … I love talking about money. A mentor of mine once said, “I can easily tell you what’s important in your life. Show me your calendar and your chequebook!” How we spend our money says something about what we think is important.
That’s why Jesus has more to say about money in the gospels than any other single subject. “Where you treasure is, there your heart will be.” Notice the order of that sentence. What we treasure will determine where our heart is, where we invest our time and energy.
So that starting point for me is to ask, “What do I treasure?” To put it another way, “How important is my faith to me? How much is my relationship with God worth?”
Notice this … I didn’t say a word about the church’s needs. I didn’t say that the church needs money to operate … to keep the lights on, to heat the building, or to pay my salary.
Yes, Christ Church needs money to operate — about $170,000 for 2019. But that’s not the main point. It’s not primarily about the church. It’s mostly about our relationship with God, and our human need to give.
How do I decide how much I give? I use five principles in my own life. I call them the RRPPR’s.
The first principle: We give in Response. We don’t give to earn God’s love or God’s blessings. We have already received blessing upon blessing—food, shelter and clothing; generally pretty good health and health care; our friendships with other people; the love we receive from others. All this comes to us as a gift.
We didn’t earn it. We don’t necessarily deserve it. Our lives are pretty cozy and comfortable. We could so easily have been born in a poor nation or in a drought–stricken place or in a place torn apart by violence. But here we are, in a wealthy country, with mostly good government, in a place where we have enough for our needs and even some left over for our wants.
We worship a God of unconditional love … and we respond by blessing others as we have been blessed, by loving as we have been loved, by giving as we have received. We give in Response, a mark of our gratitude for all God’s blessings. We build a culture of gratitude, of thanksgiving, in our lives and in our church.
The second principle: We give Regularly. We want to show our gratitude on a regular basis. It can’t be hit or miss, once in a while, just when we feel like it. Gratitude becomes one of the habits of our lives.
I give weekly. Every week, I place my offering envelope on the plate when it comes forward. Some of you give monthly. Others give through pre–authorized debit. It doesn’t matter when you give, but the point is that giving becomes a habit, part of the fabric of our lives.
Every Saturday, I do my finances for the week. I write a cheque for the church, and as I do so, I think about the love and joy I receive here most of the time and I smile at how being part of Christ Church has enriched my life.
The third principle: We make giving a Priority. If the heart of the matter is our relationship with God, then it becomes a priority in our lives. God doesn’t take second place to groceries or car payments or the mortgage. Yes, those other things are all important, but we need to keep them in their proper place … and their proper place is secondary. Other things are primary in our lives —our relationships with other people, our relationship with God. That’s what the Great Commandment is all about—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
And if we love God with all that we are, then our faith and our giving become a priority in our lives.
Response. Regularly. Priority.
The fourth principle: We give Proportionally. In practical terms, this is probably the most important principle all to help us determine how much we can give.
Simply put, proportionality means this: how big a proportion of my income is my faith worth to me?
Not all of us can give the same amount. We don’t all have the same income, we don’t have the same expenses or obligations. Some of us have received more, some less.
The principle of proportional giving suggests that we strive to give the same proportion. That’s the Biblical concept of the tithe. We are invited to give 10% of our income for God’s mission in the world.
My own practice in this is that for every dollar I receive, I give 10¢ to the church … and then I also give above that to other worthwhile causes. For me, the church is first because we have made a commitment to working with God in God’s mission in the world. My baptismal covenant is my commitment to serving God in and through the church.
Furthermore, for me personally, the tithe is a beginning point. I actually try to be even more generous than that. As I gather my papers for income tax season this year, I’m delighted to say that I gave almost 17% of my income away last year.
And four things happen:
- I feel good about myself. I have done some good in the world, and I feel good about being able to do that.
- In my own small way, I contribute to the goodness in the world. In my giving, I make the world a better place.
- The Canadian government helps me to give. I get 46% of my giving back through tax deductions … which means I am able to give even more, thanks to Justin and his gang. What a deal!
- I live better on 84% of my income because I am in control of my spending. I live in abundance, because I know how blessed I am.
Let me challenge you to think about your giving in this way. What proportion of your income are you giving now? What proportion would you like to give?
Response. Regularly. Priority. Proportionality.
The fifth principle: We dare to Risk. It feels risky to give. We’d rather keep. But we believe God is calling us into a future marked by grace and love. We believe that God continues to bless us. We believe that God is trustworthy and faithful.
So we move into God’s future. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we do know that God is present in that future. The life of faith is not a life of being settled and secure. We move into God’s future with a sense of trust.
We follow God faithfully, as Abraham and Sarah did, as Moses and Miriam did, as Jesus did, as countless followers of Jesus have done ever since.
Generosity and giving are a part of that future, and risk is a part of that. As God’s people, we walk boldly into God’s new future, which God is creating in every moment.
Response. Regularly. Priority. Proportionality. Risk. The RRPPR’s.
Our faith, our relationship with God, our trust in God, is a matter of the heart. We believe from the heart. We give from the heart.“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”
As I said at the very beginning, Jesus says more about money in the gospels than any other single subject — more than love, more than faith, more than hope, more than joy, certainly more than sex or sexual orientation.
What about us? Where is our treasure?
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
Luke 6: 17–26
1 Corinthians 15: 12–20
Jeremiah 17: 5–10
February 17, 2019 (6th Sunday after Epiphany, Proper 6)