The Spiritual Practice of Giving- Fr. J. Devin Rodgers
When I was young the congregation I grew up in marked milestones in our formation with a small gift. When you learned the Lord’s Prayer, you received a small cross. In first grade, we received a Bible with our names on the front. In third grade, we received a small wooden offering box. Written on the lid of this box were the words “God’s Gifts.”
As Christians we are to be good stewards of God’s gifts. Our Sunday school teachers asked us about these gifts. “What are you good at doing?” “How do you feel when you spend time helping others?” “Do you share your gifts with others?” We wrote the answers to these questions on slips of paper and then placed them in the box.
That Sunday we returned home from worship and my mom talked to my brothers and me about financial tithing (The giving of 10% of your money as an offering). She taught us that before we spent any of our allowance we should place a portion of it in the God’s Gift box. She set the bar high and suggested we prayerfully strive for 10%. As we grew older, and were confirmed members of the Church, we started receiving offering envelopes. These too went in the God’s Gifts box as financially supporting your local congregation’s ministries is part of being a good steward.
As a teenager, I remember how tempting it was to hold back from giving an offering. I had other things to spend my hard earned money on, and I did not have a lot of money to begin with. I worked at Subway throughout high school and wanted to spend my paycheck on things like gas money, going to the movies, clothes or music.
However, when disciplined myself into the practice of giving, I found that I had much more “buy in” in my life of faith. I took worship more seriously. I practiced my church choir and brass ensemble music more attentively, and felt like I had a much more engaged, full faith life. I was invested in my faith.
Those early life lessons taught me a few things about stewardship. Stewardship is a spiritual practice in the same way that prayer, worship, or meditation are spiritual practices. All three facets, time, talent, and treasure, brought me to a fuller understanding of what I had to offer others from what God freely offered me first.
I also learned that stewardship is always matter of discernment. In those early years, it was not difficult to give 10% percent of my income, and more than following a Biblical formula. I learned that giving 10% of my allowance and doing it begrudgingly was not beneficial. I also learned that holding back what I perceived as my “hard earned cash” did not benefit me or my faith community. It made me resentful, which is definitely not a gift of the spirit. Stewardship must be grounded in prayer and result in a gift that is freely and joyfully given back to God.
Today, as is the case with most individuals in my generation, I am not able to tithe. However, each year during pledge drives I discern how much to give and I strive to give prayerfully in gratitude. Thankfully most years that gift is increased over the previous years’ and I find that I still have enough to live on, save, and enjoy. I also find pleasure in this because my gift benefits the whole of my community. I understand there are some years when my fellow parishioners are unable to give more. My gift plays a part in helping others, no matter how large or small or nonexistent their own gift is, discover God’s love.
This year, St. Alban’s is going to begin exploring robust ways to deepen our theology and practice of Stewardship. This seasonal newsletter will help you explore ways to offer your own time, talent or treasure. In this newsletter you will also receive updates about how our parish managing the gifts entrusted to us (our finances, our property, our role in the community, etc.) We will also share brief reflections from fellow parishioners about stewardship based on their real life experiences.
We have so much to share and so much to offer. God has given us way more than could ever be confined or kept for ourselves. Open your God’s Gift box, and let’s share.
In Gratitude for the gifts you bring to the Church,
Fr. J. Devin Rodgers