Our connection with our own money informs so much of our behavior and attitude to others in life, as well as our Connection with Self and our sense of well-being.
It's the time of year that many churches are conducting Stewardship Campaigns. The Stewardship Chairman at my little church has done an amazing job over the past few years of helping us all shift our thinking from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality. We give back from the abundance with which we’ve been blessed, and that is no time to be chintzy! The parable of the loaves and fishes speaks to the miracle of generosity and the blessings that happen when we give willingly to God.
Of course most of us have worked hard ourselves for the income we have, so it’s easy to want to take some of the credit and hold back on what we consider “available” for God’s work in the world. But simply look at other places (e.g., Haiti) and other times (e.g., the Great Depression) and realize that we cannot take even our ability to make money for granted. Were it not for God’s other gifts: our minds, our health, our opportunities, our ambition, our motivation, our country, and a million other circumstances, even what we have could also vanish.
I confess that I find the word “Stewardship” a bit…well…boring. For me, it unfortunately conjures up lectures and awkward requests for money and guilt-ridden family discussions that are laced with the tension between “We ought to” and “We can’t afford to”…between our heart and our head…between common sense and faith.
So I propose a name change…instead of a Stewardship Campaign this year, let’s think of it as a Joyful Giving Campaign! Get yourself in the right mindset with some mental imagery. Close your eyes…think about the times in your life when you have given someone a precious gift…one that required thought and sacrifice on your part, but one which you provided joyfully because of your love for the recipient: An engagement ring for your beloved…a treehouse or swing set you built for your child…a visit and gift of time for a friend in need…even the gift of doing a hated chore so someone else wouldn’t have to do it. Now remember the look on their faces when they first received it or were told about it. Money just can’t buy that reaction, because it wasn’t what you spent, it was the love behind it that elicited that reaction. Now also think about how you felt in the giving of those gifts…you were so filled with the desire to make the other person happy that you weren’t thinking of money either. You were acting from a heart overflowing with love. You were giving joyfully.
That is the Joyful Giving mindset to bring to the prayerful consideration of your pledge to your church. If it’s hard for you to imagine the face of God lighting up when your joyful gift is given, consider this: the face of your parish teenager when she is experiencing the joy of serving God as acolyte, crucifer, or Lector; the face of your parish young person when you ask him about his summer experience using the church's scholarship to camp; the face of one of your Sunday School children when she hears that God loves her; the face of the mother of the church's adopted family when she receives Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and Christmas gifts for her children; the face of the lonely or indigent person in your community who comes to a free community supper to be fed with food and fellowship, the face of a child getting a horseback ride for the first time thanks to the generosity of parish members, the face of a community child getting attention in the church’s after-school program, the face of an ill person receiving care from the local Free Clinic because of your church's support, the face of your pew neighbor when you offer to take him to his next chemo treatment; the face of a local food pantry leader receiving gifts from the church that will feed the hungry in your church community.
These are all possible because we have our churches and their people and their ministries…all supported by our annual pledges. When you look at these faces, you ARE looking at the face of God.