I grew up in a family that did not talk much about money.
I saw an envelope on the table each week to be taken with us to church, but I cannot tell you if it included a dollar bill, a twenty, or a Benjamin Franklin. We never talked about giving as I grew up.
I would like to think my family was generous. In Sunday School and Confirmation, I learned to give each week, but I did not learn what to give. Fortunately, people in the church have mentored that for me.
When I was at PLU as an undergraduate, a woman in my home congregation, who had been a missionary in Africa, twice per year would send me a check for $100 to "help me buy my books."
At the time, it was a very generous amount, and it taught me to think about the needs of others. She would remind me, when I went home for the holidays, "In Africa, so many had so little to read. Remember that now you read also for them." She lived in the light of the needs of others.
When I was on my internship, my supervising pastor asked me into his office to talk about giving. He called weekly giving a "holy habit" and said, "The practice of giving created the love of giving." He was not wrong. Through him, I learned the act of giving creates and sustains a generous heart.
A neighboring pastor once shared the story of a young couple, just starting out life on the farm.
They asked a previous pastor about what they should give to the church, as their income was very irregular. He said, "Put a quarter in the plate each week, to create a habit, and each time some income arrives, set aside a percentage for the church." They went home, thought, prayed, and committed to start giving 1% each time income arrived. Each year they also committed to increasing their giving by 1/2%. I asked where they were at in their giving. The current pastor said, "It's closing in on 34 years, and they'll soon be giving 17.5% of their income. They say it has been a blessing."
A few years ago, a woman walked into my office and said she would like to contribute to a church program that provides tuition support for students who are first in their family to go to school.
She asked me how much might be helpful. I responded off the top of my head, "How about $500?" She frowned, smiled, and then handed me a check she had previously written out. "You think too small," she said. I looked. The check was for $16,500!
I am blessed to be surrounded by generous people, and they continue to teach me how to be generous.
As Kirsten and I think about our giving to Messiah for next year, we are thinking about participating in a challenge. If the challenge is met, we are thinking of making 13 offerings to Messiah instead of our regular 12 for the year. This will take some prayer and discernment, but just considering it is strengthening our love of generous giving. You will be hearing more about the Messiah Generosity Challenge in the weeks to come.
I look forward to hearing more of your stories of generosity, as we live into
"Beginning a Culture of Generosity."
In Grace and Peace,