Friday, August 11, 2017

fear prevents us

St Jerome talks about a woman who gave fearlessly to the poor today in A Year with the Church Fathers. She even took out loans so that she could give more generously.

Now, I would like to point out that God wants us to be responsible with our money. Ministers frequently deal with the difficult problem of folks in their church who give a little TOO generously, and are left without enough money for their rent or food. God doesn't want us to put ourselves in a place financially where we can't pay our bills in our efforts to help the poor. Usually. (I don't want to limit God, and sometimes He might call us to extremes. But that's the exception, not the rule.)

But the main reason, I think, that people who truly love and follow Jesus don't give more generously than they do is not out of greed or selfishness, but out of fear. We feel more comfortable if we have some money saved against "a rainy day", and it makes us squirm if that "cushion" gets a little thin from our charitable giving.

Again, I don't think God is asking us to throw away our savings. Having something saved IS a good idea, in case the car breaks down or a tree limb falls through a window. But the temptation, I think, is to make that padding a little TOO thick. To just keep saving more and more... because of fear of what MIGHT happen. We have to put our faith in Him to take care of us, so that we are freed to give more of our wealth to those who need it.

I don't think it's possible to set a certain amount or even percentage of our money as an absolute. The amount that we save and the amount that we give is going to be different for each of us. A good rule of thumb (that my church teaches) is to give 5% of your income to your local church, and to give 5% to the poor. For me, that's extremely affordable. And so, on my better days, that's what I practice.

If I become a best-selling author one day, perhaps I might end up giving away larger percentages of my income. I understand people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk give over 50% of their income away in charities and philanthropy. In the meantime, I can afford 5% to the church and 5% to the poor.

God, please give us generous hearts.