This is Canon Victoria’s letter in our weekly Parish News email. To sign up for our newsletter, please visit: Constant Contact. To see the full weekly Parish News email from Nov 17th, please visit: http://conta.cc/2g68YKj
I grew up unchurched, and read my way into faith in Christ through C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In high school, I went to Mass in a Roman Catholic church nearby on weekdays. If I heard a sermon about money, I don’t remember it. Once in a while I put a dollar in the plate. At nineteen I had a call to be a priest. At twenty-one I was baptized. At twenty-two I went to seminary. No one ever talked about money in seminary. My home parish talked about money once a year. The senior warden would stand up, present the budget, and urge everyone to give “a fair share.” The second year I heard the pitch, I pledged $200. I thought that was generous; I was young and waitressing to pay my bills.
The year I was ordained a deacon, in my first church, October arrived. The rector told me that I would do the preaching on stewardship; “it would be good for you.” I sighed. I opened my Bible and concordances. I read about tithing in Deuteronomy, and thought, “Well, that is the Old Testament.” I skipped over the prophets and advanced to the gospels where I found that the Lord Jesus talked about money a lot. He warned that I could not serve God and money. He said that not sharing one’s riches destroys the soul. I flipped forward, hoping St. Paul was more reasonable. St. Paul said that giving came from gratitude and talked about giving sacrificially with joy. I winced. I gave from guilt, as little as I could. How could I preach about stewardship and generosity while I giving God less than 1% of my income? I was a hypocrite. I stepped into the pulpit and admitted that I did not tithe. I said that giving back to God 10% of my income seemed to be the direction of the Old Testament and the assumption from where a Christian starts in the New. I still quivered at the idea of giving more than 10%.
That year, I quadrupled my pledge. It turned out I could give more than $1000 a year and like it. It was not even 5%, but it was a start toward proportional giving. It took years before I managed to give 10% of my income. Learning the discipline of stewardship, I began to want to make “God’s kingdom come” into the world with my thanks to Him. I wanted to give to my parish and to the wider world. I do both now. Giving 10% helps me to be freer as a follower of Christ. I don’t miss it nor wish I gave less.
I have lots of boxes in the garage. God and my husband seem united in asking me to get rid of them. I am cautious. I might need them someday. There is nothing about cardboard boxes in the Scriptures.