Posts Tagged ‘Commitment Sunday’

How do YOU decide how much money or time to give to a cause?

Many Christian churches at this time of year may have a “Commitment Sunday” or something like it – a day when people can fill out a pledge card indicating what they intend to give to the church over the next year.

Some churches may not have the resources or the nerve to formalize this event, so they may simply set aside a sermon dedicated to the virtues of giving.

Although the plea to give may vary greatly from one denomination to another, the message boils down to the same thing: It takes money and time to run this place. Please give.

I greatly admire the many pastors, ministers, rabbis and priests whom I have heard give such a message – largely because the task of crafting an invitation to give is such a terribly tricky one. The message needs to hit home, it needs to be sensitive (since money is a such a touchy topic) and it needs to be moving.

The ability to develop a sermon which achieves all three of these things is surely nothing short of a miracle, and certainly requires at least a heaping tablespoon of divine intervention.

I’ve heard some really great sermons on giving and some pretty lousy ones. The great ones leave me feeling eager to give, willing to trust God in a genuine way – as opposed to foolishly pledging some amount that in my situation would be fiscally insane.

The great ones render me moved beyond words, amazed at the power of God and humbled at the nuts and bolts of meeting the needs of the church as an organization with which I choose to affiliate. They are empowering, motivating and cause me to feel included and hopeful, a part of the solution.

They also make me ponder what God’s will might be. Prayerful giving is a must.

The not-so-great sermons are the ones I unfortunately remember the most – and are probably the reason why so many people groan when it comes time to pledge to any cause. The worst ones leave bad tastes in the soul such as guilt, shame, fear, threats and even confusion. One pastor about four denominations ago in my walk urged us to “give hilariously.”

There are few things in life I find truly hilarious, so to pair money with “hilarious,” still has me scratching my head over that one. Besides, I believe charitable giving is a solemn, thoughtful, private act, far from hilarious. I think I understand what he was shooting for in theory, but it certainly didn’t help me decide how and what to give.

Money makes us squirm, from the guy who wins the lottery and suddenly has as many new “friends” as he has new dollars, to the guy who’s one paycheck away from bankruptcy. This should be our tip-off that money is indeed the root of all evil!

Nonetheless, the need for and use of money is our lot in this life, a force with which we must contend. Why, then, do people get so weird when it comes to giving?

I saw a reaction from someone who recently received in the mail a brochure and pledge card from a church. This person ranted that “it’s all about the money, that’s always what they’re after, that’s all they care about – it never fails – you go somewhere and eventually they hit you up for money.”

I tried to soften it by reminding this person that although a church is a place of worship and a place to connect with God, it still has utility bills, upkeep and other expenses like any other business or home.

But the heart of this person was hardened, and they preferred to think of their partaking in the month of Sundays as a free ride, something somebody else should pay for. And they turned their back and refused to go back.

Whose loss is THAT?

Giving, according to the Bible, should come from the heart. It is a willing act of sharing what originally was not ours to begin with. Our resources didn’t just drop into our lap, and it took a great deal more than our own God-blessed efforts to acquire what we have.

Really, we could all be disabled and unable to work, unable to play, unable to do anything but rely on the charity and good will of others – it only takes a snap-second to wind up in that situation.

So contemplate the sources of what you have on hand when you consider the extent of your giving. While giving shouldn’t cause a personal financial wipeout, it should definitely arise out of a deeply gracious acknowledgement of what you have on hand and what you believe is in your heart to give back.

Giving back – that’s the key.

And perhaps it’s not just money that you need to consider giving. God blessed you with talents, too – talents that can benefit His people, the neighbors the commandment says, we are to love.

A truly gracious receiver will never be insulted or judgmental about a gift of any size, no matter how small. And they will receive with the utmost of thanksgiving, something we would do well to remember as we Americans sit down to our next holiday feast in about a month.

No gift is insignificant. Every gift has meaning – remember the widow giving her only two mites. The smallest gifts can be the most meaningful and powerful.

I would be remiss not to add that giving is often an act of trust. The sky could fall tomorrow (read: wars, another Great Depression, disaster, Tribulation) – there is no way you or I can pledge anything with certainty. Every choice we make is a gamble and banks on the assumption that we will wake up tomorrow and life will be the same as it was yesterday.

On the morning after the big hurricane, our ears still popped after the 130 mph winds we withstood huddled with our children in an interior hall.

We went outside as angry clouds churned themselves northeast, giving way to sun. The sun afforded us the light to see that our world was no longer what it had been yesterday.

Katrina Destruction

We had no jobs to go to – everything was closed or destroyed, and even if anything was open, we couldn’t get to them because of the fallen trees and debris everywhere. There was work to be done, but it wasn’t the work we were used to in our workaday world.

Katrina Road Sign

Neighbors came outside as the morning progressed; we assessed the damage and assembled in the street. Together, we made plans to survive.

Neighbors with chain saws would take to the trees. Neighbors with freezers with no power and thawing food would take to the grills. Neighbors with generators would take to the neighbors who needed cool air, oxygen or other life-saving needs. Neighbors with boats took to the flooded roads down by the bayou to look for lost people, pets and to recover floating valuables.

We rolled up our sleeves, came together and collectively, made the best of everything, even though everything was the farthest thing we could imagine from status quo. Two weeks later, we were able to get through to main roads and road crews, National Guard and the Red Cross were able to get through to us.

There are so many ways to give. Please, dear friends, do not be turned off or scared away when your favorite organization or church you appreciate asks you for money, talents or resources.

That organization or church can only be as great as the collective greatness of those who nourish, feed and give back to it, both in times of feast and in famine. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Best yet, there is no greater feeling than to give, and to give willingly and cheerfully. Don’t worry that it’s not as much as the other guy, not as much as you’d like or as much as you think you “should” give.

Just give.

You will be blessed tenfold.

(Jesus wasn’t joking around when he fed the crowds with a few fish and some scant bread. And this is what turned up at my house early this afternoon when I got back from church after putting my meager pledge card in the collection plate (black drum in my child’s hands, red drum on table)):


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