Dear People of St. David’s,
I pray that you are well and that you were able to take a moment to give thanks for this nation of ours, for all who have given of themselves, and for all who are giving of themselves to make us strong and just. It’s hard to believe that a handful of visionaries and regular people were able to forge the vision for these United States. I suspect they had little idea of who we might become as a country, but they did know that the cost would be high, and planned to give of themselves in full measure to build this nation to what it is today.
And so it is in our lives with God and in our giving at every level. It makes such a difference to have a plan. It brings purpose. It brings joy. It makes a difference to the receiver and in your own life. Being proactive in your giving opens the way for God to guide you and encourage you and will give you a better sense of God’s generous giving in your life.
All well and good, you say, Frank, but how much is enough? Well the Bible and our Church teach
or giving away ten percent of ourselves and our income for God’s purposes and for the good of others. And please don’t make it some kind of legalistic challenge for your life. A legalistic view of giving is the quickest way to spiritual failure I know and may limit some of you in how much God may be calling you to give. I like to think of the tithe as a goal, like loving your neighbor as yourself is a goal. Some days are better than others, but we strive to reach it and trust that God will use our giving in effective ways and forgive us when we fall short.
I don’t know the answer to how much is enough, but there is an upper limit as witnessed in the quirky little scripture quoted above from the Book of Exodus. Moses and the Hebrews are gathering treasures to build the ark and the tent of meeting to worship God in their desert wanderings. They pray together and people begin bringing gifts to be used for the construction of the worship space. At some point their generosity exceeds the needs of the plan and Moses has to tell them to stop giving because they already have more than enough. I’d like to see that in our own time, but it does give us a sense that giving has limits. It assures us that there will be moments, milestones, achievements that let us know that we have given enough and can either rest or invite God to redirect our plans to some other purpose.
When I was younger and even less subtle than I am today (hard to imagine), a friend once asked me how much was enough to give. I responded without even pausing for breath, “That God has given you everything you have and only wants ten percent back. You get to keep ninety percent and in giving will get to see God at work.” He reminded me of this years later and I apologized for being so blunt. Apparently he wasn’t looking for an apology, but was bringing it up to thank me for setting him on the right path of giving. It has been his pattern for over thirty years and his stories and the people he has come to know through his giving have helped to make his life as rich as anyone’s I know.
Summer is a good time to take stock in your life. It’s slow enough to give us a minute to think and reflect and plan and see what others’ plans have brought about, like this great nation of ours. Make plans for your giving and set a limit. See how it goes. See what happens at church, in other charitable organizations, in the people around you and in your own heart. Then, if you can, push it a little. I think you will find that you won’t miss it, even at ten percent. Your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed immeasurably and you will begin to know how much is enough.
Grace and Peace.