Posted tagged ‘tithing’

Self-Centered Generosity

December 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             December 30, 2017

                                     

The year 2018 will be a telling experience that will show just how generous middle-class Americans are. New tax laws will reduce the benefits “kinda”… for many of moderate-income to give to charitable organizations.

One of the changes in the new tax laws includes a doubling of the standard deduction. That means an individual filer can deduct $12,000 and a married couple $24,000 without itemizing their deductions. Estimates are that less than 10% of taxpayers will continue to itemize their deductions. Thus, the incentive to give to charity will go to how genuine a person’s generosity really is!

Except for this year! Charitable organizations are seeing an increase in giving as the year ends for givers to take advantage of itemizing deductions. In other words, some people are being charitable in 2017 who will think twice about giving next year. It smacks of self-centered generosity. “What do I get out of this?”

To be honest, churches have been scrambling for years to make ends meet. In 2016 the typical church attender gave about 2.5% of their income to their church. During the Great Depression of 1929 the percentage was estimated at 3.3%! Generosity has not exactly run roughshod through the pews as things are. Now most ministries are expecting a decrease in giving to budgets that are already looking pretty threadbare!

So 2018 will be a year of indicators! Are Americans, especially followers of Jesus, generous or only generous when it helps their tax burden?

It’s not like there won’t be people in need next year. In Colorado Springs there are not enough available beds to take care of the growing homeless situation. The various shelters are looking for options to increase capacity, but more capacity requires more money to fund the ministries to the poor…and where will these funds come from?

The optimistic faith-based view of the coming situation is that the nation will see the heart of Jesus in the incredible outpouring of financial support from his followers; that Christians will take seriously Jesus’ directive to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. That’s a view that could indicate a spiritual renewal in our midst!

The pessimistic view is that the tax law changes will show just how greedy and self-centered we really are!

Giving Choices

August 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               August 8, 2016

                                        

For years, and years, and years I would write a personal check each Sunday morning, put it in an offering envelope, and place it in the offering plate at church as it passed me by. I believed then, and I still do, that the pastor of a church should model giving.

And then I retired at the end of December!

Now what?

Carol and I now had some choices to make.

The past few months have caused me to rethink how we give, to whom do we give, and why we give. Perhaps our reasons for financially supporting a person or organization include some elements that might be trends…or, perhaps not!

One of the factors we now weigh revolves around “relationship.” We now support four different individuals or families in various ministries and missions because we know them. One of them is related to us, another was a part of the youth group years ago back in Michigan, another is a young lady who I coached in basketball, and the fourth are personal friends of mine who are married to one another. Relationship is pivotal because it tells us whether this is “a mission on a whim”, or there has been consistency in the life journey of the person. We’ve also given one-time gifts on a number of occasions for someone who is going on a short-term mission trip. I’ve noticed that we are much more open to giving when we personally know the person. The relationship helps us sense that we are a part of the ministry.

The second factor could be called “purpose.” What is the purpose of the ministry? What does the mission focus on? If we aren’t sensing purpose in the mission then a budget deficit is no longer a reason for us to contribute to it. Purpose is huge.

For us purpose trumps results! We can be swayed by a happy bottom line, but the first Baptist missionary in Burma, Adoniram Judson, didn’t baptize his first convert until he had been there six years. His purpose, however, never changed. He was charged with sharing the gospel with the people of Burma. In today’s terms, his annual reports the first five years would not have looked very good.

We must believe in the purpose of the ministry for us to support the ministry.

The third factor would be “integrity”– the integrity of the ministry. Integrity includes elements like financial responsibility, trust, commitment to the future of the mission. A ministry or mission is different than a bank. I deposit money into my bank and trust that it will keep my funds safe, and even give me a few cents interest on it each month. A ministry with integrity understands that I give my gift to it to be used for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Any church has “savers” and “spenders.” Put another way, any church has those with very conservative spending habits and those who, like Adoniram Judson, believe “that the future is as bright as the promises of God.” There are settlers and there are pioneers. In this time of our lives Carol and I want our financial gifts to be used for a significant purpose. We shy away from “settling.”

Sometimes a ministry, especially the ministry of a church, communicates more about the utility costs than it does the mission. That, I believe, affects the view of the ministry’s integrity. Over the past twenty years or so there have been enough examples of missions and ministries mishandling funds or being dishonest about its finances. We need to see integrity in the organization.

Finally, there needs to be “a tug on our hearts” for the ministry of the person or the organization. Do we sense that God is leading us to be a part of this? Quite frankly, there are a number of things he is not leading us to partner with. We aren’t THE answer, just a small part of the solution. Each person or ministry we now contribute to has tugged on our hearts.

Where we are right now in our life journey may be where most people are in regards to their decisions to support causes and concerns. It is a new place for us that has caused us to do a lot of praying and thinking. Our money is not our own, and never was. We’re simply called to be wise stewards of it in the support of God’s Kingdom!

The Rising Costs of Head Shaking

October 3, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               October 3, 2012

 

Recently a news post hit my web server that left me shaking my head. A 20 year old woman in Brazil was selling her virginity to the highest bidder. I’m not sure that exactly explains what I mean, so let me put it in more explicit terms. She was going to have sex for the first time with the highest bidder. They were going to do this on an airplane in flight, due to prostitution laws in the country.

The young lady is giving a portion of the fee to a human services organization, but the vast majority of her winning bid monies is going to her. She wants to go to law school, go the funds will go to help her become a lawyer. The current high bid is $160,000.

And she isn’t the only one! Selling virginity is becoming a more popular, and lucrative venture. Reportedly a California woman is doing the same thing at a Nevada brothel. Her proposal got 10,000 hits and, although not confirmed, the bid was at $3.7 million.

Many people have come forward to question “what’s wrong with it?” It becomes a great question for a culture that stands less with the Jesus of scripture, and more with the Jesus of invention.

Morality aside, I’m etched with the question “what does Christlikeness look like?” If Jesus was walking with me through this day what would I do to please him? Are there things that I do that I’m hoping he has turned his head and not seen?

Being a follower of Christ has the constant tension involved with it of being labeled “old stuck-in-the-mud!”

So let this “stuck-in-the-mud” give equal time to the high cost of being a German Catholic. In a recent Time magazine there was a note that a resolution/policy had been adopted by the German Catholic Church that stated a 8% tithe was expected from every member to retain their membership. People who gave less would not be members in good standing with the Church.

I’m guessing that the German Catholic Church is having money problems, what with the European debt crisis and all. Giving to the church with a willing spirit has now become secondary in importance to just anteing up!

Many might say I’m taking too extremes and trying to tie in knot with them. Perhaps I am. My judgment is often suspect and flawed.

Whether it is a twenty-something selling her virginity or the church selling “member-in-good-standing”, money becomes the object that we worship. I’d dare say churches worship it, generations worship it, and even non-charitables worship it.

It has become more the necessity than the presence of God and the moving of the Spirit.

Frankly, I’d effected by it more and more. As pastor of a congregation that meets in a facility where things are starting to break down, or need to be replaced, I see the inflow of funds meeting a tidal wave of needs. Therefore, I think about how we can raise more money as much as “how can we help people grow spiritually.”

Money is the subtle influence that borders idolatry.

My cynical side wonders if there might be a Walmart German Catholic Church in the making. “What they ask 8% for we’ll give you for 6%!”