As the Stewardship Chair, I thought it important to share my story. Over the years, we’ve tried to increase our giving. It hasn’t always been systematic or proportional. The following is failure on both parts.
In September of 2012, I went back to work. The timing coincided with a stewardship campaign. Before I could get use to spending this new income stream and instead of trying to inch up to 10%, I decided that for this income I would start out at 10%. The stewardship message had taken root and it wasn’t just the percentage. I wanted to write the check weekly to prove, to someone, that I was thinking about God. I became obsessed with writing a check on a weekly basis. This was no easy feat for me. You see, since my job was part time, my income varied from week to week. Additionally, I was paid once every two weeks. I didn’t receive a pay stub in the mail. I had to log on to a payroll site and remember my user name and password. Further undermining my efforts was the fact that my office had the worst WiFi reception in the entire house.
Each week, I found myself making a mad dash up the stairs, to log on to the website, move the decimal, divide by two, write the check and make it out the door to get to church on time. All this was for the purpose of putting something, however symbolic, in the plate.
The idealistic stewardship moment that I had envisioned of me writing a check with a cheerful heart, over a cup of coffee, while pondering God’s numerous blessings never happened – not once. In fact, I grew so frustrated with the self-imposed process that I only actually wrote 3 checks.
I had become a Pharisee. I placed more emphasis on the check writing than the check giving. Despite using auto pay for almost all our bills, I didn’t auto pay God. Somehow I thought that auto pay meant I wasn’t honoring God, thinking about God, on a weekly basis.
Which is ironic, because while auto pay relieves me of due dates and late fees, it also frees up my time so that I can spend it on something else, like time in communion with God. Writing a check was actually a way for me to resist systematic giving because I could always stop writing checks. Although I set out to act, to give, on a weekly basis, my heart was still giving out of convenience.
If you have mastered checking writing, this is not an indictment of you and your practices. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you, like me, need a little help in giving systematically, consider the modern methods like Tithely. Don’t confuse a convenient method of giving with giving out of convenience.
But it wasn’t just in systematic giving that I fell short, there was also the proportional giving.
Yes, I was giving 10% of my new salary, but I had stopped writing checks. 10% of zero is still zero. Again I was behaving like a Pharisee. I had placed more importance on moving the decimal than giving generously as called. While my income did vary week to week, the variance was not enough to make a huge difference in setting a weekly check. And if it did, I could make adjustments on a quarterly or yearly basis. I do get sent a statement. By moving the decimal point, I was giving exactly what was required, not what was generous. Not one penny less, but not one penny more. My one penny, your one nickel, our collective dimes might affect a budget, but my one penny could never make or break God’s financial plan. But more importantly, I don’t think my relationship with God will grow, if it comes down to pennies.
The point of the giving worksheet is to spend time assessing your financial position; assessments that are honest, prayerful, and accurate. In two weeks, when we fill out our pledge cards, we shouldn’t be focused on decimals or check writing. Our focus should be how our small steps up are actually giant leaps in our walk with God.
Some of you may be wondering, if I only wrote 3 checks, what happened to the rest of my pledge. Tune in next week to find out the rest of the story. A story sadly called, “The Time I Stiffed God.” Amen