My church has a tradition of Stewardship Talks in the autumn, for a few weeks before parishioners turn in our pledges for next year, in which a different person each week attempts to inspire everyone to improve our contributions to the church. I did mine this past Sunday. A lot of people told me how much they liked it, and the people who counted the offering this week told me they saw an unusually high number of $20 bills . . . so I guess it was effective!
This speech could be adapted to raise funds for just about any organization. The idea that money is scarce and personal financial needs are difficult to meet is very widespread these days, so any audience can use a nudge to remember what riches they really have and to reconsider whether they can part with more money. For a church, though, it’s especially appropriate because it relates to the teachings of Jesus: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12) was the closing line of this Sunday’s Gospel reading. (I considered playing that up more by talking about how advertising tells us to exalt ourselves by buying things for ourselves, but the emptiness of consumerism is humbling.) Jesus also taught that when we give, we will receive more in return.
I work in social science research. I love my job, but it doesn’t pay very well. I make less money than most public school teachers, less than a city bus driver, less than almost all my friends . . . yet it always seems to be enough.
I guess you could say I have a humble lifestyle. I guess. But, gosh, I have a hot shower every day, plenty of good food, lots of books, lots of clothes–I feel rich! I have everything I truly need and much more! And there is always something left over to share.
For years, I always put about $5 in cash in the collection plate, in addition to my pledge. Then I read someone’s blog in which she said she had felt called to give $10 a week instead of $5, although she was certain she couldn’t afford it–but when she tried it, she found that she seemed to have more money than before! I thought, “Well, that doesn’t make sense; numbers simply don’t work that way . . . but my budget isn’t that tight; I probably could do $10 a week, too.” I decided to do it.
Then, the next Sunday, I opened my wallet and found that I had only $20 bills. Gulp!
I put in the $20. I was tempted to think I had just paid for two weeks at once. But the next week, I couldn’t stop thinking about my wallet full of twenties. Surely I could spare one. I just started putting in the largest bill I had each time. And sure enough, it may not make sense, but I found it was easier to make ends meet than before!
It seems like I have the magic penny from that song: Hold it tight, and you won’t have any. Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many that they’ll roll all over the floor, for love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.
Whether it’s money or love or time or hard work, when we give to our church we are not really giving it away. This is our place. When we share with each other, we are building a better place for all of us. Look at what we have! None of us could make anything so wonderful on our own, but together we can do great things.
It’s not just money; for everything I have put into this church, I have gotten more in return. I hope you will, too.
It works for me! Honestly, although I refrained from rambling about it in the speech, the financial rewards of giving sometimes have seemed to defy the laws of science! I have always had some savings in the bank, yet at times when my expenses were greater than my income for even a few weeks, sometimes I’ve freaked out and started to picture myself selling matches in the cold cruel wind and been very reluctant to use my savings–which is stupid, since the very reason I saved so diligently was to make it possible for me to work part-time for a while after my child was born and to make major practical purchases (like the car) without borrowing. When I freak like that, ironically, the only way to snap out of it is to give away money. I once paid my entire annual pledge to the church in a single check (to avoid those silly envelopes) and then realized I had to pay for childcare before I’d get paid again and thought I had overdrawn my checking account–only to find that my tax refund had been direct-deposited unexpectedly early! Several times, I’ve worried that I had been too generous in supporting worthy causes and would have to wait to get new snow boots or whatever–only to receive a check from a generous relative! These things don’t happen if I overspend on stuff for myself that I don’t need; I’ll pay for that, both financially and in disappointed feelings that the stuff isn’t making me happier. But when I give freely to the church, the public schools and libraries, environmental and humanitarian groups, and friends in need, it all works out somehow and I end up feeling richer than before.