We have come to that time that I have to talk about, but I personally have a hard time talking about. It is time to talk about our annual giving to the Church. I know and feel as you do the strain that inflation is impacting our lives. We all have struggled and are still struggling with financial issues facing us. The Covid Pandemic has thrown us all with a bunch of curveballs through the last several years. But it is my responsibility to do just what I do not like to do; ask for money. You will be receiving very soon in the mail the annual stewardship letter and a pledge card from several of us at St. John’s along with a questionnaire. I hope you will take it very seriously and prayerfully when it arrives. So here goes my asking, like it or not, it is a start.
There is an old stewardship saying, "Show me your checkbook, and I'll tell you what you care about most." What we spend money on is revealing. As it relates to money, it's not what we say that matters most, but what we do. This is especially true when it comes to giving our money because it is the clearest indication of being concerned about anyone other than ourselves. Deep down, we are all born selfish. We're also geared toward self-preservation, which causes us to look out for ourselves first, before taking care of others.
How much money we keep for ourselves and what we are willing to give to help others is one area that best reveals this truth.
America is known as the most generous country globally, and if we look at the amount of money given, that would be a correct assumption. However, if we look at American's giving in relation to income, it would be difficult to call us generous.
The average household income in the United States, according to the latest 2017 census, is $61,372. According to one study, the average annual cash gift by 73% of respondents was under $500. If we consider two adults per household, we can increase that gift to $1,000 per year. That gift represents 1.63% of the average household income, hardly a generous amount when you consider the 98.4% that was kept. Christian giving is only slightly better, somewhere between 2% and 3%. These figures represent the average giver, which means that some give more while others give nothing. Between 37% and 50% of professed Christians give nothing, or nothing measurable, to their local church, while somewhere between 10% and 15% of churchgoers give a tithe (10%) of their income.
What we spend our money on is a clear indication of what we value most. If we say you care about something or someone but rarely think about how we can do more for them, instead we spend selfishly on our own, then we're not truthful and honest with ourselves.
Spending only on ourselves and pursuing selfish gain leads to dissatisfaction with life.
Something about this pursuit leads to the opposite of what we hope and desire, that is, fulfillment. God created us to be more fulfilled and experience more profound joy when we do something for others, not just for ourselves. This doesn't mean we should never do anything for ourselves. We should enjoy life, whatever that encompasses, but most of our focus should not be spent on our own comforts or seeking pleasure. Many people who have taken that path have suffered for it. There's an unholiness about it, and money is often the vehicle that takes us there.
The best way to assess whether our priorities are in alignment with God's will is first to look at how and what we're spending our money on.
It may be time to take some personal assessment of how we are spending our financial resources, and then prayerfully ask God to show us how to change, regarding our choices. Questions to ask are:
Am I regularly acknowledging God as owner and provider of all I have? Am I tithing or giving the first portion of my earnings to God?
Are my lifestyle choices, my house, car, what I eat, and what I wear extravagant, just right, or less than what's adequate for my family and me?
Would God be pleased with every spending decision if I gave him a monthly account of everything I spend?
God has promised to provide for us all we need, so we don't need to worry or strive for the things we need in life.
If we trust God and stay faithful and diligent to do our part, we will have enough. But God has also promised we would have more than enough.
"And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." 2 Corinthians 9:8
We are called as God’s people to be generous whenever an occasion arises, and that's where the fulfillment and joy of life happens. When we have what we need and more to generously provide for and serve others, I believe we experience life as God intended.
I have, as many others have tried our best to be stewards of how best to confront the pandemic. On the one hand, we have wanted first and foremost to keep all of our parishioners safe using the best practices, using masks, distancing, hand sanitizers, etc. On the other hand, a number of people have felt that these practices are an infringement upon their rights as to their personal freedom as individuals and have decided that the guidelines we have imposed were too stringent for them to follow. To them, I am very sorry we had to do this for so long. I am Covid fatigued as much as all of you must be.
Someone last week who attended the service, asked me, when can we stop wearing the masks. I said when I felt it was appropriate. That person, in response told me that it was now appropriate, as the numbers of infections and hospitalizations have decreased. The numbers have now decreased and I believe most of our parishioners have received their vaccinations as well. If you have not gotten your vaccination, I encourage you to just do it! So it is with some hesitation, but none the less happy to say that,
It is up to each person, as an individual, to decide if they want to continue to wear their mask or not during our church services.
I do ask though that if you feel ill or have a fever, you do what is right for the larger community by staying at home. You can continue to be a part of our services by streaming live on YouTube and, I believe, still through Facebook.
May the Lord continue to bless all of us at St. John’s and all the Tri-city/county area. With many blessings as always, I am yours in Christ. Fr. Bill+