How Do We Decide How Much to Give (Part 2)
Another Commitment Season Reflection – Part 2
Perhaps the most common practical question that I have been asked over the years – albeit sometimes tongue in cheek – is, “When figuring a tithe (10%), is it pre-tax or post-tax dollars?” Although this exact question was not asked of Jesus, he answered several questions like it– questions that focused on the letter of the law (looking for an easy answer) instead of the spirit of the law (a generous response to God’s generosity that honors an ethic of sharing, justice and proportionality). Deciding how much to commit to the church is less about the exact amount you commit (although that matters to the Finance Committee and the Session who are tasked with being good stewards of these resources) and is more about an honest conversation about how you choose to spend, share and save the resources you are tasked to steward.
So, practically, that is the place to start. Look at what you have spent this year with these questions in mind:
- What are your fixed expenses? How much do you spend on housing, utilities, transportation, debt and food?
- How much did you save – in all the forms that you do that (retirement, college fund, rainy day fund for a new roof)?
- How much did you give – in all the forms that you do that (church, direct needs, emergency response, other non-profit and/or social service agencies that are close to your heart)?
- Now, having those numbers in mind, either in a general or specific way, how much did you and your family spend on entertainment and travel; luxury items; those things that your and your family consider extras?
With all of this in mind, open your heart and your mind, relax and release your defenses and look at your spending habits. If how we spend our money reflects our priorities, does your spending reflect your priorities? Does it reflect what you believe about sharing, generosity, justice and proportionality?
Maybe that is the end of the conversation for you. You may already know how much you will pledge to the church, but if you are still uncertain, here are a few more thoughts to consider:
- If you have never before pledged or made a commitment to the church. Try it. Start small and manageable. This year is about making the commitment to the community as a community. Pledge now; and set a reminder on your phone to check-in with yourself and your family each month. Ask yourself how it feels? Does it change the way you think about money? About the church?
- If you feel led to increase your commitment, but are not confident in what you can reasonably pledge, start with an incremental increase. Two years ago, then Commitment Season Chair, Pam Wilson, called on the congregation to make a 10% increase. This resonated with many people. It’s doable and it makes a difference.
- If you are feeling anxious about having enough or your budget has changed or might change, claim God’s grace and generosity and reduce your commitment. The church will have enough. There will always be enough. Church is a marathon, not a sprint. There are years when we are able to give out of abundance and years when we need to rely on the abundant giving of others. Church is something we do together, and our offerings, received and shared, will always be enough.