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Giving in Love

This past Sunday morning as we continued our journey through the commitments we make as disciples of Jesus, we focused on the spiritual discipline of giving. In worship we heard the parable of the talents and were invited to consider where in our own lives we are afraid. We were inspired by Jen Fuqua’s testimony about how tithing had at first been a scary idea but had soon become a joyful practice in her own life. And at the end of the hour we went out singing, “I’m gonna live so God can use me!” It was a wonderful time of worship.

In between the worship services, a group gathered in the sanctuary to talk about our church’s budget, to hear details about how we are doing financially and to ask questions of the Finance Committee. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed that meeting. It felt like a “family meeting,” when we all sat down together to look at the family budget.

Folks asked great questions, and everyone expressed their support and appreciation for those church members who keep our finances balanced, organized and running smoothly. (By the way, if you missed that meeting, you can call the office at any time and talk with Mike Deweese, or contact anyone on the Finance Committee to get an update. As I said yesterday, there are no secrets! The budget belongs to the congregation, and we want everyone to be involved and informed.)

After spending Sunday morning talking about giving, I came into the office Monday and checked my mail. There was a letter in my mailbox from one of our church members who lives at Riverbend Prison. When I saw the handwriting and the colorful drawings on the envelope, I knew who the author was. And, knowing the date on the calendar, I knew the contents of the letter. Every month like clockwork this brother in Christ sends in his tithe. Yes, his tithe. He works a job out at the prison and sends 10% of his income to the church every month.

One Sunday when I was leading worship at Riverbend, this church member approached me with concern. He was worried that the prison had somehow made a mistake in his check and that the church didn’t receive his tithe for the month. I reassured him that we would figure out what happened, and I expressed my deep gratitude for his commitment. Then I thought to myself, “If my monthly check to the church somehow got lost, would I be that concerned? Would it affect my spirit like it seemed to affect his? Is my gift to the church as important to me as his is to him? Do I see it as an act of love and devotion?”

The letter I received from him today was addressed to me and to the congregation, so let me pass on to you some of what he said: “May our God, full of love, mercy and grace, fill each of you with a holy awareness of His faithful promise and seal in your heart His promised joy and peace…. God is wonderful and it often amazes me that after all we and particularly I have done against God’s will and to hurt God’s creation, He is faithful and still loves us! Thank you, Jesus!”

This brother in Christ helps me understand more deeply that giving is a joyful practice. It is a gift made in love to a faithful God. He reminds me of what we heard in worship yesterday: God is faithful. God is able to provide everything we need. God is love, and in God we have nothing to fear. I pray that we would all offer our gifts to God in that same spirit of joy and love and gratitude.