Article by Peter Koeppel, member of Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton and the diocesan Stewardship Resources team.
See more Stewardship meditations and get stewardship resources for your parish at cnyepiscopal.org/stewardship>
Do you remember what Christmas was like for you as a child? I do—the anticipation, the rustling noises coming from a locked room, where even the keyholes were carefully covered up, though beams of light would escape from underneath the door. And then Christmas, when we dressed up in festive clothes, and eventually, the doors to the room would be thrown open, and there stood the Christmas tree, all glittering with decorations and glowing in the light of real candles; and there would be neatly wrapped gifts under the tree—not for long, though.
As children we have a real sense of the joy receiving a gift can bring.
As children we have a real sense of the joy receiving a gift can bring. If you really remember those days, you might also remember the joy you felt giving a beloved parent, grandparent, or sibling a gift. Then we become teenagers, maybe hold a first part-time job, and as we continue to grow up, many of us are losing that sense of joy of giving. Too many priorities tug at us, to spend what hard-earned money we might have. What was once an unencumbered, pure joy now has to compete with all these glittery, glitzy things calling for our attention. And before long, if we enter relationships and maybe found families, it’s not just the glittery, glitzy things around us that compete for our ourselves and our resources, but now we are responsible for the well-being of additional people. And just so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, numerous charitable organizations may knock on our doors!
How do we sort through all of this, when we’re for the most part just barely making ends meet? We could start by setting our priorities responsibly and carefully. What matters in your life? Are there, in addition to your immediate family, loved ones you support? What are the missions of the charities asking for your support? Are you mindful that their missions align with your highest values? What about your church? Do you realize that your gift to your congregation may be the only general-purpose gift you give? Our family’s non-church giving focuses on environmental organizations; social justice organizations; and animal rescue organizations. We don’t spread these donations very broadly—we contribute to just a handful of organizations, whose missions are especially closely aligned with our own values. If you think about them, all of these gifts go to organizations which focus on a single issue, each.
Church isn’t a single-issue organization.
Compare that to our gift to our church: our church isn’t a single-issue organization: we worship together, we support each other in many different ways, we offer our skills and time in support of our congregation, we spread God’s love to our surrounding communities. Our gifts to our church come without strings attached, and we simply place faith and trust in our congregation’s leaders, that they will find a Godly way to use our gifts.
Do I wish we could return to those carefree, joyful childhood years when we make our pledge to our congregation? I do; and little by little, as our priorities in life clarify, I find that the joy of giving returns. All gifts we make are important to us. The world is hurting, and we want to do our part in helping it heal. But the most important gift, and one we’re more and more enjoy making, goes to our church. You probably won’t be surprised to know it’s by far the largest money gift we make, and that we expand on it by offering our time and skills to our church, also.
Where are your priorities? Will you pray for God’s help to discover what truly matters in your life, and build on reflecting that in your giving? May you experience the joy of intentional giving!