October 12, 2016
We are in the midst of a two-year generosity initiative called Moved by Jesus. Our primary goal during this initiative is for 100% of our church family to give in a surrendered, gospel-driven way. During these two years, we are sharing stories of transformation that have come out of our church family's commitment to giving generously for the sake of of the kingdom. Below is a story from one of our congregants, who requested to be kept anonymous.
When I was growing up I remember discussions in my home about giving to the church. Back then, my dad enjoyed giving about as much as paying taxes. He would cringe when he would discuss how “they” burdened the parishioners with the expectation to give. He would say things like, “Now they need money for the roof? That building isn’t even that old! And I suppose the priest needs more money for his vacation fund. Didn’t he take a vow of poverty?” It was clear to me that giving was a duty forced upon members of the church for frivolous ornamentation and comforts and that refusing to give would result in shame and guilt.
Although I grew up in the church, I didn't became a Christian until my early 20s. When I began attending a different church, I heard a much different message. I read in the Scriptures about the joy and blessing that giving brings to the heart of the believer. However, this church taught giving a tithe - 10% - which was more than double the percentage I heard as a child. There was NO WAY I could ever be willing or able to give 10% of my gross pay to the church. Early in my journey, some friends of mine lovingly but strongly encouraged me to get to the 10% giving goal. After some soul searching, I managed to get to that number because I felt it was a matter of obedience.
Over the years, I’ve seen God bless me in many ways - including financially. I often attribute those blessings to my obedience in the area of giving. I also saw myself as a steward of God’s money to do good things in the world, and I have been privileged to see people benefit by my generosity. It has felt good to give. However, I had always given out of my abundance. I could never understand the people who felt the need to give sacrificially and really make it hurt. I would say to myself, “Well, it’s time for other people to step up and do their part. I’m giving enough.”
When the Moved by Jesus initiative began in 2015, I was approached by the Generosity Pastor, Dan Easley, who wanted to meet with me to discuss the Church’s planned renovations and projects. In our first meeting, Dan challenged me to give in a way that changes me. It didn't have anything to do with 10%. During that meeting, I thought about a message Bishop Stewart delivers from the pulpit, “Give in a worldly irresponsible way for the Kingdom.” After that first meeting, I still wasn’t planning on giving more extravagantly than I had in the past. After all, I had my heart set on buying something I’ve wanted since childhood that was very meaningful for me. I also intended to increase my IRA contributions in the hope of retiring early.
Then, I heard a sermon by Katherine Ruch one evening that further changed my thinking. What I heard the Lord say through her was, “Giving is not about a project. It has nothing to do with what the money is going toward. Giving is about FREEDOM – freedom from all the worry and anxiety that money causes us.” One year ago, on the day before the church was set to hand in our Commitment Cards for Moved by Jesus, I was praying in All Saints Chapel and heard the Lord tell me, “Everything you have is a gift from me. Don’t worry about that thing you have your heart set on or about retiring early. Just get out of the boat and give it all. I will take care of you no matter what.” I threw up my hands and conceded. I said, “Well, Lord, here goes nothing! I pray that you give me that freedom from money and change me more into the man that you want me to be.”
Since committing to give in a sacrificial way, there have been times when I’ve wondered if I did the right thing. My mind drifts to how great it would have been to make that purchase my heart desired or save that additional money for retirement. Each time that happens, I open my hands up before God and say “Lord, this is my small sacrifice. I did it to be free. Please remove all worry and obsession about money in my life.” I know that the more that I give, the more I will receive the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.