Friday, August 25, 2006

Making donations

So today's readings include 1 Corinthians 16, which opens with this advice on giving:
Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 16.1-3
I don't know how many times I've read these verses, yet this morning I saw something new. (Or maybe I saw it before and just forgot -- an advantage of getting older?)

Here it is. Paul is not talking about giving to our local congregations. This is talking about getting together a pot of money to send to Jerusalem, so they won't have to "pass the hat" when Paul comes to visit. Paul volunteers to go with them "[i]f it seems advisable."

In other words, this is talking about regular giving for relief and missions.

So at the bottom of this posting I'll write something about why giving is so important, but if you already believe in giving, here's something practical that we have done at our house. What we've found is that any money left in the checkbook will get spent. It just disappears. In other words, ff I think we'll give what's left at the end of the pay period, we won't give anything.

So what we do instead is this: we have automatic donations.
We've authorized some mission agencies to automatically take a fixed amount from our checking account monthly. These are scheduled in Quicken® so they don't come as a surprise. The checkbook balance reflects the withdrawls, so for most purposes the money is "already gone" so we don't spend it. Some of our giving is via credit card. Why is that? Maybe because it's easier to keep track of that way. And for some other charities, we have our bank send a check every pay period (they don't charge us for this).

So this scheme has both pluses and minuses. The plus side is we plan our giving and we can tell at the beginning of the year how much we're giving to whom. We don't forget to send checks, so that relief agencies, missionaries, etc., aren't subjected to our forgetfulness.

The minus side is that with giving on autopilot, we don't have the same experience of giving on a regular basis -- reading about some situation somewhere, for example, and deciding to send a special gift. Well, we do sometimes, but it's "special" and so by definition it's not usual or regular.

About the "why" of giving

Why is giving important? Of course it's important for whoever is receiving it -- whether it's
  • a starving child or
  • a spiritual mentor trying to help leaders grow while feeding a family or
  • a missionary on a shoestring budget or
  • a village drilling a well or
  • a church planter trying to feed the family while starting a church.
But it's also important for the giver.

The problem that I have, anyway, is that I feel money has too much power in my life. I worry too much about it. It's like an idol, or would become one if I let it.

How to break the power of the idol? How were physical idols broken in Old Testament (pre-exile) times? They would physically break them into pieces, grind them into powder, burn them, scatter their ashes, etc., thus rendering worship impossible. To break the power of money today, we can assert our power over it by giving it away and using it for the kinds of things God is concerned about (the above is just a partial list of course).

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