Faith Works 11-7-15
The season of giving is all the year long
You're getting them in the mail, I know.
The pitches are on the radio, online, in the print pages of publications, even stuffed into your Sunday bulletin.
What will you give, how much and to what, and now, on which basis?
Are you prepared to donate by credit card? To have your contributions "painlessly" removed from your account in an amount designated by you each month, automatically renewable? Would you like to give a sum that will be matched by another friend of the cause or concern or church that you support?
They come with pictures of sad faced children, appealing puppies, weary men sitting behind a steaming bowl of soup, or Third World women behind a piece of decrepit looking machinery.
It might have a glossy finish and a simple pledge card attached to the presentation folder, or be a pop-up which can link you to an electronic form where your credit information is made secure by . . . little mysterious electronic gnomes. Anyhow.
Many of you who read this feature have a faith community to which you make an annual commitment, paid weekly or monthly or annually, which you review each year as the congregation reminds you what you're all doing together, and how your faithful response can help those works of mercy be a witness to the nations. Good for you!
There are also many of you who choose to give from your own blessings, out of your own resources, as a spiritual discipline that helps keep you mindful that everything we have is a gift, from money to materials, that really just pass through our hands for a time. To say it's "mine" or even that "I earned it" is potentially going to burden us with a sense that stuff is so connected to us that we get confused about who we are versus what our stuff is, or more simply: you can't take it with you.
Giving is a way to remember that money may be rightfully ours for a time, but it will pass through our hands like all earthly things, and the most we can do is direct it for a short distance after we've gotten it, like water through a fire hose.
What can misdirect even our well-meaning impulse to give is that old bugaboo, guilt. If we let guilt drive our giving decisions, we end up whipsawed by emotion and sentiment and visceral appeals without much substance.
Don't let sad-eyed puppies cause you to lurch over to the laptop; even honorable causes for patriotic purposes can be using the flag to drape over some unworthy or at least wasteful activities.
Here's my challenge for you when it comes to giving, whether it's a one-off donation or signing up for one of those "only $19.99 a month" automatic giving schemes. Ask yourself this basic question: what are my own personal priorities in this world? Which areas of our community are most important to who I am, who I'm trying to be, and what I want this world to become?
Figure out what areas and issues are important to you *before* you come up against a donation pitch. Ask how you want to represent your passions, your priorities through your monetary contributions. Maybe even ask yourself: if I had the time and latitude, which causes would I actually put time into myself if I could? Most of us can't do the direct service we'd like, but that's a big part of what giving does: it represents us and empowers others to do the work we wish we could do if we had the opportunity to do it ourselves.
Friends, once you've done that fairly simple exercise, the good news is that you now get to do two things. One, you sit down and make plans to give money where you really wish to be giving of yourself. Trust me, that will feel good, because that check or credit card pledge or cash in the collection plate will start to really feel like a part of you going forth.
And secondly, you will come to find that you are no longer whipsawed by those other appeals that can so tug at you. When you know what you're giving, and why, and to whom, you can rest easy in knowing you can't cover it all, so sometimes you just have to let others do their part . . . but you are doing yours!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he knows where he wants his giving to go! Tell him where your commitments take you at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.