We have no church building and so no domestic bills such as Gas, Electricity and Water Rates. There are no repair bills, no wear and tear, and we are meeting in a nice community hall, free of charge!
And imagine that the Diocese has chosen one lucky parish which never has to pay their Parish Share. And imagine that some generous Church Supplier has told us that we can have all our church supplies (bread, wine, candles, charcoal, incense, and so on) completely free of charge! Imagine, too, that we have won a competition for a lifetime’s supply of Art and Craft and other useful materials for work with children and young people: entirely financed by a generous benefactor! Let’s go on to imagine that a local Printers in the area, in their desire to serve the local community, has chosen St Mary’s and that they will pay for all our paper and printing costs—whenever and whatever we want! Imagine that we never really have to put our hand in our pockets for any of the day to day, week by week, month by month expenses of the church. Would you still give? Or would you think ‘Well, the church doesn’t need it, so I won’t give as much—or even at all!’ Imagine the scene set above and imagine it was real! Would you still give?
Hopefully, the answer would be ‘Yes’ because, as Christians, we don’t give in order to pay our way (although, of course, we do have to pay our way and pay our bills) or in order just to get by and keep our heads above water. We give because we have been given to. ‘God loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son’ (John 3:16) God kept and keeps nothing back. He has given us so much! And he goes on giving!
we give because we belong to God
As Christians, we believe that we belong to God and that everything we have also belongs to God. In the Liturgy of Baptism we hear, ‘I sign you with the sign of the cross and claim you for our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ At the Eucharist we present the gifts of bread and wine, along with other gifts, and they represent everything we have and everything we have been given. ‘Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand’ (1 Chronicles 29:14)
we give because we love God
How much we give from what we have really says what we think about God. Is he worth the spare change in our pocket? Or does his love demand more? The final verse of the hymn, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross,’ sums it up beautifully: ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’ Beautiful? Yes. Challenging? Certainly!
How do you feel when you give a gift to someone? Giving transforms us, changes us, strengthens our relationship with the person to whom we are giving. It enables us to be outward looking people, with our hearts and minds turned to the needs of others. We give to God because we love him. He is at the heart of all we do and say. What and how we give to him expresses what we think about God.
how do I know how much to give?
The amount we give, of course, is relative and personal: which takes us to that well known story in the gospels. Jesus watches an old woman put one single coin into the offering box (nothing compared to the vast amounts of money other people were giving). But she was giving far more than all the others because, says Jesus, ‘she has given everything she has.’ So someone’s £10 a week may be the equivalent of someone else giving £20 a week...and so on! It all depends on our personal circumstances: how much income we have, and what necessary expenditure we have.
so imagine the scene…
we’re back to the beginning, and we have all kinds of bills to pay and payments to make, and expenses to take into account. We have an overdraft to watch and building work to finance and the heating doesn’t pay for itself. Does it really make any difference to what we give and why? Hopefully, the answer is ‘No’ for we give simply because we have been given to. We give because we believe that we belong to God. We give because we love God.
So, let’s retain, rediscover, reaffirm a love of giving!