Giving Faithfully

One of the religious lawyers came near and heard the Sadducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:28-30

This may be the first commandment or the most fundamental, but it is also the hardest and the easiest.

What is required is just a change of heart, a metanoia. I love me okay, but I have to work at others. You may not love your self at all and find others a breeze. All of us struggle somewhere in this three-sided commandment.

The church recognizes this and keeps a storehouse of practices to help us grow into the kind of people who can keep these commands.We call these spiritual practices because they make us available to the Holy Spirit.

Among the most central is giving, both faithfully and generously.

Generous giving is usually the easier of the two. Our hearts are tugged by some situation or called to action by a grand vision, and we give with enthusiasm even happiness.

The harder kind of giving is faithful. It is the annual pledge, the regular tithe, community-based support. We rely on faithfulness as a church.

There are people in the pews on Sunday whose giving has held up these walls and turned on these lights for over fifty years, and there are those who will write their first pledge this month.

The reality for God’s kingdom is that faithfulness and generosity are both needed.

Generosity is necessary to have a soul that reflects the love of God in crisis, challenge, and even just simple love. I have been given gifts that have come out of the blue and kept me going during some long dry periods. And I have gotten to deliver those kinds of gifts for anonymous donors and watched weary hearts renewed and faith restored.

You should give generously, but this time of year we are reminded to give faithfully as well. Tithing has been a spiritual discipline of the church, expected of every believer but not demanded, from the beginning. Like reading the Bible and praying, it is as much about the soul of the giver as it is about the impact of the gift.

We are shaped by our giving. The discipline of turning back a portion of our material lives to God’s kingdom is part of how we choose to become the kind of person who will follow Jesus, keep his commands, and love in a world that is not always loving. It is how we become both generous and faithful, and how these commands get a little easier.