It is the first Friday of October which means those emails and letters asking you to make a pledge of support for next year will soon be arriving. But why? Why should you make a pledge? Why not just give? I knew the perfect person to answer those questions, long time parishioner, former warden, and stewardship chair, Lynn Hertz. I have had the privilege of working with Lynn for many years and I know that, for her, pledging is a spiritual practice very dear to her heart so I asked her to share her thoughts with us.
As church members we are familiar with the request each year that we pledge some of our time and money to support Saint Johns. Pledges are financial commitments which allow the church to have a reasonably accurate idea of how much we can spend in the coming year. Without them it is difficult to plan an accurate budget, or determine raises for the clergy and staff who work on our behalf. Pledges support our liturgy, outreach, music, and programming. They are a tangible way for each of us to participate in our common mission to be God’s hands and feet in the world.
Pledging is a blessing to the life of the church. It also can be a vital gift to us individually as we try to live as Christians in an uncertain and sometimes scary world.
The Bible talks a lot about money and other forms of wealth, and it was a major focus of Jesus’s parables and teaching. Scripture dwells on themes that are important to us, and God understands that money is hugely important. Money, or more accurately the things it can bring us, is simultaneously a necessity and a stumbling block, and through Scripture we are given practical guidance about how God wants us to use our financial resources.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7
Do not say to yourself “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”
It is clear from these verses, and a great many more, that we are to share what we have. Furthermore, we are to do it cheerfully and without making a big show about it. We are told to beware of giving our material wants precedence over our love of God and our obligation to care for those in need. We are reminded that neither wealth nor poverty are solely the result of our own actions.
We are also asked to do something that for many of us is very difficult. We are asked not to worry. Not to worry about having enough, not to worry about what comes next.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet our Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
I know that for me not worrying is the most difficult teaching about wealth, and the hardest to honor.
Years ago, when I was about forty, I was diagnosed with cancer. Our three children were in elementary school and in addition to my fear of suffering or death I was terrified of leaving them. At about that time there was a well publicized story about a lottery winner who won more than 100 million dollars. I vividly remember thinking that all of that wealth could not change my diagnosis, keep me safe, mother my kids, or free me from fear. What helped me through this time was the care and support I received from others, and a sense of God’s loving presence, stronger than I’ve felt before or since.
It’s been almost twenty five years, and while I thought those lessons would be with me forever, I fall into old ways of thinking. I too often look to money as a source of safety, and focus on what I lack rather than the abundance around me. I start to think that if I had just a little bit more I wouldn’t need to worry about this or that, and then I could be more generous with others.
The act of formally committing some of my money to St. Johns helps me to remember that my relationships with God and with other people are where true safety lies. By pledging I commit to making them a priority. Pledging helps me to remember that I have more than enough. It helps me to remember that I have been blessed and that sharing those blessings only increases them.
Finally, pledging helps me to work at giving sacrificially rather than offering what, skewed by a false sense of scarcity, I think I can spare. For me sacrificial giving doesn’t mean going without necessities, or giving up many non-necessities that bring me joy. It does mean that I think seriously about how much to give, I pray over it, and I stretch a little each year.
The amount we give is based in part on our individual circumstances, and a small pledge from one person is often more sacrificial than a much larger one from another. All pledges, large or small, are a tangible commitment to our life at St. Johns and our promise as Christians to share what we have.
My annual pledge to Saint John’s is a gift to the church, and a blessing to me.
Thank you Lynn, you are a blessing to Saint John’s!
Discussing money can be triggering, prompting feelings of fear or shame. Maybe that is why Jesus talked about money and possessions more than faith and prayer. Sharing our stories can be liberating and transformative.
As with most spiritual practices, we gain strength when we share with and support each other. To write a post, offer resources, submit an article, or do an interview for Finance First Friday blog, please contact Executive Administrator, Sarah Dull. You never know who needs to hear your story.