Fr. Tom asked the deacons to speak about Sacrificial Giving this week as the Parish works on its budget and plans for the coming year. Talking about money is not something they teach deacons in homily class. Nobody wants to talk about money, but it is necessary in order for the parish to continue to minister.
I am quite confident that you already see the needs of the parish and want to do your part. I am no more able to tell you how much you should give, than I could to tell you how to invest in the stock market. But what I can do is share about Peg’s and my journey of faith in this area.
When we got married, we probably threw a few bucks into the basket when it came around -- whatever we had to spare. I don’t really recall, but I would guess that it was in 1’s rather than anything bigger.
After a couple years, we moved into a house, owned by Holy Family, which was right next door to the rectory. So we became registered members along with being tenants. Now we had envelopes and we started writing a check each week. Finances were tight. I don’t remember how much we gave, probably 5 bucks…most weeks. But, hey, $5 was a lot of money 40 years ago. At least it was to us. Our giving was still from our leftovers, if there was any. We continued to struggle, but with the weekly envelopes we at least became more regular at giving.
We were giving God the leftovers. God deserved better than that. Somewhere along the line, we realized that: If God was as important in our lives as we said He was, then doing our part to fund His work should be as important in our budget as the utilities or house payment. So giving to the parish became a line item in the family budget.
That couple challenged us to make our giving a priority place in our lives: Giving back to God first, because he gives us everything that we receive. They suggested that it was appropriate to give 5% to the church and 5% to other charities from our gross income. To us it seemed quite impossible. Yet that couple convinced us that we could do it, because they had.
The one hopeful thing they mentioned was that if you had children in Catholic School you could consider the tuition as part of the “other charities.” That helped. Our tuition bill was nearly 5% already.
We looked at our annual gross income and saw that we were giving close to 2%. So we decided that we would trust God and give 3%, and take that 3% off the top. It was a matter of trust. How we give really is a reflection of our trust in God’s abundant love for us. That next year went by and we never missed a meal. And, really, we never missed a penny of that money. So the following year we upped it to 4%. Same result. It came off the top and we always seemed to have what we needed. So the next year we committed 5% to the parish.
As time went by, we decided that tuition wasn’t really a charity. We were receiving something for that money--education for our kids. So we began to edge that “other charities” fund up a little at a time.
This type of giving has brought more blessings than I can count. It helped to stop thinking about giving in dollars and start using a percent. When you give in dollars, you are always thinking about what that money could buy. With a percent, you make the commitment, and give it to God. All that we are and all that we have belongs to God anyway, not just a tenth. We are merely the manager of His resources.
Another benefit of using a percentage is when the income goes down. A couple times in my career and recently when I retired, our income when down. No problem; the percentage stays the same.
A few years ago, Fr. Joel suggested 5-1-4 giving. This made good sense to me: 5% to Corpus Christi, 1% to the Des Moines Diocese (we use the Annual Diocesan Appeal), and 4% to other charities. The parish and the diocese do so much for us, and would do even more it we all could get to at least 5-1-4 giving. That is not the ceiling; some of us are able to give more than 10%.
I like to think of the “Other Charities 4%” as “God’s Money.” It goes into a separate fund each pay period and it is such a blessing and a joy to have it available. It is set aside in our bank account. It is God’s money, but we get the joy of deciding where it will go.
God’s Money gets used for various local charities: Micah House, Birthright, Gabriel’s Corner. It also goes to international charity institutions, like Mary’s Meals, Food for the Poor, and Cross Catholic Outreach. It gets used for KVSS and Catholic Answers. We are able to support a family in Peru with those funds. And those extra collections that happen every now and then for victims of natural disasters, we can help them from God’s Money.
Having that fund has even allowed us to occasionally be able to slip $100 into an envelope anonymously and mail it to someone in the community that is in need. We also used this fund for our pledge to the Parish Capital Campaign.
So that is my story; it certainly isn’t for bragging. In fact, as I write this I am questioning myself. If my giving is really this easy, am I truly giving sacrificially? Jesus Christ gave His all. What if He had decided to only give a small percentage?
My hope is to help you see that learning to give back to God is like our learning to grow in our faith. It is a journey filled with graces. The challenge for either one is to make the effort to grow, and God supplies the answers. We need to start giving where we’re at, and not put it off until someday when we’re rich. I think the keys are: Consistency, Priority, Commitment, and being Sacrificial. Ultimately, we ask ourselves: Are we giving God our best? May your giving be a blessing to you.
Photo Credit: LifeTouch
AUTHOR: DEACON BOB McCLELLAN
Deacon Bob McClellan ministers at Corpus Christi Parish and to inmates at the Pottawattamie County Jail. He recently retired as Director of Operations at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha. He and his wife, Peggy, are Council Bluffs natives, and enjoy family, kayaking, camping and the mountains when they get the chance.