A Stewardship Meditation by Ben Bailey
In the eight years that Jenna and I have attended St. David’s, so many people at the church have had an impact on our lives. Our fellow parishioners welcomed us with open arms, the clergy have been there for us in times of crisis, and the preschool and children’s ministries have not only been a blessing to our kids but they’ve taught Jenna and me how to be better parents.
But despite everything St. David’s has done for my family, I’m embarrassed to admit that we were hesitant to start giving back to the church in a meaningful way. I was aware of the biblical mandate to tithe, but I had a list a mile long of reasons why it didn’t apply to my particular situation. I told myself that I’d give more as soon as I started making a little more money, or as soon as my savings reached a particular threshold, or as soon as some situation or issue was resolved. I also tried to convince myself that tithing was outdated. I wondered how the Roman tax rates compared to ours, and what the cost of living was in first-century Galilee.
Looking for a more contemporary approach to give, I turned to C.S. Lewis for answers. In Mere Christianity, Lewis describes charity as “an essential part of Christian morality.” He writes, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
Needless to say, I didn’t find any of this very reassuring. I was even more distressed to learn that Lewis gave away most of his book royalties as he earned them, electing to maintain a modest lifestyle despite his fame. So it turned out that C.S. Lewis was no help at all!
But we still weren’t quite ready to take the leap so we calculated a level of giving for our family that represented a meaningful step toward tithing, figured out what that would look like on a weekly basis, and committed to trying it for just a few weeks. I thought an increased level of giving if limited to a few weeks, couldn’t do any lasting damage to my financial plans.
But in the act of giving, I learned that my initial hesitance wasn’t rooted in any selfish desire on my part to live a lavish lifestyle. It was rooted in fear. My fear of losing control, security, and certainty in my life. But giving beyond our comfort level shined a light on those fears and I learned they were based on lies I told myself: that I was in control of my well-being and that of my family; that I could safeguard myself against uncertainty. But all the money in the world couldn’t buy the type of security I sought.
Amazingly, in increasing our family’s giving back to God, we experienced freedom from a form of idolatry that we didn’t even realize was hampering us. And in that freedom, we found a sense of security that we didn’t know was possible.
Over time, we’ve gradually increased our giving, now secure in the knowledge that if tragedy strikes or when an emergency comes along, it won’t be our bank account or our 401k that provides the comfort and refuge we seek.
It will be God and the people of St. David’s.