Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Giving Uncomfortably

The readings from this Sunday always make me a bit uncomfortable.  First from 1 Kings 17:10-16 about Elijah asking the widow for some bread and water, and she responded that she was just about to use the last of her ingredients to make bread for her and her son before they died.  Elijah promised her if she brought him back some bread, the widow and her son would not die, and would not go hungry again.  She did as he said, and they ate for another year.

The gospel reading from Mark 12:38-44 then goes on to talk about the widow who gave all she had in the form of two coins, as opposed to the rich men who gave more money, but not all they had.  He praises the widow for giving her whole livelihood while the rich men only gave from their surplus wealth.

Yeah, there were quite a few of us squirming in our seats during this homily.

Giving generously can be so hard!  As someone who deals with budgets and figures and money all day, I am prone to erring on the side of caution when it comes to tithing.  Raising a family with six kids can be expensive, and we have chosen this lifestyle of living simply rather than living stressed.  In order to make that work, we both have full-time jobs, we live in a two-family house, we drive paid off vans, we barely have any money in savings, we only go on vacations if they are basically given to us (parent's timeshare), eat homecooked meals, etc. etc. etc.  In other words, we make all our decisions based on our finances and always try to save more, spend less.

But, because we do these things we have a little cushion in our budget.  We are able to pay our bills every month and can splurge from time to time - sports for the kids, a date night for Phil and I, gifts at birthdays and Christmas don't overwhelm us.  It's nice and it hasn't always been like that.  When it was only Phil on a teacher's salary, we could barely pay our bills.  I was pinching pennies just to try and buy groceries.  It wasn't prudent for us to have me stay home with the kids when we couldn't feed or shelter those kids.  I worked part-time, nights and weekends doing whatever I could until we only had one that needed daycare, and then I went back full-time.  

I'm not saying that this is how every family should work, actually I believe if a mom (or dad) is financially able to stay home with their little kids, they should.  That is such an important job, and it kills me to have to hire it out.  I know my kids will only be little once, and I know nothing matters more than my vocation to motherhood.  It's just not an option for our family, and I have worked through making my peace with it (mostly).  If I win the megabucks tomorrow, I'm quitting and staying home, but until then, it's off to work I go.

Wow, that got off topic quick.  Where am I even going with this?

Oh right, tithing.  So, like probably everybody, when I am trying to decide how much to tithe at church, I sometimes have a hard time letting go.  I have no problem at all being generous in other areas - making a meal for a new mom, driving a friend's child home from sports practice, sending a gift to someone who needs a pick me up, volunteering my time at school or church, giving blood to the Red Cross, being open to life.  These things are "giving from my surplus", a place where it's easy to give.

Giving more financially would be giving from a place where it hurts.  Our whole married life has revolved around money - not having enough, figuring out how to make more, paying off debt, saving for the future.  It's been our biggest struggle (well, alongside learning NFP) and giving it away seems in opposition to our family's needs.  

It's a tough decision to make...where does the line ends on being prudent and responsible for what we have vs. being generous and trusting in what will come? 

I once heard Peter Kreeft give a talk at my church, and he said that when it comes to determining family size, we should have a little more than we can afford.  That is to say, give until it's uncomfortable.  The same goes for tithing, we should give more than we think we can afford, and God will bless us for it.  I think that really is the answer when discerning more babies and discerning how much to tithe.  Give until it's uncomfortable.  That Kreeft is a smart man.

I have experienced this all the time in the past...when I am generous with others, others are generous with us.  I know it's true.  Then why is it still so hard to believe it will happen in the future?  Why is it so hard to stop the financial worrying when I know it is in giving that we receive?  Lord help my lack of trust in this area, and let me grow to be more like the widows who gave their all., because for crying out loud, I know I can't take it with me!  I guess that's why I'll always be a practicing Catholic, there's always room to improve :)


15 comments:

  1. Excellent, I struggle with this so much!

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  2. Oh man is this resonating with me as well today. I am trying to start a business to make money so we can afford to pay for food and the reading is about the poor widow. I am trying to find a balance between chasing the dream of financial freedom (not excess) and being open to sharing it all. There is a balance somewhere in the middle but I am still working through it too. Whenever I start to worry about where my next client is going to come from or what passive income stream to setup, I take a few deep breaths and recite "Jesus I trust in you" until my panic subsides :)

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    1. It's so hard to be obsessed with making ends meet in the short run and then realizing that's not important in the long run. We'll just keep chugging along, Lisa! I miss you!!

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  3. This has been on my heart for a few weeks so Sunday it was like a giant neon sign!! It's definitely an area of our live where I am being called to do better and do more.

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    1. Always practicing, we are :)

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  4. Malachi 3:10 - Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

    This is the one and only time in the Bible that God demands us to "test him". If you give him your tithe out of your first fruits, he will out do you in generosity every single time. In fact, I pray, "Lord outdo me in my generosity" every time I write out our check to the church. And He has never once disappointed me! I read the book "Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To" by Anthony DeStefano and this prayer was one of the 10! Great book, by the way!

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    1. That's a great testimony, Beth! I do have that book in my bathroom :) So, you don't have to answer it, but what is your general rule of thumb? 10% of your husband's income? Or after taxes? Or a different percentage? I would love to know what real people do who are being generous!!

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  5. We did not tithe in full until we were out of debt. As soon as we were it became a top priority. I do get tempted sometimes. 10% for us is a good level of uncomfortable, it has challenged us to forgo some things. It helps us be aware of first fruits and our own blessings. It really does make the budget a bit tighter but it also makes us focus more on the fact that the only reason we have money is to use it prudently to serve God (through our families, churches, then communities)- when you look at it through that lens (it's not yours anyway- you are a steward of it) I find it helps. Good stuff

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    1. I need to be more like this, Mary, thanks! Gonna really look at how much we tithe and push it further.

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  6. We tithe about 10% of our take home. Our finances are funny since my husband runs a small business so it looks on paper like we make more than we do but in reality most of that is going right back into running the business (paying employees, bills, etc.). I don't meticulously count by the penny and have tried for the last few years to err on the side of "over" giving rather than under. But I have been shown time and time again how the Lord takes care of us when we hand over the finances to him and realize that it's all a gift FROM Him anyway. Yes, we work hard and I am very careful with how our money is spent but compared to the rest of the world I am rich and for whatever reason we have been given responsibility of this money to use for building up the Kingdom. I remember going to a Bible study at the Hahns house my first semester at Franciscan and this was the topic. It was really eye opening to me. In fact, she said, Christ didn't abolish the requirement to tithe but in some sense *increased* it by demanding that if we have two coats, we give one away (i.e. 50%!). That's kind of always in the back of my mind but you're right that there are definitely times when it's VERY hard to detach from what we feel is ours and what we've earned.

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    1. Oh wow, never heard it put like that about the coats! I'm glad to see you wrote that you tithe on your take home...that's my goal. Tithing on our gross income would honestly not be possible with how much taxes and health insurance (we pay over $11,000 a year) gets taken out. Thanks Mary!

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  7. Do not underestimate the value of time and talent. I know sometimes that gets tossed around and sounds like some type of justification. We are fortunate to be in a position to give of our financial resources pretty readily. However, I have a really hard time giving of my time. I felt challenged at Mass this weekend to do better about volunteering my time and talent. As a mom who works full time outside the home I am very greedy about it and appreciate those who are generous.
    I have to comment on your tangent in this post too. Thank you for your honesty. I really admire how you put into words your thoughts around working full time. I am the breadwinner in our family and my husband stays home part time. It is the best thing for our family at this time. It is really hard to share my thoughts with people because if I make a comment about wishing I could stay home they think we should just switch roles, but my earning potential is magnitudes larger. Anyway, now I'm off on a tangent. Thank you for sharing this today!

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    1. As my husband often reassures me, we are a team and we work together for the good of our family. For us, that means both of us working FT. For you and your husband, it looks different, but we are all doing are best, right? Doesn't make it any easier, but at least it brings some peace :) Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  8. WOnderful post!

    Andrea @ mommainflipflops.com

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