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 :)