While opening the mail one fall day last year, I was briefly confounded. I had just opened a letter from Holy Trinity Anglican Church containing a pledge card and a return envelope. I had not seen a pledge card or even thought much about making an annual pledge to the church since the fall of 2002, and I did not really want one now. I briefly felt like I was on the horns of a dilemma.
Christian stewardship is often only associated with giving to the church, but is so much more than that. Well developed Christian stewardship is a way of living in which we recognize that everything (life, breath, money, stuff) belongs to God, that everything we have and use are blessings we receive from God, and that God has some expectations, revealed in Holy Scripture, about what we do with these blessings. This article is about money, specifically about income, and giving to the church.
Many churches depend on pledges to help them plan their upcoming finances. The process of gathering pledges may include an opportunity to discuss Christian giving and the financial needs of the congregation. Typically the process falls short. Some people don’t pledge. Others don’t pledge enough yet believe that keeping up with and meeting their pledge is all that God and the church expect from them.
The Bible doesn’t reveal anything about making an annual pledge. On the other hand, the Bible does reveal a lot about faithfulness and obedience, so (after a little inward grumbling) I choose to fill out and mail my pledge card.
How do I know what number to put on my pledge card in order to be the most help to the church for planning purposes (faithfulness – a fake number isn’t much help to the church) and that will also meet God’s revealed expectation for giving? God’s standard is found the books of the law: Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 14:22-23; and Deuteronomy 26 (my personal favorite). These selections, which can be expanded for context, are not ambiguous – ten percent given every year of first fruits.
The mechanics are easy. Since Jan and I are not a farmers or tradesmen, for our pledge I make a list of the gross income, including anticipated income, from every source: pensions, social security, interest, dividends, rents, royalties, and so on, such as exist, then add them all up. Move the decimal point to the left one place, and round up (rounding is optional but appeals to my sense of order). Example: If total anticipated income for a year is $56,543.93, a tithe is $5,654.393 rounded up to $5,655, or $109/week.
What next? Having been authorized by the vestry to undertake this work, this is the first in a new series of planned articles for Holy Trinity on the subject of Christian Stewardship.