Giving back…

Giving back…

Over the past three years, my wife and I have learned a lot about how to receive.  This has been more difficult than it might sound.

Americans have a curious dichotomy.  On the one hand, we hope to receive all sorts of good things, and there are plenty of evangelists out there converting God into a massive sugar-daddy.  Many of us are raised with this curious sense of entitlement that we can’t really explain and certainly can’t defend with our rationalist, evolutionary-based explanations for how we got here. 

And yet there are still vestiges of an older American dream, that of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, making something out of yourself, going from rags to riches and actually earning the right to enjoy life.  This is still an undercurrent in our lives, a hearkening back to the dreams and hopes both inspired and misguided of the various refugees, zealots, and hooligans that began carving a country out of a continent.

So learning to receive has been wonderful and difficult.  We’ve been accustomed to giving.  We love the art of hospitality.  We love to share with others whatever we have, whether much or little.  But what we have has been whittled down quite steadily in purely monetary terms since just before we got married.

Thanks to the bust, I took nearly a 50% pay cut to begin teaching at a small, private technology college.  My wife clearly did *not* marry me for my riches (or good looks, but that’s another matter…).  Then, to come to seminary, I went from full-time to contract teaching, essentially taking another 50% salary cut while my wife quit her job to stay at home with our (now) three kids. 

All while shelling out money every year to complete grad school in preparation for a life of non-traditional ministry that very likely will *not* come with a benefits package or a guaranteed salary.  You’d think with this much education I’d be smart enough to have a better financial future ahead of me!

But, God is good.  Of course.  And He’s brought people into our lives that have showered us with love, prayers, and financial assistance.  Wanting to be good stewards, we decided we needed a way to tithe on that aid.  I tithe on my contract salary to our home church, but we decided to do something different for our gift tithes. 

We signed up to sponsor a family through World Vision.  For $40 a month, we sponsor a family – an older woman who is looking after a 14-year old girl – in Ghana.  We’re happy to be making a real difference with our meager tithe, instead of just contributing towards paying the electric bill somewhere.  We’ve already talked with the rest of my wife’s family about doing some larger form of sponsorship as well, in lieu of the American habit of overspending on unnecessary gifts for children’s birthdays and Christmas. 

I think more people would understand and agree with tithing if they could tangibly see how their money was being utilized.  Just another reason why I think our current model of ‘church’ is in need of some major overhaul…

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