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Mar5ThuIs it time for a generosity pulse-check? March 5, 2015 by Lt-Colonel Lee Graves
According to a recent survey by the Fraser Institute, “Canadian generosity is in decline with just 22.3 percent of tax filers giving to charity.” Should we not find this statistic disturbing? The annual survey of charitable giving notes that the Canadian practice of donating to charitable causes has been falling since 2005, with both the number of people giving and the amount they give in decline.
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What about those of us who belong to the church? Where do we fit within the scope of this statistic? Is it time for the church to take a generosity pulse-check?
When Jesus saw a poor widow put two small coins in the temple collection box, he was moved by her generosity. We find his reflection in Mark 12:41-44.
Canada was founded upon the principles of giving and serving. The early pioneers were sustained by a shared spirit of co-operation and generosity. The Salvation Army's predominant gifts have been described as giving and serving. God raised up the Army to bring practical expression to the faith we have in Jesus and to live it out every day. The call of our General is to pursue the cause of Christ and the care of others. As Salvationists, we are to go into the world of the hurting, broken, lonely, dispossessed and lost, reaching them in love by all means.
In 2013, the total contribution in cartridge giving was $27 million. That comes out to $470 per person
I still vividly recall the first time I was compelled to compassionately care for another. I was nine, perhaps 10 years of age. It was winter. My school was on the edge of town. There was a little pond that froze over every winter. We skated every recess and lunch hour. I loved skating and I was good at it. I played hockey every Saturday at the community arena. Taking to this little patch of ice was easy for me and it was fun.
But there was one boy who just leaned against an old fence post and watched as we skated. Everyone knew he came from a family of little means. I knew he had probably never owned a pair of skates or known the fun of skating. It troubled me that he didn't have the same opportunity I did. After some time thinking about it, I made up my mind to give him my skates and help him to learn to skate.
That little act of giving and helping changed something inside of me, something significant enough to make me want to keep giving skates away—metaphorically speaking. Truly, the acts of giving and serving bring purpose and meaning, aligning us with the call of Christ to his church. He calls me, as part of the church, to share what I have with those who have less. That is why Jesus was so moved with the widow's gift. She shared from what she could scarcely afford and gave much. The others shared from their wealth and gave little.
Scripture reminds us that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (see 2 Corinthians 9:7). A desire to share our time, talent and resources is an outcome of our relationship with him. As Jesus looked on and was moved by the offering of the widow, who gave much, the Lord smiled upon her. Is he moved by my giving and my service?
One of the ways we contribute to the needs of others is by tithing through our church offering. As of March 31, 2013, the total contribution in cartridge giving for the budgeted year was $27 million. With 18,000 soldiers and 39,000 adherents, that comes out to $470 per person. If you divide that number by 52 weeks, the average weekly financial contribution is $9. Factor in contributions from those on our friendship register, and the number is even lower.
What is it that compels us to open our wallets and give? What is it that compels us to serve? Our giving and service is a direct witness to the work the Lord is doing in our lives. The opportunity of the church is to lead by example, modelling a giving attitude and the joy of serving others. By doing so, we might be able to influence a trend that paints a less-generous picture of concern for others. Could someone please take my generosity pulse?
What is your “pair of skates”? What do you have to give?
Lt-Colonel Lee Graves is the Canada and Bermuda Territory's secretary for business administration.