I wonder if the future of the stewardship of money in the church (pledging) is not mostly about simplicity rather than generosity.
As stewardship season begins to gear up for the parade of letters, sermons and announcements about giving and pledging to the mission of the church, it is clear to me that the problem for most of us is not that we are un-generous to the church, but that we are simply so financially tapped out that giving is hard without very careful budgeting.
The five percent of the community with massive wealth will be providing 95 % of the funds used in caring for the ill, the finically poor and the marginalized. It is simply the way things are going in our society. And soon it will be 2% giving 98%. In the church, giving is more of a mound than a pyramid, but still most money is given by the wealthy.
But I am not sure this has to be the case. The ability to give money away is not so much about what we give as it is about what we spend. Choosing to live a simple life is a radical decision in our culture. Jesus modeled not having a home. Jesus modeled not having a library. Jesus modeled not having heavy cotton stationary with a water mark and exceptional address. Jesus modeled letting people give him food when he was hungry. And I imagine Jesus’ closet would have held few clothes were he to have even had a closet.
When I make Penang Curry I am aware I am eating something exotic. Thai restaurants around town charge $15 for a bowl of this stuff. And they should! It is yummalyscious. But the other day I did the math and it turns out that if I make a big batch of curry and freeze what I do not eat that night, I can make a meal which, though stunning in its beauty, taste and nutrition; costs me less than a dollar to make. I just took the ingredients and divided their cost up by bowl. A spoon full of red curry paste, two Thai eggplants, eight sweet basil leaves one quarter of a carrot, four spears of baby corn from a can, a strip of bell pepper, a cauliflower floret, four green beans, an eighth of an onion, a quarter of a can of coconut milk, some broth or water, a teaspoon full of peanut butter and a dash of fish sauce ( this food is easily found at Alameda and Federal in a local asian market) and you have a meal fit for the King of what was once Siam. And it costs about a dollar. Put it in some good pottery (mine for example!) and voila! Dinner for a buck.
“Live simply so that others may simply live.” is one of my favorite aphorisms. There is nothing particularly Christian about it. And yet the saying would make Jesus’ knees go week with joy. I wonder if the key to being generous people is less about being rich and more about living such simple, good lives that we can see the beauty in a bowl of Thai curry – the heat on our hands from the clay – the steam on our face from the bowl – the tastes of the curry on our tongue – the crunch of the vegetables. What constipates giving is not greed but rather a lack of attention to how we are living. Perhaps what is needed is not money but rather, mindfulness.