Giving While Being Taken

Last week I did something that I had refused to do for years and years. Ever since I entered the ministry I never wanted to know how much people were giving. I was afraid that it would affect the way I thought of them and treated them. I'm just being honest. I didn't trust that I wouldn't get frustrated with those who didn't give much or nothing, and appreciate those who did. Especially when the church might be going through a hard time and my pay might be affected, I didn't want my knowledge of who gave what to tarnish my opinion of them, either for better or worse.

Anyway, last week the treasurer came in for me to sign all the charitable giving tax-receipts for anyone who gave in our congregation. I felt I could handle it. I was right. I did handle it. I think giving is important, but I no longer judge people according to their giving. I could handle the delicate knowledge with maturity, objectivity and indifference. I know people well enough that some people give more with bad motives, and some people don't give because they are really wrestling with the issue. But this is not my point.

My point is that as I went through the receipts and saw who gave what, my heart started to swell with amazement and gratitude. Generally speaking, I can say that our people are generous. I was astounded at what some of the people were giving: far more than I figured they could. It broke my heart to see how so many people, people who are struggling and suffering on such a profound level, can at the same time be so generous. Even while people are in the middle of so much pain, they continue to give and give and give. And what I saw on those papers was only a fraction of what actually changes hands from week to week in our community... money, food, furniture, help, cds, gift certificates and coupons... you name it. In spite of the pressing darkness of our time, these people still manage to shine.

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