I was chastised in Mass today by the Priest because of the way I put money into the collection plate. He called those who put in a yellow laminated “I Give Electronically” card his “true partners in ministry”. He basically labelled those of us who put in cash and checks as slackers, not willing to commit to the support of the Parish. He accused us of hiding behind the excuse of not knowing week-to-week how much we’ll have to give so preferring flexibility in the amount that goes into the plate. He called that lame; that just didn’t do it for him (his words).
I tore up my check, “Okay, Father. If the way I give isn’t good enough for you, fine. I’ll give to those who’ll be happy to take whatever amount in whatever form.”
Wait a minute. That’s not right. I caught myself. I got to thinking, why do I give? Is it because of the Priest? That’d be a poor reason. Whether the Priest dynamically drives all kinds of charitable works in the community or has the charisma of a puddle left by an afternoon summer shower, my Parish deserves my support. Thankfully, I had enough cash to make a regular weekly tithe.
Why does the Priest prefer automated electronic contributions, and why do I not want to give that way? He says it helps him to know how much is coming in so he can plan and budget better. Sounds plausible, but is that truly the case? I don’t know how many people give that way, or what percentage of the total collections it represents, but I suspect it’s a minority on both counts. By the way, the weekly collections as published in the bulletin have been remarkably stable for many years. So it appears to me that Father has a fairly good sense of revenue, and can budget expenses accordingly.
Another reason cited is that giving via ACH is giving of the first fruits. Hmmm. I establish ACH debits to my account, so I get to choose the day of the month that the draft hits. It’s arbitrary; I could choose any day I want. Whether the draft hits before or after a deposit can be manipulated, so I think it a bit naïve and disingenuous to contend that it is absolutely of my first fruits. And doesn’t giving automatically this way risk a robotic, unthinking approach to tithing? Is that an appropriate attitude to have about giving?
Why don’t I give on auto-draft? A couple of reasons. One is my income is variable. I’ll have measurable swings from month-to-month. Still, I could sign up for a low, base amount to transfer via ACH to the church if that would appease the pastor. That would even accommodate my other reason which is that we sometimes go to Mass at other Parishes. I want my donation to go to those churches on those weeks. Truthfully, I could do that anyway since my total charitable giving exceeds my weekly checks in the plate.
So what’s the real reason? What do I want from my Pastor and from my giving? Thanks and appreciation? No. Anonymity is just fine with me. What I really want of my Pastor is more preaching from the pulpit on stewardship in all its facets—including money. What a tremendous opportunity he has to teach us to recognize God as the source of all we have and who we are, dependent on God for everything, and thankful for all His gifts in all their forms—the essence of true stewardship. I want my Pastor to identify the charitable works that we as a Parish can and should do. Let us know the need, the resources available, and where the gaps are. Educate us on the importance of our giving; time and talent—sure, but especially treasure. Don’t get bogged down in the mechanics of how that treasure is given. Just trust that God will have us fill the gap. And when God does provide, exalt Him. Give Him the thanks and praise for what He has accomplished because we were faithful. Isn’t that how we are supposed to live?
Father, please plan and budget and do all those things necessary to be a good and prudent steward. Trust that God will provide. And trust that I will do my part. I will give, if not electronically. I will give because that is what I am called to do in thanksgiving for all the benefits He gives to me. I will give because it’s not my money.