Even though it’s been a few years since my kids were in school, our household still settles into new routines in the fall. My wife and I sit down in September and fill out the calendar with our various commitments. While this activity has the potential to feel overwhelming, I’ve found that it readies us for the year ahead. When new opportunities arise at work or in the community, we can be ready to say “yes” if it fits into our schedule. Continue reading A Generosity Mindset→
I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who avoids shopping on Black Friday if at all possible. Competing with myriad shoppers to save a few dollars on Christmas toys just isn’t my idea of a good time.
When the COVID-19 crisis first arrived on the scene in Canada, the Board of Trustees was very concerned about the effects of the economic downturn on Church and Conference giving. However, in the first nine months of 2020, EMC expenses are down, revenues are up, and we have a surplus at the three-quarters mark of the year. Praise God for this wonderful news! Part of the reason for the surplus in October is due to receiving a major gift earlier this year, but the overall picture is still very positive.
Charitable giving patterns have changed, we’re sometimes told. People now want to give to specific projects they support or to Christian workers whom they know. To want to be involved is positive.
We have every right to know where our money is going, how it is used, and by whom. To know the people, their work, and the differences made are all important. It makes good sense.
But then, for some people, a strange act occurs: they shy away from giving to EMC Missions. They think that giving to EMC Missions is similar to tossing coins into a deep, dark well; the money goes in, but it seems a bit murky and uncertain.
Is this image fair to EMC Missions, its national staff, missionaries from our churches, and our commitment to work together? EMC Missions regularly informs donors, churches, and individuals of its workers, ministries, and finances. You likely know of its many ways:
Missions Alerts placed into church bulletins
The EMC Day of Prayer
EMC Missionary Prayer Calendars
Missionary Prayer Corps letters
Missions displays and reports at convention and council meetings
Reporting in churches by national staff and missionaries
Prayer Teams visit missionaries on the field
A missions Prayer Ministry led by Beth Koehler
Missions reports and staff columns in The Messenger
Financial reports in The Messenger, at conference council, at board meetings, in our convention insert, and sent upon request
The EMC has 98 cross-cultural workers in 24 countries serving 115 people groups, according to info provided to Diana Peters. This workforce, serving on our behalf, takes most of our $1.9 million EMC budget. It’s worth it.
Giving to 98 missionaries in 24 countries isn’t tossing coins into a dark well—not when their faces and ministries are shared in EMC circles. Pastors, delegates, and church secretaries are key local sources of information, and even more information is available.
Also, the idea of a well isn’t fair to donors. Some people might glance into a well and see only their image reflected on the water’s surface. No, we want to look deeper.
We want what’s good for others. That’s why we give. And, yes, at times we need help to decide which is a sound ministry and which people are worth supporting.
Isn’t this why 65 years ago EMC churches together formed a mission board with representatives from various regions? It works to discern and decide about people, places, and ministries. Our fields, workers, and impact have multiplied, and your giving has permitted this. Thank you.
Let’s look again at the EM Conference line in our local church’s budget and at the EMC’s annual budget. Do we see 98 faces of missionaries looking back at us, all of whom serve on our behalf and depend on our support?
Does the headline for this article pique your curiosity or does it irritate you? The word protest often evokes strong positive or negative emotions. Like it or not, we seem to be in a time marked by protests of one kind or another.
Beyond giving as duty, the Bible offers us an array of metaphors for giving that can move us to live more generously. The story of the widow’s offering told in the Gospels of Mark and Luke offers us one.
When you think of this familiar story (often called The Widow’s Mite), have you ever imagined what the widow looks like? How old is she? How does she carry herself? What is her facial expression?
I had always imagined this widow was an older woman who showed signs of a very hard life. In my mind, she was embarrassed to be in the temple, shyly approached the treasury hoping not to be noticed and apologetically put her two lowly coins in the box.
An illustration of this story from the Jesus Mafa community of Cameroon completely changed my mind. Their illustrator sees a young woman with a baby on her hip and a basket on her head. She is dressed shabbily but confidently approaches the treasury, boldly giving her offering among the high status men who are also contributing.
In both texts, just before this story, Jesus was teaching in the temple and said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
What if our widow heard Jesus’ teaching and decided to stage a protest at the treasury? Had her house been devoured by an upstanding community leader? Was she reacting to those “upright” citizens who accumulated wealth for themselves at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable?
Widows and orphans were supposed to be cared for, not taken advantage of! Throwing all that she has in the offering, the widow throws herself on God and the community creating an obligation on both to make things right.
This idea is summarized in an offering prayer adapted from the book Be Our Freedom Lord, edited by Terry Falla:
“God of extravagant mercy, with hands outstretched you have poured out wonder and pleasure and delight, goodness and beauty and bounty. Take our offerings, we pray, as our protest against all that is evil and ugly and impoverished, trivial and wretched and tyrannical in our world and in ourselves–that we too may be poured out for the world.”
Yes, the widow’s story might express that no matter how small the gift, it matters. Or no matter what the gift, it’s the attitude that counts. But Jesus tells his disciples that the widow, “out of her poverty, put in everything she had.”
She gave her whole life. It foreshadows that in just a short time after this incident, He too will give his whole life in order for new life to emerge. In the same way, our financial giving can demonstrate that we desire to participate in Jesus’ love poured out for the world.
There are different types of protests. Some are peaceful and others are splashier and more extreme. Not everyone has an appetite for marching, demonstrations or even boycotting. Our giving can be our protest against the “ugly” that we see around us and around the globe.
Any good protest requires planning to have the greatest effect. Perhaps it is time to look at how your giving plan is set up for new possibilities to emerge. Abundance Canada can help!
Jesus “saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1-4).
Two misunderstandings are common with this passage. First, some Christians think they can equally honour Christ by giving small coins. Certainly, small coins do add up and can make a difference; but giving them is not the same as this widow’s act unless it empties our bank account (“all she had to live on”).
My wife Mary Ann enjoys telling the story of Tony Campolo, who was asked by a women’s group to pray for funds for a project. He refused, saying that if the women stepped forward to empty their purses, the need would be met. The women were unhappy with his counsel, but stepped forward and met the need.
Second, as others have said, that the Lord honoured the widow doesn’t mean he endorsed her giving away what was required for her basic needs. Jesus rebuked pious children who thought they were excused from caring for their parents (Mark 7:9-13), families and the Church are to care for widows in need (Acts 6:1, 1 Tim. 5:3-8), and the Church is to seek justice for widows (Mark 12:40, Deut. 27:19). Sometimes pious widows need protection from others, misguided teaching, and even themselves.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference