Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Much Should I Give?

Providing guidance for people’s participation in the Capital and Endowment Campaign for the Diocese of Dallas is a most difficult proposition. This is not limited to people who are looking for guidance that will allow them to make a minimal contribution. The committed Catholic might be ready to make an offering but is simply unsure. Is it merely a matter of math or are there deeper spiritual principals involved?

The first and most obvious of principals is that stewardship choices have an impact on our relationship with God. This may be of no great surprise. It usually is the obvious that is most often overlooked.
Matthew records Jesus’s teaching:
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
(Mat 6:24-6:34 NAB)
Do we have the courage to depend on God? Are we ready to follow in the way that he teaches? Much of the fear concerning this is practical. There are people in need and God has placed them in our path. Our response is difficult to escape.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1John 4:20-21 NAB)
One of the great challenges for a Catholic today is simple: raw materialism. It involves filling our life with things. This can be done at every income level. An organized and committed stewardship resolution (or plan) keeps that materialism in check. For example, giving at a level that challenges us helps us to detach from our love of money and financial success. To fall into this trap is sometimes irreversible.

Ultimately it is the cross that defines our response to any challenge to give. It was there that our Lord taught the world how to deal with materialism. He showed us how to answer the question of “how much?” One day it will be obvious that our negotiations concerning this will be at an end. By then, we shall have learned how to give or not. The amount will be inspired by the Lord whose decision to give was motivated by his love for us. Undoubtedly it involves a leap of faith, falling into the Father’s merciful arms.

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