He chose to be generous

May 22, 2013 | Viewpoints | Number 11
Harold Penner |

Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC) recently completed the printing of Giving Your First Fruits: Money, Faith and Worship, which contains the collected writings of Edwin Friesen.

Edwin was a stewardship consultant with MFC for more than 13 years and was involved in the creation of many of its resources. He had a passion for writing, for sharing and for inspiring generosity in others. The book features a collection of Friesen’s writings, as well as recollections of Edwin by various family, friends and colleagues.

Edwin’s writings were often based on experiences from his own life and family, and they profess a very practical message. Those featured in the book speak about our use, management and sharing of money. The concept of first-fruits giving to God is presented not as a legalistic method of dealing with money, but rather a response to God’s generosity to us, and a means of ensuring money does not displace God in our hearts.

Like the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, Edwin reflects on the relationship between our generosity and God’s blessing: Do we give first then experience God’s blessing, or do we give because we feel we have been blessed? How would you describe your experience?

True to Edwin’s nature, he occasionally provides readers with a “rule of thumb” to assist with very practical ideas for money management. These rules were collected from the interactions he had with people throughout his life and considered worthy of remembering and sharing with others. They also reflect his life practice of being intentional in the things he did and encouraging others to do likewise.

With Edwin, generosity was a conscious decision. He chose to be generous, not only when there would be a charity receipt attached, but to make a practice of also giving directly to bless others without expecting a tax refund at the end of the year. He saw this as a means of ensuring he was truly giving from a generous heart and of breaking the limiting shackles of the charitable receipting system that is part of the Canadian tax system.

Over the years of being an MFC stewardship consultant Edwin counted it an honour and privilege to speak with hundreds of individuals and couples regarding their estate plans, as well as dozens of couples regarding succession planning.

In “Are you keeping a family secret?” Edwin challenges couples to open the conversation and be transparent with their children about their estates and their intentions regarding transferring the estate to their children or charity. While recognizing there may be situations where openness is not wise, he knew from experience the benefit of openness and he sought to model that in his own family.

MFC published Giving Your First Fruits: Money, Faith and Worship to honour the contribution of Edwin Friesen to the Foundation and its clients. It is our hope that the book will challenge and encourage you to reflect on your handling and dialogue regarding money. To read it online or download a free copy, visit http://MennoFoundation.ca/gyff or contact an MFC office near you to receive a personal copy.

Harold Penner is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit http://MennoFoundation.ca.

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