In his book Will Our Children Have Faith?, John Westerhoff argues that for future generations of young people and adults to develop Christian faith they will need more than Sunday school. They’ll need a host of opportunities where faith is not only taught but experienced.
In the same way, the making of a joyful giver requires more than just words. Ask people why they share generously from what God has entrusted to them and inevitably you will hear stories and experiences that shaped them into who they are. Simply hearing about generosity is not enough. We have to engage with it and live it out.
Mennonite Foundation of Canada’s theme this year is “joyful generosity.” In I Timothy 6:17-19, Paul writes to a less-experienced church leader and gives him these words of encouragement for his work with the church in Ephesus: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
To really live the life that God wants for us, we need to move beyond a faith that only engages the head. In her book The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Cynthia Bourgeault writes that trying to find faith with the intellectual centre is something like trying to play a violin with a saw. It’s the wrong tool for the job. We need to be engaged at the heart level, where we live, move and have our being. We must also experience the selfless act of giving generously and express our faith through the use of our finances.
Some practical expressions of joyful generosity:
- Teach your children at an early age that money is for sharing and saving, not just spending, and use an allowance as part of the teaching.
- Talk about your giving habits with family around the dinner table. Involve your children and teens in decisions about giving.
- Consciously work at ensuring that your investments aren’t in conflict with your values.
- Plan your giving as part of your regular weekly and monthly spending, not just as end-of-year, last-minute leftovers. The biblical concept of first fruits, giving from our first and best, is still relevant.
- Make end-of-life gifts to charity—through a will, life insurance policy, retirement fund or tax-free savings account—as a final testimony to your values.
When your head, heart and wallet are aligned, you will be helping to build the good foundation which Paul spoke of in his letter to Timothy. It is my hope and prayer that joyful generosity grips you so that you live “the life that really is life.”
Darren Pries-Klassen is the executive director of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.