Lay up treasures . . . or buy an iPhone?

Young adults conscientiously consider financial matters in light of the kingdom of God

January 18, 2012 | Young Voices
Aaron Epp | Special to Young Voices

Like many people his age, Joel Wiens would like to buy a smartphone. He could probably afford to buy one now, but that would mean taking from the money he and his wife Jacquelyn typically earmark for their church donation.

“We’d both like iPhones, but we don’t want to get them at the expense of our church contributions,” he says. “I think giving should make things somewhat uncomfortable for the giver. I don’t think we should be giving our fiscal table scraps, giving what’s left to the Lord only after we’ve covered our own wants and desires.”

Deciding how much of their income to donate, and where to donate it, is something all young adult Mennonites must do as they grow up in the church.

For Wiens, a 22-year-old business analyst for TransCanada Pipelines who attends Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary, how people use their money is an indicator of their spiritual maturity. “I would say [money] is a kind of barometer of how you see the world and what you place value on,” he says. “Money is neutral. It could be an end for self-fulfilment and aggrandizement, or it can be used for the kingdom [of God].”

Growing up in the church, Leah Reesor-Keller learned that giving a 10 percent tithe is what Christians should do. “There was always the idea . . . that it was just expected and standard and normal that you should give,” says the 26-year-old who attends Erb Street Mennonite Church, Waterloo, Ont.

Reesor-Keller works as a resource development coordinator at Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support in Kitchener. She and her husband Luke, a mechanical engineer, believe that being generous is important, so they try to give more than 10 percent of their income to their church and organizations like Mennonite Central Committee. “As I’ve gotten older and also been more involved in the non-profit community . . . I’ve really seen the importance of steady, ongoing [giving],” she says. “So rather than once a year making a big gift, I’ve tried to be more diligent in setting up monthly payments of donations.”

This past fall, she and her husband sat down to create a budget for their household. Reesor-Keller says that when it came to talking about charitable giving, it was fun to think and talk about what organizations are doing good work that they would like to support financially. “It’s important to us to give to some organizations that are meeting very immediate, basic needs, but it’s also important for us to give to organizations that are working toward more long-term development,” she says. “We also try to balance local and international giving.”

Like Reesor-Keller, Annika Krause grew up with the idea that 10 percent of one’s income should be given to the church. A member at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, Vancouver, Krause acknowledges that there are non-financial ways that people can give to their church that are very important, whether that be by serving on a committee, helping with a worship service, or praying for the church’s members and ministries.

At the same time, Krause believes all members have a financial responsibility to give what they can to their church. “It is our responsibility to give financially, and sometimes that means cutting back on [spending on ourselves],” says the 24-year-old who, at the end of January, will begin studying at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind., to become a youth pastor. “That’s hard for me, too. I’m not saying I do it 100 percent of the time either,” Krause continues. “But I think that a lot of the time, especially for young people, it seems like we could [give more].”

Krause admits that money is a taboo subject that she and her friends rarely discuss.

Wiens echoes the sentiment. He realizes that, in some circles, it may be impolite to talk about money, and that people sometimes feel judged by others when discussing how much they do—or do not—give. Still, he believes that finances are an important matter that Christians should discuss: “People in the church should talk about money. It’s a part of everyone’s life, and if you’re going to do something with your money, it should be purposeful.”

Reesor-Keller recalls the attitude towards giving that she witnessed in her home growing up. There was never any kind of negativity about giving—or any feeling of obligation—just excitement about the opportunities and programs that are out there to support. “That’s one of the incredible things about giving money: that money can be turned into all kinds of things,” Reesor-Keller says. “My money can go out and do all kinds of things that I myself could never do, but that I think are really important.”

--Posted Jan. 18, 2012

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