The gift-giving season is upon us, and with it comes Christmas shopping for our loved ones. We all know people who will be running around the mall five minutes before closing time on Dec. 24, looking for that spontaneous token to tuck under the tree. Then there are those meticulous planners who have every gift listed in a spreadsheet and finished their shopping way back in October.
We are daily awash in choices and opportunities, and many of us are affluent enough to be able to choose among many options. Many of us make many choices even before we get out the door in the morning. Our stomachs are full, we live in fine houses, our income and assets have grown, our retirement funds are increasing, and our possessions keep multiplying.
The young couple was living far from home, juggling college studies and part-time work, in preparation for overseas missionary work. Their first child was due and then complications set in. It was a difficult birth, and the hospital bill totalled much more than their meagre budget allowed. When the time came for the new father to take mother and baby home, the hospital authorities balked.
Above: Donations from congregations and individuals to national and area/regional church bodies. (All dollar figures adjusted to 2018 dollars.)
Often our society relies too much on numbers. In gravitating to quantification we tend to short-circuit the truth, which is nuanced and multilayered.
But when it comes to our denomination, I would like to see more numbers. Specifically, how has overall giving to area/regional churches and Mennonite Church Canada changed over time?
In the early years of our marriage, my wife Sharon and I often sat through our pastor’s annual sermon on tithing consumed by the feeling that we should do more. A serious discussion always followed, but with monthly bills, a mortgage, car payments, and school fees for our daughter, it was difficult to find the means.
Although it is only November, my community is starting to put up festive decorations and the blank spaces on my calendar are filling up quickly. A list of gifts for family and friends will soon land me in checkout lines where I will almost certainly be asked perfunctorily, “How are you today?” Most customers will respond innocuously and some will be too preoccupied to respond at all.
Jesus said, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:2-4).