Happy New Year! It’s the beginning of a new season – a time when New Year’s Resolutions are often the order of the day. If you’re like me, those resolutions are usually about exercising more and eating less, although I do know folks who focus on other issues. This year, though, I’d like you to consider a different emphasis in your area of resolve. Perhaps you might think about how you’d like to grow spiritually in the coming year.
I remember many years ago I went to a Stewardship dinner at the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. I was a faithful member, who attended regularly and volunteered my time and talent at a high level, both teaching and administrating the Nursery program in an over 3,000 member congregation. At this dinner, we were at round tables which seated ten; I was seated next to a man about my age (in our thirties) who worked on Wall Street. The host of the gathering would ask a question and then each table was to discuss it among themselves. The only question I remember went like this: What is easier for you to give: time or money?
I was a young, single mom who had never pledged a dime to the church, even though I regularly put a small amount in the offering plate as it came by. It was very easy for me to confess that time was an easier commodity for me to give than cash. The man next to me, however, felt just the opposite. He worked 90+ hours a week at his job, making a small fortune (to me, anyway), but simply had no time to spare. I found it fascinating that we were both so similar and yet so different.
The host then challenged us to push ourselves to give to God just a little bit from the area that is a struggle. If we didn’t give financially, he asked us to pledge something, even if it was only $1 a week. If we didn’t give of our time, he asked us to participate in just one activity: spending the night at the homeless shelter we housed in our basement, or serving at Fellowship Time, or baking for and attending a potluck once a year. He then promised us that if we did, we would be the ones to benefit far more than the church would. That we would grow spiritually in ways that we could not possibly imagine.
I don’t know what the man sitting next to me did, but I pledged for the very first time ever that year. I resolved at that meeting to pledge $1 a week, but on Pledge Sunday I was so moved by the service, that I increased it to $2 a week. A drop in the bucket for 5th Avenue PC, but undeniably among the first steps that led me on the journey into the ministry. I cannot tell you how meaningful that act was for me spiritually – to give to God in an area that was challenging was in some ways more significant than giving in ways that I felt were more valuable and with which I was more comfortable. I would in fact argue that while 5th Avenue PC benefited more from my leadership in the Nursery, I benefited more from giving a relative pittance to the church itself.
So I challenge you to consider the question of what is easier for you to give to the church as you ponder your New Year’s Resolution(s), and to give just a little from the category that is more of a struggle. I guarantee that if you do, you will grow spiritually – and in fact, it just might change your life. I know this to be true. Personally.