September 2018
Practical Stewardship

Because God Always Gives

This article is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.

How would I answer the question, why do I give to the church? There are plenty of references in the Bible about the generosity of our God. James 1:17 and Psalm 145, especially verses 13c-18, come readily to mind. Part of my answer is that giving is my response to God’s grace and mercy, because God always gives. It is also because people in my life showed me the privilege of giving and generosity in action.

It began with my grandparents

I view giving to the church a privilege because of my maternal grandparents. As a child, I would spend most weekends with my grandmother and step-grandfather. On Sunday mornings we would attend St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Atlantic City. The preparation for church included laying out our clothes, setting our hair and polishing our shoes. My grandfather didn’t have any hair to set, but polishing our shoes was his forte.

There was one more thing they always did. They would get their boxes of envelopes and choose the one for the upcoming Sunday. The envelopes were printed with a number that meant the envelope was theirs. They placed bills inside and sealed them. Grandmom’s went in her purse; Grandpop’s went in the inner pocket of his jacket.

Sunday morning, as the plate was passed, they would give their envelopes to the church. I would put in my coins but I wanted an envelope too. I didn’t understand tithing or stewardship yet. But watching their intentionality and the dutiful way they gave each week made giving seem a privilege. I still feel that way.

Love of neighbor in action

When I was about 10 years old, my mom had hernia surgery. My neighbor came to tell me there was a woman looking for my mom. It was one of my mom’s coworkers. She was standing by her car with the trunk opened. Inside were paper bags filled with groceries and household goods. There were two more cars with paper bags in their trunks as well.

I took the woman into my mom’s room and went to help bring the bags in. When we were finished, I returned to my mom’s room. She was crying and hugging the woman. On the bed was an envelope filled with bills.

There was no disability insurance in those days. There would be no paycheck for my mom for the six weeks she would be out of work. Her coworkers knew this even though I didn’t. Parents didn’t talk with their children about stuff like that back then. My mom’s coworkers made sure we had food and that my mom had some cash to take care of what was needed. Generosity in action; love your neighbor in practice.

Lessons in giving

Those experiences taught me about giving. I saw that one of the responsibilities as a member of a Christian community was to give from what we have been given. I saw my grandparents and my mom’s coworkers giving with a grateful and joyful heart. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those examples touched me deeply.

I witnessed the work of the church, the people of the church, as we cared for the homeless in our midst, the homebound in our congregation, new parents and even the buildings and grounds. It was done with the same intentionality and duty as my grandparents’ giving when I was a child.

There were times when I struggled to make ends meet and my giving was meager. Friends passed along hand-me-downs, shared meals and prayed for me. By God’s grace and the generosity of others, I managed to keep us fed and a roof over our heads.

I give because of God’s grace and the experience of seeing what happens when you give what you can. I give because it is a privilege to share what’s been given to me. I give because loving your neighbor includes generosity in action. I give because God always gives.

Rhonda Rogers is a senior in the IONA School of Ministry in the Diocese of Texas. She completed Education for Ministry (EfM) in 2003 and served as an EfM mentor. She became a parishioner at Trinity, Houston, TX after moving from Rochester, NY in 2010. Rhonda sits on the Rev. John Dublin Epps Chapter UBE board and is a member of the Commission on Black Ministry. An Associate with the Order of St. Helena and a member of Daughters of the King, Rhonda worked as a chemical engineer for Mobil and ExxonMobil for over 38 years before retiring in 2016.

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This article is part of the September 2018 Vestry Papers issue on Practical Stewardship