This perspective post was provided by Mary Lynne Stewart, National Director of Fund Development and Communications, March of Dimes as part of our faith and giving series.
Many Christians support their churches and clergy with monetary contributions of one kind or another. Frequently, this is called tithing, whether or not it follows the 10% rule of the Old Testament. Tithing was an ingrained Jewish custom of the time of Jesus, but no specific command to tithe is found in the New Testament. The New Testament guidelines challenge Christians to give in a manner that is proportionate to one’s income, and that is consistent, sacrificial and joyful.
We are not just asked to give part of what we have, but all that we have. We all have gifts – some obvious, and others less so. Peter, in his first letter says, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each has received”. As stewards, we gladly share with others our time, our talent and our treasure without ceasing.
It’s important for us to remember that what we have in this realm is temporary, on loan from God. Our belongings are not who we are, and they should not define us. What we do with what we have, however, speaks to who (and whose) we are.
Jesus would say, “Life is God’s gift to us. How we live is our gift to God.”
What are the implications of those teachings and practice in everyday life of our members? Within the Anglican framework we encourage our members to make a commitment to give – of their ability, their time, their prayers and their money, and to make their giving regular, reliable, and real. Everyone, regardless of their income level and their circumstances, is encouraged to give something on a regular basis, and to consider the gift and its amount in a thoughtful and prayerful way. We are also encouraged to give of our first fruits, as opposed to what is left over. In this way, we make the needs of God’s church, and its ministry, a priority in our life.
Having made our gift, it is important that we feel it is making a difference! This means our leadership needs to communicate that our gifts are appreciated, and to show they are being used to advance God’s kingdom – both locally and in the world.
What does giving mean to me personally?
Giving is extremely important to me. I was raised in a Pentecostal church and, as a small child, was taught to tithe. I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life as a professional fundraiser for several charities, and I am very familiar with asking people to give!
As such, I’ve learned several things! First, even small amounts of time, talent and resources can generate big results, if enough people are involved and committed. Second, to get that commitment it is crucial that individuals understand what it is they are being asked to support, and to connect them with outcomes, so they can see the results of their giving. This gives them joy and encourages them to do more. People like to be appreciated, and like to know that they are making a difference!
We are so fortunate to live in Canada, and to be so abundantly blessed. But this means we have a responsibility to share our blessings with others, and to help those who are less fortunate than we are. It also means we have to understand that our neighbors are not just down the block, or only in our country, but are those to whom we can reach out in other parts of the world. God has also called us to be his stewards on earth, which means we also have a responsibility to care for our environment and the wonderful world God has provided to us. Nothing is more important to me than teaching my two children about God’s generosity and our duty to give back to others in His name.
Mary Lynne Stewart, National Director of Fund Development and Communications, March of Dimes
Mary Lynne Stewart has been a fundraiser for the past 30 years, has attended Anglican churches for 20 years (including Church of the Resurrection) and is presently a Stewardship Coach for the Diocese. She has been the National Director of Fund Development and Communications at March of Dimes as for the past 10 years and previously the Director of Development for the Christian Children’s Fund. She has established her own company (Mary Lynne Stewart & Associates Inc.) to work with many non-profit clients, including Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Liver Foundation.