A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
18th May 2007
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Generosity is a matter of the heart not the wallet. It is an attitude of willingness to share with others the blessings that are ours. We can be generous with our money but we can also be generous with our time and energy, our expertise and skills, our interest and hospitality. We can be generous with anything that we have. Most importantly we should be generous with ourselves—giving ourselves to others.
God is gracious. His people are marked by the same generosity. He gives freely to us. His people similarly are open-handed and charitable.
For the last four years the financial giving at the Cathedral has been increasing each year. This is great for several reasons. Firstly it indicates a growth in the congregations. Not just a growth in numbers attending. More significantly it indicates a growth in grasping the grace of God.
It means that the Cathedral congregations have got closer to paying our own way rather than depending upon grants and subsidies.
It means that we have been able to concentrate our efforts on ministering the gospel rather than fund raising activities.
It frees us from having to refer to money in the congregational meetings where many guests and visitors are present.
It gives us the opportunity to expand the ministry of the gospel into new areas, and to better meet the needs of our existing work.
But the task of growing the Cathedral ministry has only just begun. We are still not paying our own way, let alone buying up the opportunities before us. We need to about double the present level of giving to pay our way fully.
So the time has come to explain again our finances. Put simply: the giving of the congregations pays for the ministry at the Cathedral and the investments pay for the maintenance of the buildings.
We do not charge entry fees or pew rents. Anybody can attend our meetings without payment. Nor are members charged an annual subscription rate or a joining fee. Ours is the gospel of grace that is freely offered and invites and challenges people to be generous.
But what does this generosity looks like in concrete terms?
It is the regular members and partners in the gospel at the Cathedral who pay for the ministry. If they support the work with their tithe they generally do not give coins but notes, or transfer money electronically.
A tithe is simply ten percent of income. At present the average wage is $55,000 per year. This makes the arithmetic simple. An average tithe would be about $100 a week. Of course many of us earn more and many of us earn less than this amount—and so a tithe would be different for each of us. But on average if we were tithing we would be giving $100 a week.
Christians are not commanded to give tithes to the church for several reasons. The law of Israel concerning tithes had to do with Levites and the temple. The local church, or Cathedral in our case, is not the only place to be generous—we need to support other worthy causes especially world mission. Furthermore Christians do not limit their generosity to only ten percent. If the Law of Moses could require ten percent—the grace of Jesus will generate greater generosity.
It is good that our generosity is directed more widely than the Cathedral. But it is important to know that the Cathedral ministry continues to be held back by lack of financial support.
Big “special event” congregations are often made up of guests and visitors to the Cathedral. They often do not give out of generosity but embarrassment when the bags are passed around. The treasurer, and those involved in counting the giving, assure me that the bigger the congregation the smaller the giving and the greater the number coins—especially 5c coins!
Nobody should decry or despise the widow's 5c donation. It is can be the most acceptable gift. For it displays true generosity. But remember the widow that Jesus commended was doing more than tithing. Her two small copper coins were far greater than ten percent. Jesus said of her “she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” She was commended not for the size of her gift but for her generosity in giving it.
I would ask those of us who have made our spiritual home here at the Cathedral, to look again at our level of giving and how much of it can be directed towards the ministry at St Andrews.
“…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.