A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
4th April 2008
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Easter has come and gone again, with its strange reminder of giving. In Easter we see God's gift to us in the death of his Son—but that is not “strange” that is wonderful.
The strange reminder of giving that Easter brings is the financial contribution to the work of the Cathedral. For at Easter we see large crowds come to the Cathedral. But their financial giving is completely different to the regular Cathedral congregations. At Easter—as with Christmas and other times when the public come—the giving does not rise in the same way that the numbers of people attending increases. The increase in giving is an increase in coins, especially 5c coins. One Christmas we received $45 in 5c coins!
People who receive the gifts of others should always be thankful for whatever they receive. So it ill-behoves me to complain about other peoples' generosity. Yet good manners sometimes need to be set aside for the benefit of the other person. It is not a kindness to keep quiet about the wonderful blessing of being generous to others—especially being generous to the ministry of the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus taught: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). To stay quiet about this truth is to deny people the spiritual benefit of growing like our God the generous giver (2 Corinthians 8-9).
The amount of money a person gives is not as important. The generosity with which they give is. The size of the donation is not a reliable guide of a person's generosity. Jesus' comment on the widow who gave only two small copper coins teaches clearly that the amount of the money is not the key to true generosity. She “out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:4).
But credulity is stretched to the limit to imagine that over Easter so many destitute widows visited us. And when 5c is “all you have to live on” (or even two 5c coins), then we would not want the widow to give at all but would rather help her in her poverty.
What is striking is the difference in giving week by week and the giving on special occasions. For the weekly congregations knows the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have more commitment to the ministry of the gospel at the Cathedral. The visitors do not seem to have the same sense of the grace of God or support for the Cathedral's ministry.
There are two practical issues about giving money at Church. One is the mode of delivery and the other the amount.
We have available here two main modes of giving: electronic and cash. To give electronically we need only fill in the form that is available at the Cathedral door or from the office. To give by cash we have unmarked envelopes to assist in maintaining consistency and privacy.
Of course people can put loose cash into the collection bags. But many of us find that this can lead to a bad habit. We wind up giving to God's work whatever happens to be “left over” in our purse or pocket. It is hardly a prayerfully planned commitment to the things of God. It is a sad commentary on our attitude to the gospel—to give the leftovers.
Those who count the money tell me that most 5c coins are in the loose change not in the envelopes. Some have asked me to tell the impoverished widows that the envelopes are free and we gladly provide them to anybody who wants to share in the joy of generosity.
The other question is how much to give.
The Bible sets no amount. The Old Testament required the people of Israel to give a tithe (10%). Not just any old tithe but importantly the first ten percent. It was top priority to give to God's kingdom. Working out 10% has the advantage of simplicity. If I am on an average wage of $50,000 dollars a year, then 10% comes to $5000 a year or about $100 a week.
But the New Testament does not limit giving to 10%. Christians are called upon to be generous like God—who gave us his only Son.
Generosity or grace is a way of life for God's people. We are saved by grace and we live by grace. As God generously gave his Son so we rejoice to give our time or hospitality for others or to farewell our children to the mission field of the world. And as God has provided everything for our needs so we give to others with that same sense of generosity.
But what am I giving to if I give money to the Cathedral?
At the annual General Meeting at the end of May we spell out the financial details of the Cathedral. But in broad principle the Cathedral giving is used to pay for the staff, and the costs of running the congregations' programmes.
At the moment the congregations do not pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings. Those costs are met from the interest on investments.
While our giving is nearly 20% more this year than last, we are still well below the amount required to expand the ministry of the Gospel in the city as we would all like to. For example, we have allocated almost no money for advertising.
Easter should remind us of God's generosity. But the Easter giving reminds us to review our commitment to give to the work of reaching the city of Sydney with the gospel of God's generosity.