by Kimberlee Conway-Ireton, Bethany member and author
O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —Second Collect for Morning Prayer, Book of Common Prayer
My husband, Doug, and I talked several times about our financial journey from debt to freedom. One of the greatest joys of living within your means and managing your money (rather than having your money manage you) is that it frees you up to give with joy. Tithing is, on the one hand, an act of obedience, but it is also an act of freedom and joy.
Christianity is chock full of paradoxes, and this is another of them—that God commands our obedience, and yet we can only truly obey in freedom. As the collect says, God’s service is perfect freedom.
Financial giving is one of the ways we participate in God’s service. It’s one of the ways that we participate in bringing “up there down here,” as Eugene Peterson’s version of the Lord’s Prayer has it. In our finitude, Doug and I can do very little to help God’s kingdom come. But that little is all that God requires.
On the day that we were married, Dan Baumgartner read the story of the loaves and the fishes at our wedding, and he charged us to always remember that Jesus is more than enough. When we fill out our pledge card each year, it is like giving a couple of loaves and a few fish for God to use through Bethany. It’s not much; it’s simply what we have. And look what God does—uses it to provide:
• income for our pastors and staff
• heat for our building
• art and craft supplies for our kids
• food for Wednesday Night Dinners
• support for mission partners around the world.
Doug and I cannot personally be involved in all of those things—nor can you—but when we give our loaves and our fish, God does something wonderful. He multiplies it. He makes it possible for me, despite my finitude, to participate in Christ’s Gift Academy and John Perkins’ racial reconciliation work and Bible translation and literacy initiatives and feeding the hungry. The money we give—our little loaves and fish, offered faithfully, obediently, and joyfully—allows us to be part of supporting so much goodness, so many instances of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in Heaven.
As you think and pray about giving to Bethany next year, may I encourage you to remember that your loaf—or half a loaf if that’s all you’ve got—is what God starts with. All Jesus’ miracles began with something—water, fish, bread—something that was not enough…and Jesus transformed it into more than enough. This is why I give: because I love to see the miracles unfold, and I love to know that I played a part in bringing them to pass.