By Carolyn Shields
For years I justified not giving to the Church…or to anything or anyone really. And for the most part I had really good justifications why. I was a student up until a few years ago. I simply didn’t have the money and arguably still don’t. My monthly grocery budget has been about $130 for almost a year now. I’m living what I call the triple whammy: I work for the Church, carry a lot of student debt, and live in a city. Sometimes my justifications weren’t linked to money, but came from grounds that I give in other ways. I give my time. I run a website whose fruits I pray are beneficial for the Church. I offer my prayers.
But there’s always just something about giving money, you know?
I come from a very generous family, one whose members climbed out of poverty one by one. My grandmother will never forget when she couldn’t spare a dime to send my uncle on a field trip and several times our local church would provide meals to my mom’s family. Decades later, several of my uncles own their own businesses and one of their greatest characteristics is their generosity. I’ve always deeply admired this and as I’ve gotten older, I deeply desire to be someone who is also generous.
I want to be able to give to the offertory. I long to give my little siblings a nice graduation gift or to give my older sister a beautiful wedding gift. I want to pick up the check when my friend meets me for dinner or bring in doughnuts for my coworkers on a Monday without sweating it. I dream of spoiling my nieces and nephews and not having to cringe and crunch numbers when someone sends me an email about their mission trip.
Maybe you’re there too and your justifications can be a mile long about why you don’t or can’t give, and some of them I’m sure are really good about why you don’t tithe or give money to some worthy cause. And for sure, giving your time and your gifts and your talents are so, so, so valuable. Working at a Church opened my eyes to how valuable that actually is. But still…there’s just something about money, isn’t there?
It wasn’t until recently that I began to truly recognize God’s providence in my life. He would provide exactly what I need, shuffle that Daily Bread my way, and always-always-always somehow managed to take care of me. Sometimes it looked like money but more often it didn’t.
So I decided it was time to apply that faith to my wallet. And these have been my reflections I learned along the way:
Giving Coughs Up A Lot Of Emotions
Mainly, fear from taking a risk. And if you think about it, that’s exactly what the devil would want you to feel when you hesitate in reaching for your wallet, right? Giving feels uncomfortable because it’s the gateway to God’s providence. It’s literally emptying our hands and trusting that God is going to provide, and we know that when He provides, really good stuff happens. A Church grows. A missionary is sent off. A seminarian becomes a priest.
2. But God Won’t Be Outdone In Generosity
I guess I heard this before but never really knew what it meant, which is simply: if you give, God is gonna look out for you. Do you really think that if we give out of a place of faith and with wise judgement, He’s going to kick us out on the streets, even when we’re on a shoestring budget? He’s going to see that you are acting like the widow and giving your few cents and bless you!
3. Because Every Time You Give, It’s An Opportunity To Grow In Trust
Every single time you give, you are saying, “Ok Jesus, I trust you. I know that You will provide. I know that You will take care of me.” You are literally putting your money where your mouth is. It can be easy to pray our prayers sometimes, to mirror those words of St. Faustina, but giving is a way to turn that prayer into an act. And that’s pretty powerful!
4. It’s Actually Not That Hard
My job has gotten a lot more into the development realm, a place I never thought I’d enter. I wrote SAINTS (available here!) when I was fundraising for a mission trip in college (you know, instead of studying for finals) because I hated asking people for money. So in my mind, I thought, “I’ll just write and sell a book to avoid getting all humble and swallowing my pride.” (It kind of worked, by the way).
But what getting into fundraising and stuff has taught me is that recurring gifts are like 10x better than one time gifts. So whether you’re giving to a foundation or the offertory, it’s important to remember that adjusting to this new expense is actually kind of…easy.
Former venture capitalist David Chilton encourages us to think about how easy it is to adjust to a raise in pay. After about three months, we pretty much forget that our income increased by $5, $50, or $100/month. Similarly, when we give $5+ a month, our finances also adjust incredibly quickly! Chilton uses this example to demonstrate how we can overcome our fears of investing our money. He even uses the example of the poor young woman like myself! “How can I afford to put $100 back each month into long term savings when I am barely making ends meet now?!” His response was “It’s easier than you think.”…and what better way to invest your money than in the future of the Church?!
So! I encourage you to take this to prayer. In what ways is God asking you to become more generous? What is holding you back? And if it is through giving monetarily, to whom? To where?
I also want to use this occasion to share with you that for the next four weeks, I am fundraising for the David and Carol Shields Vocational Training Center in Uganda. It’s a long, crazy story, but I visited Uganda for several weeks after a reader invited me to speak at a women’s conference. My dad accompanied me for the first week and now this dear reader has built a school dedicated to women’s empowerment and named it after us. Dad became known as “Daddy Dave” and I was simply “mzungu,” or “mzu” for short, meaning, “white person.”
Kasaali Village is in the middle of nowhere and can’t be found on a map, and I’m pretty sure we were the 2nd and 3rd white people to ever visit. Having my dad present left a MUCH bigger impact than anything I offered these women in my talk or the classes I put on, something neither of us expected! To see a man willing to travel half way around the world to protect his daughter spoke VOLUMES to this community, especially since far too often men in rural Uganda abandon families or fall to alcoholism or domestic violence. Women are significantly deemed “subordinate,” which is easily visible—some girls told me about their shaming from having their period, polygamy is common, and women are left to feed their families on their own.
My friend built this school to address this issue head on and her work truly inspires me. The school provides multiple classes women can take to either grow in a career such as hairdressing and provides various courses on issues such as self-confidence, leadership, and more.
Jackline reached out recently stating that currently the school only has one sewing machine with several women attempting to learn this skill. The ONE THING I wished I could have brought with me and didn’t was a needle and thread to mend the childrens’ clothes. This month I’d like you to help me raise some funds to help grow the sewing program at the school.
THANK YOU for taking the time to read this and take those leaps of faith! Give!