In this Sunday’s readings, Moses talks about seeing the glory of God. The letter to the church in Thessaloniki offers prayers and some insight into what is ahead. And Jesus in Matthew? It’s time to render unto Cesar what is Caesar’s.
How are you handling stewardship this year? The market was up 11% today, down much more last week.
It’s tricky, isn’t it? On the one hand, when the economy is struggling the church is needed more than ever. The food pantries where I live are struggling Much more than usual to keep up with demand. We’re trying to find ways to give more, help more.
On the other, many in the congregation can’t afford to give as much, much less more. Some of them are on fixed incomes. Others are newly unemployed.
On still another hand, most of us still have a way to go on tithing. What is the average person of faith in the United States giving away? 3%?
Consider Richard Semmler:
“Semmler, a 59-year-old mathematician, teaches calculus and algebra at Northern Virginia Community College. He can explain how to find the derivative of a polynomial… [and all sorts of complicated equations]. But in his private life, Semmler has reduced his existence to the simplest equation. In the last 35 years, by working part-time jobs and forgoing such everyday comforts as a home telephone and vacations, by living in an efficiency apartment and driving an old car, Semmler has donated as much as half of his annual income or more to charity. His goal: $1 million before he retires.
‘If I didn’t do all of the things I was doing, I would probably have a new car every two years and I would have a huge house with a huge pool,’ Semmler said this week as he took a break from pounding nails on a Habitat for Humanity house in Vienna. He donated $100,000 to this house, most of the money required to build it. He stared determinedly up at the half-finished house, his T-shirt streaked with sweat and sawdust. ‘But I would not do it that way,’ he said. ‘I want to do it this way.’
Percentage-wise, Semmler’s generosity is exceedingly rare among the middle-class — or the rich, for that matter, say those who study philanthropy. Each year, U.S. households give away an average of 2 percent of their income to nonprofit and religious organizations, according to Giving USA, which tracks donation trends. A household with Semmler’s annual income, $100,000, donates an average of $2,000 annually to charity.
Last year, Semmler gave away $60,000. ‘Life isn’t always about multiplying what you get, he explained. Sometimes, it’s about subtraction.’”
Jacqueline L. Salmon. “The Washington Post.” Professor Finds Fulfillment in Emptying His Pockets. Saturday, June 11, 2005.
So. Is it stewardship season where you are?
What word do you have that comforts, challenges, and encourages, all at the same time?