Service and Bipartisanship in Faith (About Giving)
If you live actively in your faith, and you know that God has the power to change bad attitudes, is it possible to listen to something you do not agree with and still find truth in it?
I think that is a very valid question, in terms of faith. Sometimes when I read about God’s work in people’s lives or hear about how he has changed others’ lives or the things he has done, I miss the entire point.
If someone talks about the Bible, yet is hateful in how they speak of it, does that negate the goodness that they quote in Scripture? Well, I think that is also your choice.
Do you put more authority on the words of that specific person, or on the will of God to transcend their mistakes, and make all things good? I know for a fact that often, I am wrong. But I think that is kind of what is fair to expect of someone who is my age in general. I know that I do not have things figured out, and I trust that God will bring the right people into my life to teach me, if I allow him to. It is my responsible to learn what I can from those people, because as I age, I will inevitably become some one’s role model, as I already am. I have many teachers in my life, and in order to not invalidate the blessings they have given me, I have to steward what I know well, in order so that it might bless others. That is in faith. That is in college. That is in everything else I do, if I truly believe I walk with God’s love. If I expect that he would fight for me, than I have to open my heart up to be continuously changed, otherwise he will not be able to. I will have closed myself of to the grace of God. I will probably be miserable. And because I know that my misery will affect others that I care about, I cannot allow that to happen.
Now, imperfection is one thing. But judging others for things I am also guilty of is dangerous, in terms of balance. I am meant to be continuously less, so that I might be more like Christ. He will be the one responsible to judging me. I want to be more like him so that I can understand his goodness more. If I presume my imperfection is less imperfect (as in, others are more perfect than me), then I invariably judge them harsher. The simple act of making others greater means that I do not have the same grace with them as I would ask for, for myself. If I make myself greater than others, then I judge them with less harsh criteria, which is not good because not only does it let them off the hook and assume God’s authority is my own (by being greater than other humans), but it teaches them to try to possess more than they are due, and thus, have an overly large ego.
Now, all of us have ego. But living in accordance with God’s will is about balance. “In accordance” is “to make same”, yes? Well, if that is true, then balance is the entire point.
Which begs the question: If the words that someone speaks are out of balance (judgmental/overly excusing), what is my role?
Well, let me answer that with a question: What did God tell you your role would be?
Regardless of anyone else’s beliefs, you will be judged according to your actions, BY FAITH. If your faith doesn’t support your actions, then you should not make them. If your faith does support your actions, then allow them to bless others. It’s math.
God calls us to support one other in very specific ways. Tithing. Reading your Bible. Stuff that is meant to make you stronger, and bless the lives of the people you care about through service.
I do not currently tithe. But I should. I want to commit to making that happen. I know God will bless that, because it explicitly states in Scripture that he will, and the history of planned giving, as well as the Nonprofit sector, was formed of organized, charitable giving, first from God’s people, then from various others, as it became more common and widely accepted. Now, God clearly started that trend, as he does all good for his own end. However, it did take a while. Christians post-Jesus had to really take it seriously. If you believe in God’s goodness, then you must also know that it does not exist in a vacuum. If you believe that God can change lives, then you also believe that he can change your life, as he changes the lives of those who have a variety of different means. If you believe he changes the lives of the poor, and yet you do not believe that he could call you into equality and in giving, then you must not know how big he can be. He is infinite.
Today, I do not have much to give. I have literally cried about that, and recently. But I know that God judges me in proportion to what I do have, as Jesus judged the widow with just a few coins, somewhere in Matthew (or Luke?). I don’t know the verse, so I challenge you to help me out if you want to know and look for it. I do not have much to give today. But I trust that someday, I will have more that I can give away.
I am going to provide some historical and biblical context for why tithing is important, and if you keep reading, it may be of some additional help to you, wherever you are at.
In the United States, there are three sectors: The Private Sector (Businesses), the Public Sector (Government), and the Nonprofit/Independent Sector. Churches are tax exempt because of the historical role they played in developing some of the services and philanthropic efforts for all people, and the way that they still do.
The way the Nonprofit Sector classifies gifts, in terms of Annual Giving by estimates done by the National Center for Community Service, is in dollars worked, off of the minimum wage (Sources: http://nccs.urban.org/nccs/statistics/Charitable-Giving-in-America-Some-Facts-and-Figures.cfm or http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412923-the-nonprofit-sector-in-brief.pdf). The first link is a good summary of what Americans gave for the 2012 fiscal year, and the second is a slightly more detailed summary of what good that giving can do overall, in the United States (and often also abroad). In case you are unaware, the United States Nonprofit Sector is completely unique in the way it functions and the IRS tax code that supports its’ efforts, in tax-exempt status. If you have ever seen “501c3”, that is what it refers too, although like other tax codes, the tax code can be spelt different for the specific functions it serves. Often, estimates of annual giving are based off of actual dollars, and the minimum wage estimate for what those hours are worth. For the 2012 year in the United States, “total private giving from individuals, foundations, and businesses exceeded $300 billion ($316.23 billion) for the first time since the recession started, an increase of nearly 4 percent from 2011, after adjusting for inflation” (Urban Institute, 2013). In the same 2012 year time frame, “Volunteers contributed 12.7 billion hours…worth an estimated $259.6 billion” (Urban Institute, 2013).
So, $300 billion dollars in actual dollars, and $259.6 billion dollars in actual hours. I may not have much money, but I can certainly donate my time. That kind of thinking was actually what laid the foundation for the Nonprofit Sector as the United States knows it.
In Judeo-Christian Culture, charity used to just mean giving a person the opportunity to earn their keep, based on actual labor. When families owed significant debt, they could become a type of indentured servant, earning room and board and eventually repaying that debt. For much of human history, philanthropy was taking care of people’s needs and giving them the opportunity to work for more, over time. That is how Jacob worked to marry Leah, and then Rebekkah. Laban certain lied, but the point is, Jacob worked for what he loved; and the right to marry the woman he loved. It may have been somewhat rocky, what with marrying her sister, but Jacob proved his love by stepping up to the plate and complying with what was expected of him, in order to have that right.
Similarly, the Nonprofit Sector came from mostly churches, and over time, the social institutions that were put in place (like Public Education) to make all good things possible. It may have been a few hundred years, but in the United States, public education did not used to be a thing. It had to be instituted, and even though people squabble over it like it hardly matters, the ability to school your own children based on your faith has always been granted to United States Citizens, based on First Amendment rights (which the country was founded on, given the Revolutionary War and religious tensions from Puritans and other settlers on out). Public education is an institution that exists to educate all children equally. That may not be the case, but Public education also evolves over the years, and it was not designed to exist within a vacuum. If parents believe the sole responsibility of educating their children rests with Teachers, those Teachers will eventually become much more like Parents. And that should be no surprise, given how little practical knowledge so many children have going in and coming out of school.
US History is important to understand how money has changed the landscape of the entire world, often for the worse. I hate that it is that way, but there is a reason that many countries perceive US citizens as entitled and rude, across their individual differences. Clearly, that is not true of all people that travel. But due to the apathy of individual people over time, education, and the divisions that currently exist within our own country, individuals can export that same sense of division and strife. And if the sentiment of chaos isn’t appreciated at home, why would stubbornness be appreciated overseas?
As the political landscape of the United States changes periodically, people often believe that Democracy as a whole exists within that same vacuum. It is ironic that the same people who criticize the political system that the US has functioned upon for only several hundreds of years, regardless of their political affiliation, do not participate in it. If you want the right to an opinion, vote. Otherwise, who are you to give an opinion you did not prioritize, given the direct opportunity you had to change the world right then? So many people believe they are better than others, and thus, they do not take the time to actually invest in the political system they care about. What is the point of your complaining then? It is just a distraction from your own bad choices.
Politics in the United States was designed on a two party system increasingly more over the course of history because each party represents polar opposites, or at least has in recent years. Knowing that the majority of the American people fall somewhere in between radical political actions, given their personal experiences and priorities, it makes sense that politicians would attempt to mimic their constituency as best they can. However, that doesn’t always happen, as the entire world knows. As the political majority becomes increasingly more centers around middle-class priorities, and elected officials want to retain their jobs, clearly reforms that benefit all people will be more necessary. Although there are many factors that influence politics, information, money, ego, and faith all factor into people’s decision making, as a whole. Our politicians aren’t exempt from that, and they shouldn’t be.
If you believe in Christ, then you must also know that no one else can be perfect like him. If people place Politicians in places of perfection and utmost authority, the entire idea behind democracy collapses. If people are unable to have civil conversations about all people’s needs, the whole idea dies. If people do not accept one another’s differences, causes for just anger, and insecurity in simply being alive, due to how quickly the winds of change can come, we all become freaking miserable. If you have two people arguing about something trivial, a Republican and a Democrat, and meanwhile, people are being shot across the street, would you be scared? The same basic thing is happening now, in terms of people who die due to lack of financial stability, homelessness, racial violence, drug addiction, human trafficking, gang membership, and 1000 other real life realities that may not be yours. Would you dare to learn what you can do to help from the people who legitimately have to help the majority of time: the Nonprofit Sector, and the people who live that reality themselves? Would you dare to talk about it, knowing that you know nothing, and risking judgment when someone insults your willingness to learn? So many people serve this country in ways that defy political affiliation. That should be a given, regardless of your political affiliation. If God calls you to be blameless in the eyes of others, isn’t it proper to be willing to have hard conversations, and realize that all people, inside or outside of a church or political party, or specific amount of knowledge, can be fallible? I believe he asks that of us.
I may not have much to give, but I will give. I will make that resolution because I believe it is expected of me by God. I believe he can take what I have and make it greater, in whatever way he pleases. The same thing with increasing my knowledge and understanding of Scripture. There are resources available to me, and I believe in working to know all that I can, because I believe that there is a good likelihood that what I know will be useful to myself and others over the course of my life, as it already has been. I may not be perfect, but nothing is impossible in Christ. And that is who I’m putting my faith in.