UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Reality Check

Giving as God gives

By David Ewart

Of all the statistics in the United Church Year Book, perhaps the most important ones are about identified givers to local expenses and to the Mission and Service Fund. Because giving is at the heart of God. “For God so loved the world that God gave . . .” And learning how to give — with no thought of return, with no conditions attached, with no hesitation — is the core spiritual exercise of practising how to love as we have been loved by God.

The United Church began tracking identified givers (everyone who receives a tax receipt) in 1962. Like most of our statistics, the number of givers to local expenses declined for a decade. But unlike most of our statistics, it increased by 50,000, or 12 percent, from 1971 to 1986. Then, between 1986 and 2012, the number declined by almost 50 percent, from 466,000 to 240,000. Today, the threshold to be among the 10 percent of pastoral charges with the most local givers is 225. Half of pastoral charges have 93 or fewer givers to local expenses.

Generosity and empathy are built-in human instincts. But translating these instincts into daily practices requires nurture. Where can we learn to give as God gives, to love as God loves? This kind of giving is becoming a countercultural way of life.

For most of my ministry, I was always a bit embarrassed to preach the annual stewardship sermon. My salary, housing and travel were noticeably large bits of the budget. It looked like I was preaching for my supper. And so one year, I shocked my poor finance committee by saying, “We don’t want your money. Give it to someone else. We want your hearts. We want you to discover the joy, the exhilarating freedom from worry that comes from giving as God gives and loving as God loves, and from doing that every day in every way.”

This is the blessing of being an identified giver. It is the blessing we celebrate at Christmas as we welcome the birth of the child — a gift to us all from the original Identified Giver.

Rev. David Ewart is a United Church minister in Vancouver.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image