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Grudge Giving, Drudge Giving, Thanks Giving

One writer has suggested that there are three ways of giving. There is grudge giving. There is drudge giving. And there is thanks giving (R.D. Rodenmayer, adapted). The distinction goes something like this. You get your pledge card in the mail. How do you respond? Well, one way might go like this: “Oh, no. Here we go again. Money, money, money. That’s all this church ever seems to want. What right do they have to invade my private life? I’ve got bills to pay. I’ve got places to go. I’ve got things to buy. I attend worship. I drag my kids to Sunday school. I usher six times a year. What more do they want? And if money is such a big deal, how come they spent so much on a printed brochure and first class postage? I guess I’ll fill out this darn card just to get them off my back.” That, my friends is grudge giving, built upon resentment. And, did you notice that somehow the “they” never includes the “me?”

A second response might go something like this. You get your pledge card in the mail. “Oh, oh. It’s that time of year again. Boy, do I hate it when these stewardship mailings come. They make me feel so guilty. I know that I should be more generous, because it is my duty as a good Christian to support the program and mission of the church. The Bible says that I should tithe. The Bible says that relatively wealthy people should give more—and set an example. I know that raising my pledge is the thing I should and ought to do. So I’ll force myself to do it. BUT. They better appreciate the sacrifice this represents.” That, my friends, is drudge giving. And dutiful as it is, it never feels very good.

A third possible response actually has very little to do with money. It goes something like this: Your telltale envelope arrives in the mail. And you say to yourself, “Oh, good. This must be my pledge card. This gives me another chance to respond to all the goodness in my life. I really have been blessed—family, intelligence, satisfying work, a beautiful autumn season, a mind and body to grow and stretch and enjoy God’s world. The Bible reminds us “that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psa. 24:1) I am so grateful for the fullness of my life, for the goodness of God’s generosity to me and to this world. And I so much want to bring fullness and goodness to those in the world whose lives are not as comfortable as mine. Hmmm—the church is asking for a significant hike this year in order to turn around a pattern of using year-end surpluses to balance the budget. Makes sense—and besides, there seems to be lots of new energy at the church this year. I guess I’ll say thanks to God by increasing my pledge, while I continue to give generously to the United Way, to the college alumni fund, to Bethesda Cares, to the presidential campaign fund. In all areas of my giving I want to reflect my Christian values.” This, my friends, is one example of thanks giving. Perhaps a bit utopian, but biblical nonetheless.

- Susan Andrews, "Sacred Squandering," in Perspectives, online journal of the Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA), November 2003