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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 17/09/2020

Bishop Richard

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s video. I promise, as this is the final video before our gift day, that this is the last time I’ll talk about money for a while. I watched the falling viewing figures from last weeks, which were as I suspected. Despite Jesus talking about money a lot, its still a subject we’d like to avoid. However, undeterred, I shall press on.

In the last two weeks I’ve been trying to do several things. Inspire you with stories of God’s provision, tried to link giving to discipleship and prayer and invited us to examine our attitudes to money. The picture God gives us of himself in Ephesians chapter I is one on rich generosity and provision. This is the God we serve.

This week I want to zero in and make it a bit personal. It’s a good rule of leadership that one shouldn’t exhort people to something you aren’t prepared to do yourself. I am going to break free from English reticence and say a little bit about how Deborah and I work out our giving and particularly where we’ve discerned God is calling us in this gift day.

We take as our base the advice throughout the Old Testament which is the tithe of 10%. It doesn’t specify whether that’s before tax or after tax, but I don’t think its simply of our disposable income after everything else is accounted for. The 10% sum was about the only part of the Pharisee’s religious practice Jesus didn’t criticise. But he pointed them to an even more generous standard, predicated on the fact that everything we have is gift and tithing is just a response to that. In fact, in the Old Testament the tithe was the start, to be supplemented by free-will offerings over and above for special needs.

Jesus recognised that economics is the sum of our frail human choices and value systems. If you want to change the practice you need to change the heart. When he sat observing the ostentatious giving practices in the Temple he both commended the widow for her extravagant generosity and chastised the wealthy who gave far more, but who hardly noticed the difference. In that case he was concerned about the power dynamics of giving as well. I have a very wealthy friend who delights to give anonymously because he is aware of how easy it is for people to become beholden to one another. I confess to getting furious in a parish once with someone whose ostentatious and large gifts were tied to the church being run in the way they wanted. That’s not Christian giving its manipulation and blackmail.

The guidelines from the good old C of E centrally are fairly clear suggesting 10% of our income, half going to mission or charity, and half through the local church. It remains the case that if Anglicans actually did give at that level we would have so much money we wouldn’t know what to do with it. Most of our non-conformist friends do give at that level and are able to fund some extraordinary and fruitful ministries as a result.

Our experience has been was that tithing was hard when we first got married, but we discovered we always had enough. In fact, at times when finances were a bit tight I discovered our giving hadn’t kept pace with our income. Restoring the tithe paradoxically made things easier! Stuff went further, unexpected cheques arrived etc. etc.

As we approach our diocesan gift day we are following (as in so many other areas) the example of Michael Tavinor the Dean. For us, this is a free will offering so we have worked out how much we have saved during lockdown, and we’re giving half to mission and half to the Diocesan board of finance. I won’t tell you exactly how much (I am still English after all) but it is a four figure sum.

I know some of you listening to this will think this is naïve rambling, in fact you may not have got this far. However, I remain undaunted. Mercifully, unlike some cults, Christian giving is a matter between you and God. I repeat what Paul said, “each person should decide in their heart what to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a hilarious giver. I hope you have a hilarious gift day, either this weekend or in the coming weeks (I know it works better for some parishes to do it earlier of later than the 20th) All I ask is that you prayerfully consider this, don’t have a kneejerk negative reaction. Ask God about your giving and let’s give thanks to God for his provision.

Have a good week and may God bless you with a generous response to his generosity.

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