(This was originally published in my church’s monthly newsletter. It was written while we were in the midst of our annual budget drive. The theme of the campaign was Fearless Generosity)
As to being fearless, I’ll admit that I have a few fears. One of them is an I.R.S. audit. Not that David and I have anything to hide – we do not. But however irrational my fear of an audit is, it’s there nonetheless.
My fear was realized this year. It was not a full-blown audit, just one part of our return was being questioned. We were audited because the amount of our charitable giving exceeded the normal/expected for people in our income level. Specifically, the amount given to one particular organization was called into question. It was the amount we gave to our church in 2012. The good news is we were able to document our figures, and the I.R.S. ruled in our favor, even finding another $53 to refund to us! What surprises me is that our level of giving seemed unusual enough that attention was called to it.
David and I have grown in our giving over the last several years. I am the pastor and in that role I’m called to challenge my congregation to be generous givers. But I’m also a member of the church. On our first Sunday in 2007, David and I walked forward to place our membership. As members, we are prayerfully considering our own gift. I cannot have integrity about asking anyone to give unless I also challenge myself. Though we give to other organizations, our church home receives the major portion. When David retired and our income was reduced, we seriously considered whether we could keep giving at the same level. But when it came to actually writing an amount on the pledge card, we just couldn’t reduce it. We decided instead to increase as we have every year since we joined in 2007.
This year when we filed our taxes, our percentage of giving was 13% of our Adjusted Gross Income. I say this not to brag because I know we could have given more. We’ve not reached a level of sacrificial giving yet. We do not live extravagantly but certainly we live comfortably. We cook what we want without much regard for how much it costs. We eat out occasionally. We go to ballgames and the theater. We travel. We indulge our children. I can honestly say that as we have made a commitment to giving more away, we have also become less fearful about not having enough for ourselves.
Getting to this level of giving has been a lifelong process. Not everyone is where we are. My encouragement is to start. If you’ve already started, dig deeper this year. Make a promise to yourself and to your church. Yes, it’s bold, but we are people who have been called to follow Jesus who said: so do not be afraid. (Matthew 10:31)
Pastor Kris Eggert