E-pistle January 7

Money as Spiritual Stimulus

If you are employed – and thank God if you are, your paycheck should be bigger this week whether you received a first of the year raise or not. You probably know that part of the last-minute tax deal crafted by the President and the Congress is a one-time, one-year, reduction in Social Security taxes. Last year – and next year – you paid and will pay 6.2% of your income in FICA, Social Security, taxes. But this year, and this year alone, we will pay only 4.2% of our income (up to $106,800) to the Social Security Trust Fund. In other words, you get a 2% raise.

According to those who keep track of such things, the median household income in our 19047 zip code is $83,000. If we are typical of the area, then, we will have $1,660 more to spend this year than we did last year – or will have to spend next year. $138 per month. $32 per week.

The theory behind the “raise” we’ve been given is that we’ll spend it. The government has a pretty good idea of who we are. Our spending is supposed to stimulate the economy. If enough of us decide to save our $32 a week until summer and then use it for a couple of days at the shore, there may be more jobs for motel maids and waiters and dishwashers. If we buy a new television or computer, Best Buy or Walmart may add some clerks to the payroll. You get it. It’s this idea that buying stuff is our patriotic duty.

Now, I am not suggesting that we not be patriotic, but what if we used some of this personal stimulus money for Kingdom good? That is, what we set aside, say, just 10% of our Uncle Sam windfall to be used in spreading the gospel in word and in deed? On an average it would be just $3.20 per week. $13.80 a month or $166 by the time our one-time bonus year was over.

You could send a Guatemalan child to school for a year or provide a month’s worth of Aid for Friends meals to someone in our community. You could supply classroom supplies for the students at Hunting Park Christian Academy. You could add to our VBS fund and so that we can be sure that no child is turned away for lack of registration fees. You could help a youth go to New Orleans on this summer’s Work Camp or help buy some additional supplies to aid in the renovation of still storm-damaged houses. You could help us promote the good things that are happening at LPC or you could help us get ready for that six-figure roof and parking lot repair bill that’s going to come due sometime in the next few years. If each of our 250 or so active families tithed the stimulus, that would be $41,500 worth of Kingdom work.

LPC’s finances are in good shape. We have closed 2010 with a modest surplus after ending 2009 with $50,000 worth of red ink. It is a grace of God manifested in some tough decisions your Session made, in good stewardship by staff and volunteers, and by the faithful and generous giving of each one of us even in these tough times. Thank you.

So this extra giving is not about balancing the church budget. It is about spiritual growth. Jesus knew that we’d always be tempted to run off to Walmart or Best Buy when we had a little bit of extra change in our pockets. He knew about our desire to have stuff. But he said there is something more important than stuff. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal,” he said.

And then he said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well.”

$3.20 is a pretty good price for spiritual workout. $166 might do a lot of Kingdom good. The joy and peace that comes from the discipline of letting go and trusting God is priceless.

Oh, one more thought, why get used to something this year that’s going to be taken away next year? It might not be patriotic, but you could forgo the stuff altogether and give it all away, for God’s sake.