Growing up, I was always impressed by the generosity of my father. In many ways, he had a rather unassuming upbringing. As the son of Polish immigrants, he understood very well what scarcity meant: his family had few luxuries, everyone was expected to contribute to the maintenance of the household and opportunities for economic advancement were rare.
Whatever was lacking in material comfort, however, was made up for in an extraordinary sense of gratefulness and generosity. My father learned first-hand from his parents the importance of saying thank-you and sharing as their means allowed. There is something about going without that inspires giving and sharing.
Giving to support the needs of the Church was – and still is – paramount for my father. Forever etched in my memory was the weekly ritual of him setting aside a sum of money each Friday on the kitchen counter for the collection plate at church. Growing up in the ’70s, I was amazed how he could afford to give so much. His giving was non-negotiable.
The act of making giving a priority left an indelible mark on my own attitude toward money and giving. His pattern of giving money and volunteering his time to both Church and charity was the foundation for my own commitment to working in the not-for-profit sector.
How much do you give? What do you think is appropriate?
In the Anglican Church, and among mainline Protestant denominations, average household giving is quite low compared to other faith groups. In the Diocese of Toronto, annual household giving pre-COVID-19 amounted to $1,575 in 2019. On a weekly basis, that works out to just over $30. As a percentage, we give about 1.7 per cent of our gross incomes to the offertory plate. That amount is slightly higher when we add special appeals for outreach.
Is that enough? For some it might be. I have a feeling, however – especially given our relative wealth compared to others in our midst and around the globe – that we can do better. Most parishes benefit from a handful of generous benefactors who quietly provide support in helping make ends meet. In many cases, the gifts from two or three parishioners makes the difference in balancing the books.
I believe our giving reflects our relationship with God. For some, giving is an afterthought, based on what is left over from one’s weekly budget. Others give out of sense of duty; they feel obliged to give but are not inspired to give. Those who have a deep spiritual relationship with God and recognize that everything we have is a gift from God tend to have giving levels that reflect a profound sense of gratitude. They give proportionately, consistently and joyfully.
My father’s example taught me that everyone should be invited to be generous according to their abilities. He believes that everyone should give something, on the basis that even the poorest among us are gifted children of God with talents, skills and the capacity to be generous.
Is 5 per cent enough, or should it be 10 per cent?
I can’t tell anybody what the right amount to give is because the gift is always personal, impacted by life’s circumstances and reflecting our relationship with God. What I can say is as you deepen that relationship, as you more fully embrace Christian discipleship, giving loses its obligation. At this point, the question is no longer how much should I give, but have I given enough?