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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Stingy as a spiritual gift?

            We were taking a walk before dinner is a quiet little village when Martha blurted out “stinginess is not a spiritual virtue.” That got my attention and I asked where that came from. Martha, always one who ponders thing deeply, said that too many Christians she has known over the years considered their personal stinginess a spiritual virtue of which they were proud.
            So we talked about why committed, Godly Christians are often stingy. I think there are several contributing factors. The first is that they see themselves as stewards of God’s resources and do not trust any person or institution with their money. For reasons good and bad, they consider what churches, denominations and governments do is to waste money.
            Over the years I have seen the amount of money given to general funds of churches decline over the money specially allocated to particular missions and ministries. People want to control their giving, both as good stewards and as generally distrustful of institutions.
            Another contributing factor is widespread anxiety, fear and anger within Christian communities. It does not take too long to get a group of Christians fuming about the latest scandal or injustice. Our news media blankets us with a barrage of bad news about bad people who are out to get you and your family. So we are prone to over-reactivity and easily triggered anger. Anger does not mix well with generosity. An anger reflex is to pull in and clench fists, while a generosity response is hand open and stretched wide to another. Stingy people are sure it’s worse out there than you know.
            Stinginess is not only incompatible with generosity, it is also incompatible with hope and joy. A stingy person deeply believes things will get worse before they get better and you need to be prepared, prepared, and prepared. That means hold on tightly to all that have. A person with deep hope knows that God is in charge and the future is his. A person with hope believes that love wins over hate and resurrection triumphs over death.

A stingy person just is not sure about all that hope, it seems to suspicious to him/her. A stingy person believes that their piety is shown by the depth of their frown and the seriousness of their voice, rather than by their laugh or their smile.

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