Tag Archives: money

A common question

This week I’ve been reading about the early Anabaptists. They wanted to put their faith into practice, and to take seriously the witness of the early church from the book of Acts, where people held things in common.

The problem was that this turned out to be a very dangerous thing to do. Some Anabaptists were very generous to members of their congregation and the broader community. Other Anabaptist groups shared all their possessions with each other, and held things in common. The Anabaptists were preaching that Christians should not keep their wealth to themselves. God required that they share. Government authorities were alarmed. Was this a judgement upon them, that they should be required to give up their wealth? They were Christians too! The Anabaptists tried to explain that when God changes your heart, you want to give things away.

What does this mean for our generosity and offerings? Do we wait for our hearts to be changed, so that we want to give away more and more? Or does the action of giving actually change our hearts? Perhaps it’s the old common question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

This week’s prayer: Lord, how much should I give? How much does my heart need to change?

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Empty pockets

I remember my first financial crisis. I was 14 years old. I went downtown to go shopping and I left my purse at the bus stop. There was $23 in my purse. That was a lot of money. I had worked as a babysitter for several evenings, and I had meant to go to the bank, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I still remember the sick, hollow feeling I had in the pit of my stomach from that financial loss.

I know that my parents faced financial troubles, although they mostly tried to hide it from us. My dad was unemployed for over a year. And then later, my mom had a business that had to close. All I knew was that I couldn’t go on a class trip I wanted to go on, and one year we didn’t get many presents for Christmas. Looking back now, I wonder how they coped with that sick, hollow feeling in their stomach.

Since then, I’ve been able to put things in perspective. While we may have had hard times, we were never hungry. There was a social safety net, as well as a family safety net, that kept our family from reaching rock bottom. Many people in the world live without nets.

This Sunday we’re going to be thinking about where we find God in troubled financial times. Can we pray about money? Does God answer money prayers? Does Christianity offer an antidote to that sick feeling?

In preparation for Sunday, think about a time where you faced a financial crisis. What sorts of feelings did you have? Where did you go for help? Did you call on God? Why or why not?

This week’s prayer: You are our God when our pockets are full, and when we have empty pockets. Help us to be faithful in the full years, as well as the lean years. Amen.

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The taxman cometh!

In the early 1800’s Mennonites were scratching out a living in the wilderness of the Twenty (now Lincoln); cutting down trees, making homesteads and starting a community. They were also paying taxes.

Mennonite leaders had negotiated with the British even before settlers started coming to Upper Canada, discussing exemption from military service because of religious beliefs. Mennonites were not the only group asking for this; Dunkers (now Brethren in Christ) and Quakers were in the same boat. In 1792 the Militia Act exempted all these groups from personal militia duties. In exchange for this exemption, these religious people paid special fines. That amounted to $20 (5 pounds) per year in times of war, and $5 (20 shillings) per year in times of peace, for every male aged 16 to 50.

The money went directly to support the militia. The taxes were heavy and if you didn’t pay them, you were put in jail. Quakers resisted this tax, and many had their property confiscated and some were jailed. Mennonites followed this law, but were persistent in challenging it, continually sending delegates with petitions to the government. Mennonites from our congregation were active year after year in having this tax removed, even going to court to make their case. It took until 1849 to have the tax removed.

It’s tax time now, and as Christians who follow the Prince of Peace, every year part of our taxes supports the military: last year it was 8.4% of our federal taxes, this year it’s 9.2% of federal taxes. That’s an increase, and we can expect the percentage to keep increasing for the next ten years. Not many of us want to go to jail or have our property confiscated, but I think it’s time for Mennonites to be more faithful in petitioning the government about these military taxes. You can learn more about the movement to allow for peaceful re-direction of the military portion of our taxes at http://www.consciencecanada.ca

This week’s prayer: We want to bring life into the world; right now our tax money is used to purchase weapons and support wars. Direct and guide our actions as Christians who follow the Prince of Peace.

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Almighty presents

Today I was in the Superstore, and ran into two teenage brothers that I know. They were looking for oven mitts for a Christmas present for their mom. But they had not found the perfect oven mitts, so they were empty-handed. “Too many plain oven mitts in this store,” they complained. “Our mom specifically asked for cute oven mitts.” I suggested that in addition to the cute oven mitts that they would hopefully find, they give a coupon book, “One argument-free day,” “One home-cooked dinner, including washing the dishes.” The teenage boy’s face lit up, “I bet she’d like a coupon that said, ‘One cleaned up bedroom.’!”

This week you may find yourself in a Big Box Store looking for the perfect gift. As you stand there, staring down the long aisle that stretches to infinity, ask yourself, “What am I doing here?” Hopefully the answer is, “I’m looking for a gift that will be useful for someone I love, or that will bring a smile to their face, as a token of my love for them.” Hopefully it’s not, “I’ve got to spent X amount of dollars or people will think I’m cheap,” or “They don’t need a thing, but I have to get them this useless present anyway.” Maybe it’s time to think outside the Box, and get them a different sort of gift. There’s still time to purchase a loving gift, a donation to MCC , donate.mcc.org/christmas-giving, or think of your own coupon book.

With all this gift giving going on, I was wondering today about whether I am going to give God a Christmas present. I never really had God on my list before. That’s all I need, more stress…talk about trying to find a gift for Someone who has everything!

But maybe a coupon book. Hmmm…what would God want? “One day where I think only of others.” Wait, maybe that’s not realistic. “One hour where I think only of others.” Or I wonder if I could follow through on, “One day where I say thank you for everything you give me.” How about , “One Christmas season where I say only positive things about others.” “An extra gift to Community Care to help people who can’t pay their electricity bills.” The more I think about it, the more I realize God doesn’t have everything God wants after all. There’s a long wish list there!

Why not put God on your Christmas list this year? After all, I think God will be giving you a gift on Christmas.

Forgive me God for the times where I lose sight of what gift-giving is about. I want to give good gifts. Let this Christmas be one where I give myself generously, freely, lovingly.

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What does $177.20 get you?

Every day it seems I get an opportunity to give to a good cause. There are so many very real needs…on my desk right now I have appeals for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Niagara Child & Youth Services (which funds desperately needed children’s mental health programs), and I still haven’t gotten around to going on-line and sponsoring Jennifer in the Great Strides walkathon for Cystic Fibrosis (her little niece was diagnosed this year). I want to give.

And so that’s why I’m reflecting on $177.20. I figured it out today, that’s the amount I gave to the Canadian military last year. I looked at my tax return, and calculated 8.4% of my federal taxes, since that is the portion of the federal budget that is earmarked for military spending.

Everyone who pays taxes supports the military, it is something we are required to do by law. But if I was conscripted, I would not join the army, because I believe it goes against the example Jesus gave us. I think I’d go to jail rather than join the military. But this $177.20…it’s not that much money, is it? Does it really matter?

I wonder how much federal tax people in our congregation pay…and what First Mennonite collectively gives to the military each year? Or what Mennonites across the country give? Maybe there should be a fighter jet with our name on it. We may not go to war, but we are certainly paying for it. What’s a person to do?

Right now MP Bill Siksay has introduced a private member’s bill into the House of Commons, which allows for the military portion of income tax to be re-directed to a more peaceful purpose. If you could check a box on your income tax form, which diverted money from the military to a peaceful cause, would you check it? I would. Check out http://www.consciencecanada.ca/legislation to find out more.

I challenge you to look at your tax return and figure out the exact amount you gave to the Canadian military last year. What did that amount get you?

This week’s prayer:  God of grace, in a complicated world, give me clarity.  Every word, every deed building your kingdom.  Amen.

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