Time of Testing
Paul, on his final journey to Jerusalem, stopped to visit the leaders of the Church at Ephesus. He reminded them that "we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'."
Actually, the four Gospels do not contain that saying of Jesus. Luke comes closest with "give, and it will be given to you...for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38).
The saying about the blessing of giving will be put to the test for some filing their taxes. The tax legislation passed into law in December 2017 increases substantially the federal standard deduction. Thus, the motivation for giving among some taxpayers for a tax deduction is reduced.
Various charitable organizations - ranging from United Way to Salvation Army to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - expressed concern that the change may reduce charitable giving.
"The tax code is now poised to de-incentivize the heart" for giving, Dan Caridnali claims. He is president of Independent Sector, a policy group for charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs. I suppose there may be forgiveness for assaulting English grammar with the word "de-incentivize," but the point, I guess, is clear.
Todd C. Frankel in the Washington Post reported that a higher percentage of people in the U.S.A. give to charity than vote. The tax code for the past century was designed to encourage those gifts.
Perhaps this is a time of testing. I suspect most people of faith give in grateful response to God and not because of federal tax law.
From time to time, pastors, deacons, and members of congregations should wisely review their engagement in social media. A word of caution was offered on the issue by Frank Bruni in his column in the New York Times (December 10, 2017):
Thanks in large part to social media, which incentivizes invective and then magnifies it, our conversations coarsen. Our compasses spin out of whack. We descend to the lowest common denominator, becoming what we supposedly abhor. I'm regularly stunned by the cruelty that's mistaken for cleverness and the inhumanity that's confused with conviction.
A salutary exhortation, indeed.
By the way, Call Committees wisely check past social media postings of candidates. Bruni's caution clearly is worth noting.
The calendar - liturgical vs. national - contains interesting challenges for us this year. Ash Wednesday occurs on what the secular calendar identifies as Valentine's Day. Roses may be appropriate for Valentine's Day but certainly not Ash Wednesday. And we have the situation of Easter - April 1 this year. I suppose, as the Apostle Paul suggested (1 Cor. 4:10), we may be looked upon as "fools for the sake of Christ." Then, in December, we have 23 as the Fourth Sunday in Advent, 24 as Christmas Eve, and 25 as Christmas Day - a worship marathon.
May God's peace prevail in all hearts throughout the whole church.
Sincerely in Christ,
The Rev. Lowell G. Almen