Hi Friends,

I want to offend you!

Okay, okay. I wrote in all my other blog entries to date (all four) that MY blog is nuts and bolts and nothing controversial or radical.

Today, I take that back. I’m going to be intentionally, indubitably (look it up)…controversial – at least for today. And that’s because I’m just echoing the words of the True Radical Guy….Jesus. : )

When I was a child, on many occasions, my father and mother, both children of poor Greek immigrants, said to me: “Every Sunday, give back to God from what God has given YOU!” It was a discipline, a practice — a Joy! — they modeled for me every Sunday. They started me in the habit of loving God, not just with words, but with gifts and offerings.

And then there’s Sam Junkin. Sam was a West Texas Presbyterian preacher who wore boots and a Stetson and was President of a scrappy Presbyterian college in a little “Hill Country” town called Kerrville. He singled me out one day and asked me to serve as a Trustee of that little school which I did for nine years.

I went with Sam on several development calls to visit people. We sat in their Texan living rooms exchanging pleasantries and sippin’ Sweet Tea while stuffed exotic animals looked down on us from their wall mounts. And then Sam, in his strong accent, would look intently at our hosts and say something like, “I know you love our little college as much as I do and all that God is doing in the lives of young men and women. Thank you for sharing the vision with me. And now I want to know if you will join me in giving a leadership gift for our new dormitory. Adele and I are making a personal sacrifice for it, and I’m hoping I can count on you to join me in this venture.”

Without exception, they gave. And so did I!

I remember Carl Eaton who started a little church that grew and grew. When there was a need, he called up some members of the church and said something like, “Chase and Merideth’s house is flooded. I’m contributing $100 to help them out — can I count on you to do the same?” They did. I did. We all did!

One more: Juanita Gonzales, who visited me one day in my office, told me her vision for a YMCA building in our Texas town and the difference it was going to make in the lives of teens. She believed in it, was passionate about it and her name was the first of givers to the project. She so inspired me, I joined her with the best financial gift I could give.

Experiences like this taught me to love giving money — and to admire those who asked me for it. I’m so weird that way. Many people hate it when preachers and others ask for money for something they believe in. I’m the opposite. I have great admiration for those who are giving their lives and money away for what’s really important.

So strange am I, that I love it when a preacher courageously challenges his or her church to give money to the work of Jesus. Pastors Mike and Dorian give me great joy when they teach me about giving generously to the work of the Lord. They have that kind of courage.

It’s like dieting. You see, every now and then I need someone to say, “You know, we should make healthier choices about our food,” or, “An exercise a day will keep the doctor away.” A little reminding about the really important habits of life is good for me. So, I like it when our pastors do a little reminding about giving to the Lord!

Ready for more weirdness? At times in my life, I have been so stressed about money and affording what was needed for my young family of five that I worked an extra part-time job to give my tithe to God. I didn’t think God’s work should suffer from my inability to manage my financial life. At one time in my life, I owed thousands and thousands of dollars in parent plus educational loans — but decided that God would receive the Lord’s portion first.

I don’t think my desire to serve the Lord in this way makes me a better Christian, or earns extra favor from God, or makes me more special to God, or earns my way to Heaven. Very simply: it gives me joy to live beyond myself. I guess you could say I do it for God, but I wonder if I really do it for me: because of the satisfaction I derive from not being a slave to American consumerism, not succumbing to the frenzy of always needing more, and the fun of not being oppressed by financial need…even at those times when I was in great financial need!

Now, you’re going to think I’m just a big conceited guy for bragging about my giving. Maybe I am. But I think back at Sam and Carl and Juanita and my parents and a host of others who risked conceit to share what giving to the Lord meant to them, were quite specific about it, and then shared how happy it made them. How would we ever know about giving if people didn’t talk about it? So I’m talking about it.

Lori and I are not perfect in this. We struggle with it. Some years we’ve given 12% of our income to God (churches, missionaries, Christian charities); some years 8% — there’s no magic number. I know people who give lots more than us and live on less. I’m just one guy talking about our journey in Generosity. There are LOTS of stories more courageous and sacrificial than ours.

So, if you feel offended by this. GOOD!

To God be the glory. George

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