by Beverly Russell
I’d like to share with you my earliest memory of giving to God. It dates back to when I was about 6 years old. I had been coming to church here since I was born. We attended Sunday School regularly, and that is where I first learned the story of the widow’s mite. It was the beginning of Lent. The story was intriguing, but what excited me the most was being told that I could fill my own mite box and that I would be able to give it to God on Easter Sunday. I took this very literally. The thought of God holding my mite box was absolutely thrilling.
I really wanted to give generously, even extravagantly, so I did the only thing I knew to do. I went searching for coins throughout my siblings’ bedrooms! This proved moderately fruitful, but my box remained more empty than full. It was my intention to return my box full and heavy with money. Somehow, I recall securing a dollar bill. (I may have stolen this, too.) I knew it should go in the mite box and I was eager to give it to God, but not before I had the paper money converted into 100 pennies. Coins could do a lot more to "fill" my box than an ole lightweight dollar bill could.
Now you might question my methods. Maybe my motives were even a little suspicious. But there was a childlike and, I would even say, “pure” desire to give to God. I did not think I was giving to the church. I did not consider that my money might go to help the poor. All I knew was that my offering was going directly to God.
You might be glad to know that I’ve since developed stricter standards for what I consider mine to give. (I no longer steal from family members.) And I am not motivated to artificially inflate my gift by changing bills into coins. But as I consider my childlike understanding of God being the recipient of my gift, perhaps this was the one thing I got right.
As we become adults, we hopefully grow in knowledge and wisdom, but all too frequently, with age also comes cynicism. As our experiences broaden and our financial obligations increase, we can easily find reasons not to give. (Who will be deciding how the money is spent? What if I don’t agree with the spending?) The solution to that kind of guarded thinking is to remember to whom our offering is given. Yes, the checks are written to Holy Communion, but the tithe is between me and God and is born out of thanksgiving and obedience. How could I not want to give to an abundantly generous and faithful God?
Holy Communion has been the singular most constant presence in my life next to my family. My church is like an anchor in my life. I thank God that I can give back to Him as a member of this wonderful congregation. Perhaps we all can come to know what true worship is -- when we give what is not really ours to begin with. All we have, whether time, talent or treasure, is ours to give because God first gave it to us.
Beverly Bolton Russell is a native Memphian and a lifelong member of Church of the Holy Communion. Beverly and her husband, John, have two children, Lilly, 16, and Daniel, 11. Beverly works as the Director of Community Outreach for Attendant Care Services, Inc. which provides geriatric care services to seniors.