I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, and that meant every year as the end of the fiscal year approached, we had a pledge drive. Sermons focused on tithing, budgets were discussed and approved, and since any valid budget needs a fairly accurate estimate of income, pledge cards were passed out. Members of the church were asked to fill out a card promising to give a certain amount of money each week, month, or year, and on “Pledge Sunday” everyone placed their cards in the offering plate. The pledges were not binding. No one called or sent Luigi to your house if you fell behind, but I’m sure the hope was that by signing their names, members would feel somewhat spiritually bound and would be more faithful in their tithes and offerings.
When I was eight years old, I made a public profession of having accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized. This made me a full-fledged member of the church. I was a fairly serious child, and I apparently decided that membership carries with it not only privileges but also responsibilities. As Pledge Sunday approached, I got hold of a pledge card, probably from the pocket on the pew in front of me that held visitors cards, offering envelopes, and other pieces of necessary information. I carefully filled in my name and considered my financial situation.
I got $1 a week in allowance, and Dad gave me a dime each week to put in my Sunday School offering envelope. The preacher said we needed money for a new building program, and even in the 1950’s economy, $.10 didn’t buy many bricks. My needs were simple. I didn’t have to pay room and board, and I didn’t have the foresight to save for college. A nickel bought enough penny candy to last an afternoon, and $.50 bought a movie ticket, a Coke, and a candy bar. With that in mind, I pledged $.50 a week and placed my card in the plate as it was passed. I don’t remember feeling like I had done anything special. I had simply done what I assumed every other member of the church was doing, fulfilling my obligation and hopefully pleasing God in the process.
Later that week, Dad approached me when he got home from work.
“I need to talk to you a minute,” he said, kneeling down so he was on my level.
Uh-oh! I thought. What did I do now? But I wasn’t in trouble.
“I’m going to raise your allowance. Starting this Saturday, I’m going to give $1.50 a week.”
Wow! The preacher said God blessed those who gave faithfully and that God loved a cheerful giver, but I didn’t expect that kind of blessing that quickly. It was almost enough to make me believe in a Prosperity Gospel, except that at the time I’d never heard of such a thing.
Through the years, and especially with the advent of televangelists, I’ve heard preachers use such verses as John 10:10, Malachi 3:10, and Philippians 4:19 to teach that God wants everyone to be rich and that, if a person invests his money in the proper ministry, it will happen. I personally believe that, while God wants us to have a rich and satisfying life, and while He pours out His blessing on the faithful, that doesn’t necessarily include material wealth. I also believe that, while He provides our needs, He doesn’t always provide our wants.
I haven’t always been as faithful as I was as an 8 year old, and I’ve never been able to give 50% of my income, but I try to give what I can in money, time, and talents. God has always met my needs and blessed me with a satisfying life. I’m grateful for that, and I’m also grateful for a Dad who didn’t belittle my first attempts at being a contributing member of the church. It didn’t occur to me until years later that he was good friends with the chairman of the finance committee.