What does it take?

Moving into a new parish, lots of people want to tell you lots of things.  Happily, here at St. Peter’s the vast majority of things have been so positive my head spins more from euphoria than confusion!  Another angle to all this is that I’ve begun to get my very first questions.  I’ve only been on the ground two days, but already someone called to ask, “Should I give 10% of my income to God before or after earthly expenses?”  I don’t know who the parishioner is – I received the question via voicemail from the secretary – but what a neat first question to get!  I started thinking about it… Classically, Biblically, we are invited to give 10% off the top… before expenses… With the caveat that God desires no one to abandon their natural obligations to the support of children, spouses etc.  So please do feed your family and then give to the collection on Sunday.

Corollary to this, particularly here on the Hill where our young adult population is booming, it got me thinking, what should a young adult be giving.  It’s hard starting out in life, especially in a city as expensive as DC.  Many more ‘veteran’ parishioners (not just here but in any parish) will comment “Young people today don’t give…”  I’m not sure that’s entirely true… but in any event, I did a little number crunching after prayers this morning.

Average individual income in DC is about $80k.  Divide that by 52 weeks/year and  you get about $1,500/week.  10% of that is $150 dollars per week.  If everyone in the Church gave that amount regardless of their salary we’d have so much money to serve the community we wouldn’t know where to start!  That said, it’s REALLY hard to figure out how your average  young adult could sacrifice that much per week without cutting into essential expenses… So, I thought to myself… “What would it take to give 5% of an average income each Sunday?”  Here’s one quick calculation of things your average young adult in DC could give up  easily to put $75/week in the collection:

1 Cocktail on a date or out with friends (including tax/tip) = $20
3 Starbucks coffee based drinks (latte, frappe. etc) = $15
1 Sixpack of beer (Budweiser from Walmart in DC ) = $7
1 Pack of cigarettes (in DC approx.) = $7
1 iTunes video rental of a new release = $6
Various midday snacks / munchies  = $20

Even this was a challenging number to arrive at, but here’s a few encouraging thoughts.  First, I can tell you from experience that my prayer life and my life walking out on the streets is infinitely better when I’m actively tithing.  I contribute to the parish and to the poor right at the beginning of the month so the money isn’t there for me to spend and somehow God makes it all work!  Second, it’s ALWAYS been hard, even in Biblical times.  For a first century shepherd in Judea to send his first 10% to the Temple was a tremendous sacrifice on his part… but here’s the key: He sent it “as a sacrifice to the temple.”  It was an investment… a gift to the Almighty for which God was sure to reward him with grace.  Here in Washington the funds our parishioners give end up building up beautiful parish communities where the poor are served, the sick are cured, and the whole of the community can rejoice to see each other in worship and  fellowship… In short, we manifest the Kingdom of God by our giving. When you put all of that together, the sacrifices necessary to give up the list above gets put in perspective.  Finally, even taking all that into account, I know… all your priests know… it’s hard.  We’re in it with you.  God our Father calls us to “heroic virtue,”  and believe me when I tell you that I look at the generous fidelity of our parishioners as truly heroic!  Peace!