Community of Christ: Spending Responsibly to Share Generously

Every week another member of our congregation
and I teach a class at a social service agency in Independence Missouri. The class is called
“How to Live on a Small Income.” The class participants are usually people
living on a disability check of $735 per month, men who just got out of prison, homeless persons
that are sofa surfing, single-parent mothers, and elderly widows who are now living on one
Social Security check instead of two. They are all struggling financially. At the beginning of the class I ask them to
state their financial goal. Usually they reply that they want to get out
of debt or just to have enough money to pay their
monthly bills.. These are typical stories of many families
regardless of their incomes. I ask them to fill out a budget sheet. After Mary filled out her budget sheet she announced to the class
there was something missing. I asked her what it was. She said tithing was not on the sheet Indeed. I had not put tithing on the budget sheet thinking class participants did not have the ability to pay tithes to their church. However, I have learned over the years that people in poverty
are some of the most generous people. They pay tithing. They let homeless people stay with them. They share their food. They share their cars. They know what it is like to not have the
basics of life and so they share generously. When I hear their stories I sometimes wonder
how they can be so generous and if its wise to use their meager resources in that way. But then I wonder if those of us with more
resources were equally as generous how that would contribute to the peaceable kingdom,
Zion, where there will be no poor among us. One part of the class is a discussion of needs
and wants. I do a demonstration to exemplify the concepts. After the demonstration I see many heads nodding. For some its a lesson they have already
learned and for others its a new concept. Often times they mention
on the class evaluation sheet that they appreciated learning about needs and wants. Of course this is a lesson that is important
for all families regardless of income. Is eating out several times a week a need
or want? Is having a closet full of clothes that are
rarely worn a need or want? Is taking an expensive vacation every year
a need or want? Is a $4 coffee every day a need or want? Of course, these are private decisions. We all have to decide what it means for us
to spend our money responsibly. I have realized the more I spend on my wants
the less I have to share generously. I give the class participants a resource handout
with nearly 150 community assistance programs and ways to spend wisely. I tell the class if they are able to save
any money from what they learn in the class that they should put what they save
in a separate savings account. You see, sooner or later they’ll be faced
with a financial emergency and they will need that money. Otherwise they may be tempted to get a payday
loan at 455% interest. I am really death on payday and title loans so we also
discuss how to get out of those debt traps. The class is tailored to low income families, but it is based upon several of the church’s principles of a disciples’ generous response— Our stewardship challenge is to spend responsibly,
to save wisely, which will allow us to share generously for Christ’s mission, both locally and worldwide.

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