I think about this a lot (as you’ll see), and I’ve thought many times about a blog entry, but I keep getting sidetracked.
See, right there: My husband walked in as I wrote that first sentence, and we had lunch on the patio. Then I went and bought flowers. Now I’m back.
Okay, the collection plate: It used to be where church congregants placed their weekly tithe. I’m told some churches attached a bell, and if a congregant didn’t put enough into the basket, the usher rang the bell, shaming the person into coughing up more.
Time has passed. For years I paid my pledge by sending a check in the mail or placing it in an envelope that I dropped into the plate. Now, with the advent of electronic funds transfer, my pledge is whisked out of my account without a single thought from me. Most of us do this these days, so the basket passes many people without a visible contribution.
Ultimately, electronic payment is great for churches, as it ensures regular payments from all, something necessary to the running of the church. But is this good for the congregants, this mindless way of contributing to one’s faith? I would make the argument that it is not, and this is why, in addition to my automatic pledge payment, I almost always drop a few extra, non-verifiable and therefore non-tax-deductible, dollars into the basket on Sunday.
In our house, we operate largely by cash. We’ve found that when we pay for things in actual dollars, we spend fewer of them than when they disappear by debit. As the week progresses and I pay for things—breaking twenties and dolling out ones—I have to try to remember to hold back a couple of ones to put in that basket on the Sabbath. It is a reminder all week long that I am a religious woman. This prompts me to try to truly interact with the strangers with whom I engage in commerce, because they are people with inherent worth and dignity. It’s a little cue to keep the interdependent web of existence in mind when I make a purchase. It keeps me mindful of the working conditions of the workers who produced and transported the things I buy. The more times a day I am reminded of my faith, the better human being I am.
Sometimes I forget. I sit down in the sanctuary on Sunday with only a twenty or two, or nothing at all. I’m a good person, but honestly, I’m not tossing a twenty in there on top of an automatic pledge that is not a trifling sum to our family (unless it’s a special collection). As the basket passes me by, and I put nothing in, I am reminded that sometimes I fall short. It’s a brief moment, not of shame (there’s no bell on the plate), but of humility.
So there it is, a blog entry of rare brevity on one of my daily spiritual practices. What are some of yours?