“Give ‘til it hurts” is an expression we associate with charitable contributions. It serves as an exhortation to give of ourselves above and beyond our comfort zone, to truly sacrifice something of our substance rather than skim away a little of our excess. It is an underlying theme in Jesus’ parable of the “widow’s mite” (Mk 12:41-44): The widow, who gave her last coins to the Temple treasury, gave until it hurt and won the praise of Jesus for her virtue. The wealthy merchants, who chipped in very large sums of money but would hardly miss any of it, did not.
Several years ago, our parish adopted a system by which parishioners could make their weekly contributions by electronic funds transfer. By signing up, enclosing a canceled check, and designating the amount to be withdrawn from your bank account, the deed would be done for you automatically. No more writing checks and stuffing envelopes would be necessary, save for special collections and holy days of obligation.
The idea appealed greatly to my wife and me, so we enrolled immediately. Not only would we no longer have to remember to get our weekly tithe ready, but the service also conveniently simplified our recordkeeping. Like most of our regular household bills, our parish giving commitment would be taken care of without our having to lift a finger, and the record of our gift would download and be categorized automatically in our Quicken bookkeeping program. Even if we were on vacation or were to attend a different parish on a given weekend, our home parish would receive its due.
However, I am aware of one little problem with the whole system: The giving doesn’t seem to hurt at all anymore. Not even a twinge. It doesn’t seem all that sacrificial.Before electronic giving, when I sat down to write out the collection check and enter it in my check register, there sometimes would be a little ouch somewhere in my psyche. Not that our parish gift itself would drive us deep into an insurmountable debt, but it would be often be required at a time when immediate household expenses were threatening to consume not only our savings but our credit line as well. There were even occasions where I would skip the collection basket for a week or two, choosing instead to “catch up” on our stewardship commitment on some future Sunday when our cash-flow issues appeared more manageable.
There was some anxiety in all that, and in a way, I kind of miss it.
I don’t plan to give up electronic giving. I still like it for the reasons of convenience stated above. But I am thankful there are holy-days and occasional second collections that give me the opportunity to write out a contribution check the old-fashioned way. I can usually make that hurt a little. It feels more sacrificial. And that’s something I can really wrap my alms around.
– Gerald Korson