"Then Jesus said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.' And they were amazed at him."
Reflection by Molly Baskette
A friend visited us from China for a month. She offered to pay us rent, but since we live in a parsonage, I suggested that she could give "a donation to the church" instead.
We had a very nice visit, and when she left, she gave each of our two children a large sum of cash. And she gave me a decorative ceramic vase for the church. So much for the language barrier and my cross-cultural competency.
In our family, we have Christian norms around money. The grownups tithe 10%, and whenever the kids get money, whether in the form of allowance or a special gift, a third goes into savings, a third goes into a "sharing" fund to buy gifts or give away to those in need, and a third is for spending.
The children had never gotten so much money at once, and we went through a thought-exercise. I told them about the decorative vase and the church's need. And I let them decide what to do.
The six-year-old was happy to give most of it to the church and to an orphanage we support, as long as she had enough left to buy a doll hairbrush.
The ten-year-old went through agony. First he wanted to keep it all. Then he wanted to give it all away. "It's hard, isn't it?" I said. "This is how Daddy and I feel all the time."
How do we know how much to keep for ourselves, and how much to give away? Jesus taught us to pay taxes when it's tax time. But what about the other, more voluntary demands on our wealth? Like churches—which, let's be clear, are NOT God—and the poor? What of them?
And an equally pressing question: just where do I put the decorative vase?
God, may we discern as seriously as 10-year-olds, and give as freely as 6-year-olds, with what you have set into our hands.
About the Author
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.