Give and Forget
Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my sibling sin against me, and I forgive them? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)
Seventy-seven times. Or seventy times seven, depending on the biblical version of Matthew 18:21-22 you’re reading. Or seven times a day, per Luke 17:4. That’s how often we should mindfully consider the person in front of us, acknowledge the harm they have caused us, and release the harm (and/or the person) from further damage.
Be mindful … seventy-seven times.
Acknowledge … seventy times seven.
Release … seven times a day.
Guidance for faithful stewardship encourages the same disciplined steps: Be mindful. Acknowledge. Release. Be mindful of community, of creation, of God—seventy-seven times. Acknowledge need, desire, greed, fear—seventy times seven. Release first fruits, release 10%, release possessiveness, release consumption—seven times a day.
With a little magical math (and some technological tools), I can faithfully turn those sevens into ones:
Be mindful … once a year when setting up auto-giving.
Acknowledge … one at a time when adding a new financial commitment to my budget.
Release … once per month according to a pre-set payment schedule.
“One” is not quite seventy times seven or seventy-seven times or seven times a day. But one can still be a faithful measure of giving. Because giving—like forgiving—is too often at the mercy of a moment and an emotion. It can be subject to the pressures of any given day. It can be drowned out by crises. It can be out of the way, like swinging by the ATM before worship to get cash for the offering plate. For my financial giving to be faithful, my best effort is to set it and forget it. Just once.
May the autopay of my checking account and the e-giving of my apps be acceptable to you, O God of all goodness, my rock and my redeemer.
A version of this devotional by Rachel Hackenberg also appears in On Giving: Reflections & Resources for Pre-Generous Parishioners, a collection of practical prompts for talking about money in church. Order On Giving here.