The Parable of the French Fry
Abraham apportioned one-tenth of everything. – Hebrews 7:2a (NRSV)
A few years ago, I took my then-nine-year-old son to McDonald’s for a snack of french fries. As we sat down, I did what all fathers do after buying fries for their kid: I reached over to take one. For that, my hand was slapped. “Dad!” my son griped. “Those are mine!”
“Oh really?” I said. “Who drove you here? Who paid for the car and the gas? Who placed the order and forked over the cash? I bought those fries so technically they belong to me.” At that point he begrudgingly handed over a few measly little fries he didn’t want anyway.
Guilt tripped or not, I suspect that most of us fall into the trap of giving leftovers to God. After we pay for everything else: mortgage, utilities, food, transportation, insurance, cable, internet, cellphone, gym, kids activities, pets, vacation, college fund, investments, debt, taxes, frivolities, then (maybe) we’ll give to God from whatever is left.
Faithful stewardship, as I understand it, encourages the reverse. It’s about giving to the church and other places we care about, first, and structuring the rest of life around that. I’m still working on that.
When the biblical baseline of 10% feels like too much for me, it helps to recall that Jesus asked his disciples to give away everything. In any case, God deserves more than my leftovers.
Great Giver, every dollar and possession I believe I have, actually belongs to You. Grant me the joy of returning what is Yours.
A version of this devotional by Matt Laney 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.