This past Sunday, our church gave away $160, 000… to the congregation.
No, it’s not a church growth strategy or a scam or a shell game. And we didn’t do it because we have an excess of resources (in fact, we are behind $50K on our current budget).
Still, it wasn’t given recklessly (though I’m sure some will see it that way).
Yesterday our church gave each member and regular attender a check for $500. It felt crazy. Scarey. Stupid. Bold. And faithful.
Back in the mid-70’s our church played a role in establishing a housing development that had plenty of set-asides for people of color and others of limited means. Called Atrium Village, it was the first mixed race/mixed income development built with private, public, and church resources in the nation. Last year, the restrictive covenants expired, and the developer wanted to sell. The involved churches sold their interest, but not before negotiating new restrictions on future development, resulting in even more affordable housing units on that site.
Earlier this summer, LaSalle Street Church received a check for our share of the sale: $1.6 million dollars. More money than we’ve ever had at one time in one place.
Our first act was to give 10% of the money away. But where? To what? An Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone? A fistula center in Niger? An art project in our own inner-city neighborhood?
We decided to take the boldest leap of faith any one of us could imagine: We were going to give it to the people and let them determine what to do with the money. Each of us would get a portion of the 10% and then… it would go wherever each person wanted.
Freely. Without any strings attached.
Gulp. Holy $*% were we “wasting” $160, 000 dollars? Maybe.
How do we know it won’t be “squandered”? We don’t.
But we know this: every day we wake to gifts we never sought, expected or earned. This morning, we were greeted with an astonishing blue sky and a houseful of people who love us far better than we deserve. We’ve seen ‘unforgivable’ actions forgiven, and we worship a Jesus who loved us, even while we were still his enemies.
This is the essence of faith I think–not just that we believe in God, but that God believes in us. And trusts us to do great things with his gifts.
Is grace wasted on us? Definitely. Sometimes.
Sometimes the wealthy forget that before we worked, we were given the tools to work with.
But then there are those other times…those times when we remember. That all grace comes from a Giver who asks only that we respond by doing what he does, acting as he acts, giving as he gives.
This time we remembered. And we gave. #loveletgo
I pray we learn to be that free every day of our lives.