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ALTHOUGH I am not usually an indecisive person, I am having a difficult time making a financial decision, and would like your thoughts on the matter.

I have belonged to a church for 25 years. I have supported it with increasingly larger amounts as my circumstances improved, although not with tithes as they would like. Over the years, religion has come to make less and less sense to me, but I still believe “as you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me.”

Over the last few years, though, I have been disappointed at how little of the church budget actually goes to charitable causes, and I began to feel as if my money could be better spent going to secular organizations like our local food bank. Our church does raise a lot of money for charity, but that is in addition to our monthly pledges.

Since I attend the church, I thought it only fair that I contribute my monthly pledge to keep the church going, no matter what the state of my beliefs. This year, I did not make a pledge of financial support, but I intended to keep giving the same amount I had been giving.

However, recently we received a newsletter from our church stating that there has been such a good response to the recent pledge drive, they adopted a new budget almost 20 per cent higher than the previous one. A week after that, the earthquake struck in Haiti. Again, I began to feel that my money can be better spent going to aid that country, as well as going to local charities that are dealing with this poor economy with less success than my church is.

But, as I said, I am having a hard time making the decision. Part of me feels guilty for participating without paying, and part of me feels if I still believed in Jesus, I’d be doing his wishes best by giving to the less fortunate. I decided to pay this month’s pledge to an organization providing medical aid in Haiti.

After that, I do not know. I don’t expect you to tell me what to do, but I would like whatever insights you can give me.
Tonya

Tonya,
People are born into your church, even as other people die. People move into your area and join the church, even as others move away. Some people simply move on. That’s part of the normal life cycle of a church. There is nothing in that to regret.

Aside from advancing what they consider true beliefs, churches are also organizations. Every organization does what it can to perpetuate itself. That is an organization’s main goal, whether it is a business, a charity, or a church.

When Jesus drove the money changers from the temple, he said his house is a house of prayer.

But, of necessity, there is always an uneasy tension between money and religion. When you donate, it feels like settling a bill. Shaking your pastor’s hand, you wonder if he’s totaling your monthly contributions in his head.

You may be having a crisis of faith, but in part, it’s triggered by your church’s financial structure and budget. You object to how the money is spent.

Meister Eckhart said whether we know it or not, our nature seeks to “ferret out the track in which God may be found.” That is what you are doing. You are trying to come to terms with the ultimate. There is no danger a higher power will misunderstand your motives, for as Eckhart said, “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.”

We hear the compassion in your letter. To whomever you give, give in a way that makes you feel good. Once you feel good about giving again, you will give more and with a gladder heart.
Wayne & Tamara