Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Do you remember this photograph? Many of you were touched by the story of this elderly Nova Scotia couple, Allen and Violet Large, which I shared with you in a blog last year. You might recall that they won just over eleven million dollars in the lottery and decided to give most of it away. After their win they realized that they were content with their lives and kept just enough to sustain their present lifestyle. They supported hospitals and other charitable organizations, including churches. In the end they gave away 98% of their winnings.
Well, Violet succumbed to the cancer which is evident in this photo. In the newspaper article about her death it mentions that Allen and Violet have requested that donations be made to their local United Church.
This sort of generosity is impressive. But do we need to win a lottery in order to be generous? As a minister I am fascinated by how emotional and even angry some people get when they are asked to support the life and work of their community of faith and I hear it all the time from colleagues. One told us that her congregation was dealing with the possibility of closing and members were upset. But one stood up and said that he wasn't willing to contribute any more because he couldn't afford it. When someone else noted that he spent the winter down south and always drove a new car he let them know that this was none of their business.
I figure that generosity is public business in the church because we are called to a life of sharing in Christ's name. Most of us have "won the lottery" in life by virtue of living in this prosperous country and it is a shame that the mission of congregations is so often strangled by lack of funds. We don't need 98% or even ten. If our members gave three to five percent we would have enough and more.
But that's me. What are your thoughts?