by Dale Hoiberg
When my siblings and I were growing up back in North Dakota, each of us, like most other kids, I guess, had assigned chores around the house and the yard to get done every week. At some point, friends of ours told us that they got a weekly allowance from their parents when they had finished all their chores. So, we began lobbying Mom and Dad for an allowance too. Mom and Dad, not much into negotiating with us, asked us why we thought we should get paid for doing what was only our fair share at home. Surprisingly, after a few days, they caved and said they would give us each an allowance of $2.00 a week if we got all our chores done—to Mom’s satisfaction. But…, from this $2.00 we would have to pay our weekly offering to the church, St. Olaf church, and set aside a portion of it so that, when Christmas came around, we would have enough to buy our grandparents Christmas gifts. Our parents once told us that eventually our grandparents might not be able to buy us presents anymore. They said that now they’re retired, it’s more difficult for them to buy everyone lots of presents. Although, there’s ways to manage the way you spend your money throughout your holidays, it can still be difficult for elderly people to manage their own finances.
We were like “Oh, man,” there won’t be anything left. Somehow we weren’t so bothered about saving for our grandparents’ Christmas gifts—our grandparents were old, but quite cool. But, Mom and Dad had always given us the money for our offerings to church, and we couldn’t at all see why that had to change and now come out of our allowance.
In those days, many Sundays after church we went to our grandparents’ (my mother’s parents; my father’s parents lived on a farm) house for “dinner,” we called it, after church. Near our grandparents’ house was a small church that we had never taken much notice of. One Sunday when we drove past it on the way to Sunday dinner, however, one of us happened to read the sign “Bethel Free Church.” Immediately my younger brother and sister began asking Mom and Dad why we couldn’t join that church. It was free! Our dad said we would have to talk about it later.
Later that day, when we had gotten back home, Dad gathered us around and said:
“All churches are free in the sense that we don’t have to pay for the many good things we get from church: learning about and worshiping Jesus, our pastor’s support when we are going through tough times, and being part of the Christian community. But all churches depend on their members and those who care about them to give part of what they have, to the extent they can, as a RESPONSE to these good things so that they can continue their work. Now that you have your own money, it is up to you to do your part.”
Today, Dad’s words still ring true. Just like St. Olaf, St. Luke’s depends on its members, those of us who are able, to help make sure God’s work continues to get done. This can be easy to forget, and it’s even easier to take the church and the fact that it is here for granted. St. Luke’s is our church! As we give thanks for it, especially in these times when we, and the world we live in, so need its voice, let’s all take ownership of it as generously as we can.