Tax Collecting vs. Evangelizing

By | March 10, 2017

Dear Fr. Zagloba,

We had a great vacation, thanks for asking. Strangely enough, I had a conversation during the wedding reception that applies directly to your question of how to approach talking about money with Parish.

One of my wife’s college friends works as a business manager at one of the parishes in the Diocese up there. The annual Stewardship campaign and offertory is part of his responsibility. He made a comment that captured my attention and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The Gospel of St. Matthew – from Tax Collector to Evangelist

Not the Gospel according to St. Matthew, but St. Matthew’s personal journey. St. Matthew was a tax collector. He was that guy that everybody hated because he took their money and gave it to the Romans. Everything changed when Jesus came on the scene. The tax collector becomes an evangelist. St. Matthew quite literally got up and left a table full of money behind. Why?

The daily mass reading a couple of days ago described Jesus telling his disciples, “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

I think there is a nugget of purest gold in here. Under the old covenant it was DUTY to give a tenth of your income to support the Temple, priests, and Levites. The tithe was a religious tax. Jesus does not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. God doesn’t NEED our gifts… we NEED to give. It is good for us! The fullness that the Gospel proposes is, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor and then you will have treasure in heaven.”

We’re not supposed to give to the church because we owe it to God (although that isn’t a bad reason). No! When we give to the church and to the poor, God gives us 100 times more in return! This is the best investment plan in the entire universe!!!

If you see yourself as a ‘tax collector’ you will hate fundraising.

The tax collector says to a person, ‘You owe this much.’ For this reason, people HATE tax collectors. They hide when they see them coming. They pay small fortunes to hide their money so the tax collectors can’t find it. If you think of yourself as a tax collector, if you approach this as a religious tax, you will hate this part of your work, and the parish will resent you for it.

The message of the evangelist is totally different. Jesus said, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Do you see the total transformation? When the evangelist gets this message across to his audience, they respond the way people did in the Book of Acts. Whoever had land sold it and gave it to the disciples! Can you imagine this happening today?

The Good News of God’s Generosity

In our materialistic age, one of the hardest things for most people to wrap their minds around is that God WANTS to be our provider. Jesus said,

“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

So when we seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, God will give them to us. As a bonus, He will give us EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WE NEED! This is an amazing truth. Totally life changing.

Here is a sticking point. Do YOU believe this, Father? If you don’t, then no one will believe you when you preach it as a part of our stewardship campaign. If you’re like me, you’re probably in place where you’re saying, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom.

Something that amazes me here in Georgia is that many of our new priests are coming from Africa. This puzzled me until I spoke to one directly. He said that in Africa, many people are forced by circumstances and poverty to rely on God for their daily bread. And guess what!?!!?!?! He answers their prayers! Over and over again. They really have to trust God… and they discover that He is Trustworthy.

In America, our material wealth is the source of our great spiritual poverty. Empty churches and seminaries are the fruit of a culture that is self-reliant. Our hope is founded in our 401(K), not on the Rock of our Salvation.

As an evangelist, you can point them to a greater reliance on the God who saves. You can help them to understand that the deep hunger and longing that isn’t satisfied by their many possessions can ONLY be filled by the fullness of God.

When we give to the Church and to the poor, we aren’t putting money into an investment account that adds two zeros to the end of every dollar. No, this is not the Prosperity Gospel. Instead, what we’re doing is taking a leap of faith… trusting that the God who made all things will respond generously to our generosity. And that He returns to us the riches of His eternal kingdom – peace, joy, contentment, fulfillment, love.

This is good news!!!

Nathan,

The Almoner

-> Next Letter – The Worst Capital Campaign in History


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