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God's Math: Sacrifice and the IRS

By Carl Irby

“Equal Sacrifice, Not Equal Giving.” That was the slogan we adopted. We understood that everyone couldn’t give the same amount. But each member and family could make an equivalent level of sacrifice.

Our church had started a building program for a new sanctuary to better accommodate our current membership and allow for growth. A wide spectrum of income levels was represented in our congregation, ranging from families on public assistance and retirees to skilled professionals. We believed there was great spiritual value in encouraging every member to be an integral part of our fundraising project. The “Equal Sacrifice, Not Equal Giving” approach seemed best suited to our need.

We encouraged each other to ask God’s guidance and then to pledge a sum of money, payable weekly or monthly over a three-year period, that would require genuine sacrifice. As most members, I pledged a sacrificial amount and depended on God’s provision to make up the lack I anticipated.

I soon saw evidence of God’s blessing in many ways, and I never once missed my designated contribution. Partway through the project a fellow member and I discussed how God was abundantly blessing us. Both of us soon realized that our designated amounts were no longer “sacrificial.” My conscience pricked me. I felt out of harmony with the stewardship pledge I had made. So I increased my monthly amount by 50 percent. Now I was sacrificing again.

Some two years after our stewardship program began, I became engaged to marry. As I planned for the expenses of the wedding and the purchase of a home, I calculated that I would finish my original church pledge with my next month’s contribution. Praise God for the perfect timing, for I would be able to start saving for the wedding.

During this time, in fact for five years, I had carelessly neglected to file income-tax returns. Despite my indolence, someone generously offered to help me complete that unpleasant task. Largely due to my “sacrificial” contributions to the church stewardship project, my charitable contributions deducted from my taxes enabled me to receive a $10,000 refund. This made it easy to cover the wedding expenses and pay for the honeymoon and the down payment on our new home.

God knew what I didn’t—that by my faithfulness I was laying up stores for an unanticipated need. His faithfulness is beyond measure. Honor your vows to Him always, for He honors His vows to you.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20, 21 NKJV