For the first 20 years of ministry I made it a point to know nothing about what members of the congregation contributed. I didn't want to be accused of being guided by wrong motives based on their wealth (James 2).
Then a member who had been faithful in worship died. Once a year he helped clean the church yard. He drove an older car and never gave the impression of having any wealth. After his death I learned his estate was valued at nearly $3 million and was divided equally between a son and daughter.
I asked the financial secretary to check his giving record. She reported, "He was a faithful contributor, giving $10 a week."
It made me sad. My spirit cried. Since then I've encouraged people through bulletin and newsletter announcements to remember the church or a favorite charity in their will. I suggest the pattern of my wife and me. We have five children. Our estate will be divided equally six ways. Three specific church programs we named will divide one-sixth and each child receives one-sixth.
Does Jesus feel sad when faithful followers leave all of their estate to heirs, in some cases pets, and nothing to his church? I'm certain Jesus feels glad and rejoices in heaven with the angels not only when one sinner repents (Luke 15) but also over the 2,538 bequests that ELCA members designated for their congregations in 2011. The total amount given through requests was $65.6 million.
We are bombarded with investing for retirement. This is good. However, it can cause us to save everything we can while preventing us from giving the biblical 10 percent of our income because we fear running out of funds before we die.
One solution is to remember the church or charity in our will. That way, if there are funds available after our death, a portion of our assets will be available for a cause that we believed in but didn't feel we could contribute generously to because of retirement plans.
Remember, if you die without a will the state distributes your assets according to laws that don't consider your personal interests or church.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers