By Mike Strathdee
As printed in The Marketplace - November/December 2017
Imagine being part of a hand-to-mouth urban church serving the disadvantaged, when a $1.6 million windfall from the sale of a nearby housing complex falls into your lap.
Think about how you would feel as you and your fellow congregants were told of a decision to distribute $100,000 to people in the pews — $500 each — to “go out and do good in God’s world.”
Or some time later, after multiple rounds of discernment led to a congregational decision to give most of the rest of the money away to external ministries.
That sequence of events forms the basis of Love Let Go. The story told by Truax, senior pastor at LaSalle Street Church in downtown Chicago, and Campbell, a marketing consultant and member of the church’s leadership team, is an amazing tale of a group having enough faith to risk radical generosity.
The authors argue that we are hard-wired to give, citing a Gallup study which found that in 120 of 136 countries surveyed, people who gave away money were happier.
The LaSalle Street church, familiar with scarcity and debt from its inception, has a long history of other orientation. During race riots in the 1960s, youth protected the building from burning “because it was one of the few institutions they trusted.”
Why do many North American Christians find it difficult to donate more than token amounts? We need to get past what psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls WYSIATI — “what you see is all there is.”
Instead, we should reside “on the plane of generosity, grasping the entirety of the vision the Creator had in the first place, not just what we see in front of us.”
The act of giving disarms the power that objects hold over us. The authors tell stories of profound generosity being practiced in the Arusha area of Tanzania (where MEDA has projects), an impoverished African nation with a GDP of less than $900 per capita.
Trusting that we have enough is an ongoing decision, they note. When LaSalle congregants received their $500 cheques, the money allowed them to remember when sharing had been part of who they were. The book contains many touching tales of how people shared that gift.
It also mentions generosity practiced by Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments. On learning that some of his employees were having difficulty making ends meet, he increased all staff salaries, cutting his own pay to provide the necessary funds.
Rediscovering our own link to giving freely may require finding a saturation point, a sense of enough, they argue. Finding the place “is a task for all of us, no matter where we fall on the tax tables.”
Keeping a gratitude journal is seen as an important tool along the way. This spiritual discipline has been shown to provide more restful sleep, lower the blood pressure and susceptibility to pain of those who practice it, and cut depression risk by one-third. “Like generosity, gratitude is a superpower.”
The book includes a list of the causes that the LaSalle congregation chose to benefit with the windfall. They broke these gifts into four categories: supporting the local community, supporting global neighbors, sustaining the church and investing in people.
Love Let Go deserves a wide reading, in church and other settings. It calls us back to an awareness of the importance of being open to being channels of healing. “Thankful people realize they live in a world of interconnected blessings,” the authors write. “They know that the good they do is an echo of the good done to them.” ◆