Civility and generosity begin at home

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Striving to be people who mirror God

by Connie Faber, CL editor

Throughout the 2012 election campaign we have heard politicians say over and over again that they want a more civil political discourse. But too often calls for civility and acts of incivility show up in the same speech.

Associated Press reporter Allen G. Breed describes it this way: “The fundamental narrative of American politics in recent years contains two powerful threads: First, demand a better discourse among the people who run the country. Second, do everything you can to make sure that better discourse doesn’t take root.”

And it seems to me that civility—and the lack of it—begins at home. I came to that conclusion 12 years ago when our daughter was prevented from using the slipper slide during recess because of her vote in the elementary school mock presidential election. As parents, we communicate our political beliefs to our children whether we do so intentionally or not.

Politics isn’t the only arena in which what we say isn’t necessarily supported by our actions—or the other side of our mouths. Consider what we say about our money and what we do with our money.

Writing in this issue, Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, argues that teaching our children about giving, tithing and generosity requires both words and actions. Wiebe suggests that parents teach and model firstfruits living, and by firstfruits we mean giving our first and our best to God. Read Wiebe’s article and check out the resources on the MB Foundation website designed to help congregations teach these principles.

So it seems that if we want to create civil and generous children, we can’t just tell our kids to share with others and to be nice to someone who voted for a different presidential candidate than they did. We have to be openhanded and bighearted ourselves.

The rightness of practicing godly virtues like civility and generosity extends beyond the doors of our homes. For example, a firstfruits lifestyle is good for us as individuals and families, and it’s good for us corporately. So MB Foundation is encouraging and resourcing congregations that want to rework their budgets and stewardship strategies to follow the biblical firstfruits approach.

And now the new USMB funding strategy asks churches to employ firstfruits giving and to tithe corporately to USMB—to give 2.5 percent of the annual church income to the national budget. But the principle of firstfruits doesn’t stop there. We as U.S. Mennonite Brethren belong to a global family that includes the International Community of Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite World Conference, and these global fellowships ask us to tithe to their ministries.

It is no easy thing as followers of Jesus Christ to act with honor and integrity when it comes to things like civility and generosity. If we’re honest, we admit that we find it too easy to attack another person’s political opinions or to care for our own needs before we tithe. But I encourage us to continue striving to be people who mirror God in our words and our deeds.

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