"Years earlier, when I was 5, my father taught me a valuable life lesson about treating other people’s property. Because of this lesson, I didn’t hesitate in my decision to return the wallet to its rightful owner," remembers Arkadiusz (Arek) Bojko.
I was a young minister serving congregations in Eastern Poland. My fiancée was studying in a big city of Western Poland. Those days we had just a few options to keep in touch. I could take an overnight train, spend a day together, and return home taking another overnight train. We were writing letters. Not emails, real ink and paper letters, which you put in the mailbox, and three days later your addressee gets the message. If you are lucky, you receive a reply letter about a week after the original message went out. There were phone calls too, but no cell phones. I soon discovered that using a street payphone was cheaper for my long-distance calls, so I started doing my evening trips to have a chat with Marzanna, who became my wife a year later.
One night, as I arrived at the familiar telephone booth after dusk, I noticed an object on the shelf. It was a wallet. Inside there were IDs, personal info and several U.S. dollar bills. Poland was then at an economic low, and the total amount in the wallet was more than my two annual incomes! What was I supposed to do? My decision much depended on the principles guiding my life. If I followed the idea “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers” I could have started making plans for my next shopping spree, right! Years earlier, when I was 5, my father taught me a valuable life lesson about treating other people’s property. Because of this lesson, I didn’t hesitate in my decision to return the wallet to its rightful owner. Note this—I didn’t give it to the owner, nor did I donate it to him. Even thou the object was in my hands it did not belong to me. The only option left was to return it, so I did it the very next day.
I keep hearing the expression paying tithe, which I have a problem reconciling with my understanding of what tithe and what paying are. In the process of paying, I exchange my money for goods that are not mine but become mine after the exchange. The problem with paying tithe is, it is not ours. God calls it His and Holy, thus separated from our common use. It has a special, defined-by-God purpose, and as God’s property temporally placed in our hands, wallets or accounts, it is to be returned to its only rightful Owner, God. Think about it the next time you handle God’s money in your wallet. You cannot pay using something that is not yours! Stop paying, join me in returning it to the rightful Owner. This change of perspective will transform your tithing experience! I promise!
Arkadiusz (Arek) Bojko is the Stewardship, as well as Planned Giving and Trust Services director for the Illinois Conference.