One factor affecting our decision may come with determining exactly what we mean by the term “pledge.”
Is it a vow that locks us into a covenant from which we can never be loosed?
Is it a guestimate of what we might be able to contribute if things work out OK over the next three years?
Is it what some used to call years ago a “faith promise” – what I will give if the Lord does something miraculous in terms of adding to our incomes in an unexpected way?
Good questions all, to which I would say none of the above.
Well, than, what is a pledge? We can turn two places for help. They happen to harmonize quite nicely.
First, the dictionary. Webster’s sixth definition reads: “something promised, especially money to be contributed in regular payments.”
Second, the Scriptures. Consider 2 Cor. 9:1-5:
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction (emphasis added).
A pledge is a gift promised based upon what’s known as opposed to unknown. You look at your income stream at present, determine where you will sacrifice, calculate what you can give on a monthly basis and promise to put that in the plate faithfully, as God continues to give you grace to do so. It is not presuming on God to do something unusual that you hope He will do (faith promise). It is not a vow or covenant from which you could never be released if circumstances somehow changed beyond your control and prevented you from following through. It’s a promise to follow through with a plan for giving, just as you would do with a missionary or charitable organization you support based upon counting the cost and doing what God purposes in your heart (2 Cor. 9:7).
One commentary put this spin on Paul’s purpose in v. 6: He places the burden on the Corinthians and is fully assured that they will complete what they had promised. He reminds them of a proverbial truth: “A promise made is a debt unpaid.”
May we pray together throughout the remainder of this week that the Lord guides each of our member family units in knowing what kind of one-time gift and/or monthly pledge He requires of us AND may He give us grace to make good on what we promise so the apostle Paul doesn’t have to breathe down our necks, if he could, and remind us to follow through on our pledges.