|Major Gifts Man?|
The long-time debate about whether Jesus favoured an annual giving or major gifts approach to fundraising has written a new chapter with the discovery of what appears to be an ancient tax receipt for the early church.
The discovery, made last month in the Dead Sea, unearthed the receipt on a scroll of a tax collector in Judea who took note of a “100 Sestertius” gift to the “Church of Jesus”. The scroll, say theologians, backs the idea that Jesus and the early Church backed major gifts over annual giving.
“This is the earliest tax receipt for a donation ever found and it clearly puts it in the realm of a major gift. It wasn’t just a few coins every month, this was a large amount all at once,” says Dr. Newt Snidely, head of the Center for Major Gift Fundraising Antiquities at the University of Southern North Dakota. “It shows as I have always suspected that Jesus was likely a major gifts proponent.”
Snidely says the receipt fits with what is known about donating from the bible. For example, in Luke 12:33 Jesus tells followers to “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.”
“Jesus was always talking about rich people and how they should give up their wealth for the poor and follow him – sounds like the perfect major gifts pitch to me,” said Snidely.
But not all theologians and fundraisers agree. Dr. Dibble Brewer of the Moneybags Institute for Research into Annual Giving at the University of Upper Lower Athabasca says the receipt proves nothing.
“The local authorities back then didn’t write many tax receipts, especially for smaller, more frequent gifts to the church. This scroll may in fact show how rare major gifts were to the early church,” said Dr. Brewer. “This proves once again our interpretation of the Bible, which clearly shows that the Lord favour annual giving.”
Brewer says the scripture clearly favours annual giving, such as in Luke 21:1-4 . In that passage, Jesus sees a poor widow putting two small copper coins in a the temple poor box and praises her by saying “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
“That shows that Jesus was well aware of the power and symbolism that only annual giving can bring to a campaign. Big gifts once in a while aren’t as holy as giving all the time. It’s as plain as the light of day.”
The debate will likely continue next month when Catholic scholars plan to release a new research paper on whether Jesus preferred stand-alone fundraising databases or ones that are integrated with a website.
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