by Father Mark Goldasich
Don’t be chintzy.
If there was one lesson drilled into me growing up, this was it. For example, if you went to a wedding reception and they had less than three meats on the buffet — or God forbid, if it was “just” cake and punch — the hosts were considered chintzy.
More serious, though, than being labeled chintzy is its potentially deeper effect. This story nicely illustrates that:
Many years ago, Irish immigrants subscribed to the theory that they could eat all the big potatoes and keep the small ones for seed planting. They did this for quite some time: ate the big potatoes; planted the small ones. Soon, however, greater understanding of the laws of nature came to them, for while they kept up this practice, nature reduced all their potatoes to the size of marbles. The Irish farmers learned through bitter experience that they could not keep the best things of life for themselves and use the leftovers for seed. The laws of nature decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting season. (Story found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds: Third Planting.”)
When it comes to this season of Lent, I’ve found a chintzy streak in me. I always pick up a Rice Bowl from Catholic Relief Services. I love the idea of sacrificing something in my life and putting what I would have spent on myself into the Rice Bowl instead. So, why don’t I do that?
The Rice Bowl comes with a wonderful calendar for Lent, yet I never refer to it. Not only am I chintzy with time, but also with my contributions. Let’s say I get a combo meal at McDonald’s for $8.30. While I can easily forgo having that meal, I’d be hard pressed to put $8.30 into the Rice Bowl, judging from past behavior. Maybe a couple of bucks, max. That’s chintzy . . . and my parents would be ashamed of me.
Sadly, I fear that I’m not alone in being chintzy when it comes to those pesky Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Oh, we might “give up” something, but we’ll neglect a commitment to prayer and almsgiving. All three of those disciplines are as essential as three legs are to a stool. If any one is missing, the stool becomes unbalanced and useless.
With that in mind, I’d like to propose a few “anti-chintzy” behaviors for this Lent:
• If you bought some new Chiefs gear or mementos commemorating their Super Bowl LVII win, great. Now, consider giving an equal amount of money to the Rice Bowl or Catholic Charities. The same attitude could apply to your Starbucks coffee routine or dining-out habits. Don’t necessarily stop those things, just funnel a matching gift to almsgiving.
• Are you addicted to watching basketball during March Madness or love binge-watching a favorite show? Wonderful, enjoy them. But tally up all those hours in front of the TV and devote an equal amount of time to prayer or volunteering.
• In place of “giving up” chocolate, pop or chips, choose to fast instead from gossip, impatience or judging others.
If we truly want these days of Lent to be meaningful, let’s stop being chintzy with God.
Instead, plant some “big potatoes” of prayer, fasting and almsgiving . . . in anticipation of an abundant harvest at Easter.