The amount of money given to the Christian church in America has been declining for the last several years. The decline has been so significant that the only other period of time in American history that we saw a similar decline in giving was during the Great Depression. This is despite the fact that we are undergoing a financial recovery, even if it is a sluggish one. The financial crunch that Christian churches are feeling is made worse by the fact that there are hundreds of new non-profit charities out there today competing for everyone’s dollar and getting it. The church is getting a smaller piece of a shrinking pie.
The problem is compounded by several factors. People tend to overestimate their giving to the church. Studies have confirmed that many people think that they are tithing when they are actually only contributing a couple of hundred dollars to the church. The average Protestant church-goer is giving less than 2% of his or her salary to the church or around $1,000. But even those figures are not accurate. That is an average. There are some Christians who give larger amounts and that leaves lots of Christians who give very low amounts each year or nothing at all.
I realize that it is distasteful to many people when a pastor starts talking about money. It was rude of Jesus to say, “You can’t serve God and money.” But we will have to live with that. Money is only an indicator of where our priorities are, but it is a good one. If we are too petty and cheap to share our money, we will have a very hard time sharing our love and grace.
Jesus understood that money is a window on the soul. When we are generous with our possessions, we are generous with our whole heart. As a pastor, I want to help people be free enough to gain blessings from God. You cannot do that if you constantly worry about how much something costs. I do not advocate being wasteful or careless with your money. We are called to be good stewards. But when we hold on to what God has freely given to us, then we are guilty of blocking blessings that might be flowing.
It is a poignant fact that if we were only giving to the church at the same rate that we gave in 1968—no increase, just the same rate—there would be billions of dollars more available to do work for God each year. We could feed the hungry; send help to children who are being abused; help our teens who are being lost to the church. We could fight the curse of pornography and train people for better jobs. Generosity creates opportunities. May God give us the grace to give generously.