You’ve all no doubt heard or read the frequently cited stats and truisms about Christian giving:
- Christians give on average 2.6 percent of their income
- Four percent of Americans give a tithe (10 percent)
- Twenty percent of your congregation is providing eighty percent of the monetary (and volunteer) support
You get the idea.
Typically we see these numbers come out when we’re being taught about the importance of giving (this is not unreasonable). We marvel at them together and wonder… why?
Is it a hardness of heart thing? Is it that people don’t trust God? What’s the deal?
I’ve been thinking about this issue of giving for quite some time (I even included a short chapter on the subject in Awaiting a Savior). When we look at a stat like Christians give an average of 2.6 percent of their income, we should be disturbed… but there’s also a lot that numbers alone simply cannot say.
We’re right to address the truth that there’s a tension that exists between serving God and money—one that is more prominent that perhaps any other tension we find in Scripture. Jesus warned that where our treasure is, our heart will be also (Matt. 6:24). Paul told us the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). The author of Hebrews said we should keep our lives free from the love of money (Heb. 13:5). So there’s no question that we need to speak to these realities. But we also might be wise to keep in mind some other issues that factor into why a professing Christian is not giving:
They’re brand-new Christians
When I was a new Christian, it took me a while to bring my pocket book along for the ride. If you’ve got a healthy church that’s helping people to meet Jesus, it might take them a while, too.
They’re not actually saved
Some people who claim the name of Christ (and consequently attend your church and end up taking surveys) are not actually Christians. False converts typically don’t see the need to give—so they don’t. (This truth should not be used as license to declare that anyone who doesn’t give isn’t a Christian; to do so would be to do a great evil to them.)
They’ve been hurt by the world
Some folks—maybe because of a business deal going bad, poor life choices, or student debt—are in a really bad spot. They went to college, got a degree and are working at Starbucks or McDonalds while paying off $60K in student loans. Their business went belly-up and they’re stuck paying off the creditors while trying to avoid foreclosure. Their reasonably well-paying job was eliminated and so they’re scraping everything they can together to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table. They might very likely have a desire to give generously, but the means simply aren’t there. They need time, assistance —maybe your church offers financial counselling and coaching?—and a great deal of encouragement as they strive to get onto solid ground.
They’ve been hurt by the church
Depending on your situation, you might be seeing a lot of transfer growth, people joining your church from other churches. While many people transferring are healthy and ready to serve—perhaps work, family, or other situations not related to some sin issue necessitated their leaving their previous church—others are coming in banged up, hurt and nervous. These people need time, love, and patience while they get things figured out, get the help they need, and eventually start to give.
Discipleship, Not Statistics
Ultimately, these all come down to not simply a heart issue (which it certainly is), but also a discipleship issue. Injured people need to be shepherded and cared for. Lost people need to hear the gospel proclaimed. New Christians need to be taught. But as in all areas of discipleship, there is no one-size-fits-all reason or solution. All of us need to be reminded that our finances do not fall outside of Jesus’ lordship, to be sure, but we ought to do our best to be sensitive to the unique situations of those we serve and walk alongside.