Why Don’t More People Give?

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/WScottCochrane Scott Cochrane

    Important topic Aaron, and each of these points is valid. Peeling away the layers sometimes reveals another dynamic at play. Very often people ARE giving, even quite generously. They’re just not giving the full tithe to their church. Generous people will sometimes support a number of causes and Christian ministries, but may not carve out a full 10% of their giving to their church if they’re not captivated by the vision, if they have doubts in leadership, etc. I certainly don’t condone his approach to giving, but I think it is a reality in our churches today.

  • Bradley Gouwens

    One thing we can do as a church is to advertise ourselves more.  If people don’t have a tangible idea of what they’re giving to, than it becomes less important to them.  I try to do some type of media or live affirmation of people who are doing ministry and having an impact in front of the church at least once a month.  This stirs up generous people to give time and money to a cause that not only inspires them but they can see is working.  And it is so encouraging to the people!

  • http://ontheirshoulders.com/ Aron utecht

    Great points, Aaron!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks Aron!

  • Guest

    Do people see their church wasting money?  Does their church pay really high salaries, much higher they they earn themselves?  Does their church over staff?  Does it seem like their church has plenty of money?  Is there a demonstrated need for their money or does God really want them to give 10% of their income for it to be squandered on the latest multimedia equipment?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Interesting points. Questions: Who or what would you say determines what is or isn’t a “really high” salary for a pastor? Also, at what point in your mind is a church overstaffed? 

    • JR

      I think it was John Piper who said if you can’t trust the church you attend with your giving then you should consider if that’s a church you should be attending. Something along those lines. Also, there’s no requirement some/most/all of your giving go to the local church body you meet with weekly. If they are being bad stewards, give to an organization you feel comfortable with.

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  • http://ontheirshoulders.com/ Aron utecht

    I would also add to this, that a few people don’t give as they probably should because they haven’t been taught well about the connection to giving and discipleship.  In my experience, many Protestant pastors try to hard to avoid being ‘that pastor who just wants your money,’ and in the process neglect that area of teaching.

    I try to bring it up occasionally, when there isn’t an obvious or pressing need.  My message is that God’s people need to give, not because God needs the money, but because they need to do it.  And if they think I’m after their money, I invite them to give to another ministry – but start giving because it is an important part of following Christ with all of our lives.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Agreed; I’ve been consistently impressed with how our church’s pastor handles this really tricky subject. He’s preaching through Malachi and hit the first of two spots that deal with offerings and heart attitudes. His admonition is the same as yours—”If you doubt or question my motives, give somewhere else, but give.” 

      I’ve always appreciated that approach. 

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