Keeping the lamps trimmed and burning…and the lights on too


Giving to the church Deux:

Going back to the discussion on giving, we are in our annual pledge drive. I got some pretty honest and important feedback (see the post ‘how to ask’ below)from you readers. When you’re dealing with a church budget, some of an average person’s pledge will go to the rising energy costs to keep the building heated, etc., some will go to my salary (which is modest and for which I am grateful), and the rest will go to the ministries in the church.

Many churches face a crisis in giving and I always get heartburn at this time of year. Your questions:

1. Why do you think there is a crisis in giving to churches?
2. Why do you give?

I love your honest feedack…

14 thoughts on “Keeping the lamps trimmed and burning…and the lights on too

  1. 1. Because (my guess):
    A. There is a crisis of trust in churches, ie, they’ve become irrelevant or impotent or corrupt.
    B. The poor are getting poorer and the poor are one faithful source of moneys for churches.

    2. I dig my church.

  2. I think people allocate resources to their priorities. If their priority is Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, they will fund that first and most. Since we know that they do not fund the church first and most, we can assume that they assign a lower priority. Then what is first? What is the most important thing in their life? Get checkbook out and add it up.

    We know from recent stats that the average number of hours in front of media is huge, maybe as high as nine hours a day. So, allocating resources in time, we would say that whatever is being watched is indicative of what is most important to those who watch. Reality shows, drive time radio, movies, computer games, what? I’d say that our priorities are not that hard to read. We don’t go without cable TV and internet, but we do short our church pledge when there’s too much month left at the end of the money.

    We tithe…I think. My wife says we do. We tithe to two churches, so it’s kinda hard to tell. We also skimp to the church when things get tough, preferring food and shelter to God’s work, I fear. I want our family priorities to be Christ and His kingdom first, last and always. My wife thinks I’m a little bit of a dreamer. Guilty as charged, but I’m also sure that there is nothing more important in life than the work of Christ’s church.

  3. Okay, my answers are in reverse order.

    2.We teach tithing at our church, but still only about 35% do it. I am a single mother on a very limited income and I still tithe. I think I live extremely well on the little bit I have. In fact, I think i do better than some people on much larger incomes. Is it because of tithing? I beleive it is. But that isn’t the real reason I tithe. I tithe to demonstrate my trust in God and my acknowledgement that He is the one that is truly taking care of us.

    1. But I was having a conversation in the rectory with my pastor just last night over the excessively opulent lifestyles of some of the pastors that he knows. It really bothered me. I just can’t beleive what some people are willing to do in the name of God. He told me of one church where there was a ten thousand dollar cash prize to the one who brought the most people to church. He spoke of massive houses with yachts moored in the back, luxury sports cars and multiple luxury sports cars. Why do we in the church behave as if we opperate in a vacuum in which no one can see what we are doing? Why do we behave as if our actions are above questioning? Why are we trying to store up treasure here on earth? I just don’t understand. And I feel so sorry for the innocent people who are caught up in this. My final thought is that people don’t give because they don’t see their money making a real
    impact.

  4. Giving isn’t just composed of money. Giving involves your time and effort as well.

    This whole 10% stuff is a bit weird as well. Over an average three year cycle a Jewish family that was obeying the law would give approximately 33% of their income to the Lord in various forms.

    But in dealing with your questions,

    1. The image of some mega churches and particularly the prosperity Gospel view confounds me being honest. Angevoix touched on it already.

    The belief that we give in order to receive. You give because it is a biblical command. If I give money and I view it purely as an investment that is the wrong attitude on my part.

    It’s one thing that Christians, especially evangelical Christians, have become associated with. The drive for money. If you donate this much God will do x, y and z for you. It’s annoying and incredibly frustrating.

    2. Because it all belongs to God anyway. It’s hardly my money. If God told me to give all my money away I would like to think that I would have the faith and courage to do it.

  5. Dueteronomy 14:22-29 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes forth from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place which he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and flock; that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses, and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not forsake the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. “At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in the same year, and lay it up within your towns; and the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

    Here’s what I get from this passage:
    1. It ALL belongs to God, not just the 10% “get Him off your back” portion we tend to contest.
    2. The 10% functions more like a sabbath – a restorative party demonstrating a system of rewards in the economy of God (we tend to steal our rewards and position obedience as noble suffering).
    3. The economy of God is far more like a party where we’re all invited and where rich and poor can exclaim what a great God and great party we’re experiencing together (the gap is removed).
    4. The priest and the usual alms recipients are honored – within the celebration – as representatives of the host and special guests, respectively. This is important because it ties priests and poor to a sense of gratitude rather than obligation or “overhead.”
    5. Finally, and most relieving, the 90% is given a meaning – sort of the way work days are given meaning by the Sabbath. The 90% is the responsible, duty-bound, wise and well-planned portion…the part managed and earned and spent as obligation, and then rewarded by the 10% party. I find this relieving because it places a burden and definition on how I manage the bulk of my money within the context of community – it solves the rub of how I should use my wealth because it makes the 90% God’s wealth, not my own stash. It eliminates the temptation and rationalizations about conspicuous consumption. A great thing for the living of life practicing the presence of God.

    I think there are clues to both the problems and hope for solutions in there.

  6. I give regularly to my church in tithes and offerings. I’ve never lost doing so. A side benefit is that I find I manage better with the 90% than I did with 100. Strange,yes?

  7. What they said! There are good answers here. Like Morpheus, I believe that you can look at a person’s checkbook, mine included, and see the priorities. Sometimes it isn’t pretty.

    Angevoix: what does it mean that tithing is taught at your church? What does that look like?

    And like MS said, time and effort are also included in the equation.

    I think a tithe is a minimum, that everything belongs to God, and it’s the least I can do to give that much to my church. I also think it’s important to give more, to other causes, in accordance with how we are able. And that would be my prayer, that everyone who loves God would be so grateful for every single thing, that their response is just to give, give, give.

    A few times I’ve had fleeting thoughts of what we could do with the money if we weren’t giving. A bigger house, a better car, vacations…and really, for what? Like I would even enjoy them.

    One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is giving out of abundance vs. giving out of sustenance. I think the widow gave her mite out of sustenance but I often feel we give out of our abundance. I don’t know.

    My prayers are with you Fr. Neo!

  8. yea i agree with morpheus about tithing depending on where one’s priorities are. i know I need to give more of my money and my time to God, but I quite simply don’t. The consumerist culture I think has so much to do with how selfish people are about their resources today. I will have these spirts of guilt in which I look around at all I have and want to try and live a more simple life. So I donate a ton of stuff to goodwill, but I really don’t feel any better. I am stuck in a rut of thinking that I need to tithe to make myself feel better, rather than because I need to dedicate my resources to God. I would love it if i could be one of those people that lives on the bare minimum and gives constantly to others, but I am frankly just too scared. My father always taught us to be prepared financially, and my father always committed his resources first and fore-most to self-survival. He never gave money to the church. Then there was my mom who loves to give constantly but who would often be so generous that she would go into debt trying to help others and my dad would have to fix all of her messes. I am off on a tangent aren’t I? anyways, its about priorities. It all depends on each individual as to what controls them. For me, it is paying the bills every month. “when I get out of debt I will give to the church” is my motto. But at the same time, I also view the time I give and the love I show to others as a tithing of my resources. I love feeding people, it is an expression for me of sharing what Christ has blessed me with. I also sponsor a little girl through compassion. I may not give anywhere near ten percent of my income, but I do try. Whether or not that matters to God, I don’t know. But I know that I can and need to give more.

  9. I hadn’t commented on this earlier this week and I’m kind of glad now that I didn’t because it just so happened that today I went to a lectureship for my job on Stewardship. It was given by one of the Preaching faculty here at the seminary. He gave a few interesting quotes from Robert Wuthnow’s article entitled “Pious Materialism: How Americans View Faith and Money” from The Christian Century.

    “Money is considered too personal to be discussed openly. The darkest taboo in our culture is not sex or death, but money…The proportion who seldom discussed personal finances with fellow church people was 97%.”

    Also,

    “Among those who attend church every week, only 16% were taught that it is wrong to want a lot of money. 84% said, “I wish I had more money than I do.”

    This should be contrasted with the biblical attitude of Ex. 20:17: You shall not covet; Luke 12:15: Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; Hebrews 13:5: Let your character be free from the love of money.

    The main point that struck me today in this lectureship was that we are to be stewards. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that! We need to be stewards of our time, money, talents, etc. But the context and definitions given today made this concept very different for me. The professor asked for synonyms of steward and those suggested were the following: caretaker, manager, investor. Now, if I had my own personal finance manager, what characteristics would I desire that manager to have? Those characteristics are: diligence, faithfulness, integrity, and loyalty. This is who we are to God. We are simply managers of His money and His possessions. I think the majority of the American church does not have a proper view of stewardship which directly impacts giving practices.

  10. Sorry for the slow response to your question Amy. I have been moving and have had computer issues so it was not deliberate.
    Our church teaches tithing in membership classes and our pastor touches on it in Bible study and in his sermons. But when I say he touches on it, that’s exactly what I mean. He keeps talking about giving financially to a minimum. And there is no offering taken during some of our biggest services of the year.

  11. Interesting. I think Moody Padawan niece heard a great lecture. If money were not so charged an issue, it would be talked about openly. The fact that it is not is surely recognition of its special status as taboo. I have been a financial planner for twenty three years. For most of that time, I worked for the wealthy. I have NEVER met anyone who was satisfied with how much money they had. If they had a lot, they were embarassed. If they had a little, they were embarassed. It has also been my professional observation that people would rather talk about their sex life than their money, within the church and without. Most churches avoid talking about it, which is a comfort to all. Churches who have a healthy view of money talk about it openly, but they are rare. Some churches talk about money a lot, but it is always other people’s money.

    Becoming a steward among stewards in a church which had solved this problem in the lives of their congregants would be very freeing. I don’t see it happening in our country often. We are devoted to materialism throughout the culture. So, we will avoid discussion and give our reasons.

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