Friday, March 18, 2011


One of the things that Stearns talks about in his book is tithing. And of course I have lots of thoughts and questions about it. I agree that we are to give to God our firstfruits, and that the money that we give should be the first thing to be paid out of the budget. I don't do that, but I think it's the right thing to do.

Here are some of the statistics he shares:
  • The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion dollars.
  • It would take just a little over 1 percent of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty.
  • American Christians, who make up about 5 percent of the Church worldwide, control about half of global Christian wealth.
  • If every American Christian paid his or her tithe, we would have an extra $168 billion to spend in funding the work of the Church worldwide.
  • Less than 40 percent of the $168 billion (only $65 billion) could eliminate the most extreme poverty on the planet for more than a billion people.

Which led me to think...How many of us, when we go to visit a new church and are considering becoming members, ask to look at the budget? How many of us who are active and long-time members of a church take a regular and careful look at the budget?

I ask this because the budget of a church tells a lot (maybe everything) about the church's values and and priorities. And if I'm going to give 10 percent of my income to that church, then that church's priorities had darn well better align with mine. What if my church spends the lion's share of its budget to maintain an enormous and ornate building? What if my church spends its money to replace the computers every two years and to ensure that every staff member has an iPhone and a brand new iPad? (I'm just making this up as I go along. Forgive the silly examples).

What if, on the other hand, the church created and abided by a budget in which a full half of its income went to missions? What if they decided not to own a church building so that they could keep property maintenance/management costs down and give that money to local programs for those living in poverty? What if they used part-time staff and lots of lay volunteers to be responsible for the leadership of the church so that other money could go to community development projects? That's a church where I would be glad to fork over my 10 percent. (That's not to say that I don't do that now because I don't agree with my church's priorities. I just haven't gotten my own financial house in order).

Which leads me to the question, Does a tithe, to really be a tithe, have to go to the church? Or can it go to other agencies and organizations whom I believe to be doing the work of God in the world.



Shannon said...

i am reading this book now. have been for a while. and i am asking the same questions...and the example of the computers and iphone/ipad is not that far off base. have you been to my church?

Kingwell said...

Good, thoughtful stuff MB.

I am pretty sure we have some donors to God's Pantry Food Bank who consider their contributions part of their tithe, and I certainly don't disagree with them. We sometimes get bible verses, references to God ("Jesus" in the memo line was my personal favorite) and other indicators on the checks themselves.