By Tim Lubinus
I like the idea of the tithe. Giving ten percent of one’s income to a local church is a good starting point for mature believers. Giving by percentage allows for people with extensive resources to give more and for those with limited resources to give less. Research has shown that higher income people give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than lower income people. I have to wonder if this is because of wealthy people are often more susceptible to the addicting qualities of money. They may care about money more and this causes them to care about keeping money more.
Though research has shown that most believers even in the evangelical church do not even tithe, a small number of others give more than ten percent of their income to the church. The average is around three or four percent.
In addition to individuals giving to a church, churches themselves should consider giving generously to other ministries. Although not explicitly instructed in the scripture, ten percent is also a good starting point for healthy churches to give to ministries outside of their own. Like individuals that give to churches, some churches give much more than ten percent to other ministries. It is hard for me to conceive a situation where it is ok for individuals or churches to give less than ten percent. It is interesting that excuses for not doing so are similar for churches as individuals: “You don’t understand, that would be especially difficult for us, our situation is different than others, we give in other ways than financially, we’ll give more in the future when things finally get settled for us.”
In the SBC, churches give to the cooperative program through state conventions. I think a great discipline for state conventions is to use half of their funds for ministry in the state and send half on to the executive committee to be distributed for international missions, national missions, and leadership development at seminaries. Why don’t many state conventions give generously? I think I know: “You don’t understand, that would be especially difficult for us, our situation is different than others, we give in other ways than financially, we’ll give more in the future when things finally get settled for us.”
I’d like to get the Baptist Convention of Iowa to give fifty percent to missions as soon as possible. That will mean actively increasing our income and decreasing our expenses even if that is uncomfortable. It will also mean that we need to drop our excuses.
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