In the work I do for the Christian Church Foundation, our message is rooted in the Good Book (Bible) of how we as Christians are called to give of our time, talent and treasure (or wealth, wisdom, and work) to build the kingdom of God on earth. The Old Testament speaks of giving our “first fruits”—or 10 percent of the harvest—to the church for its work. We are then implored to give an “offering” to support the widows and orphans, the aliens and the poor.
In the New Testament the scriptures call for us to give out of our abundance, and in response to the measure we have been blessed. The topics of giving and sharing are noted in the Bible more times than the topics of love and faith! And two-thirds of Jesus’ parables addressed how we care for others by sharing of our resources.
It is a wonder, then, why the “average” Christian gives 2 percent of income to church (the “tithe” AND the offering!). Most likely, many are giving to other worthy causes, and the tax return really does reflect a tithe of income going to nonprofit causes.
Tax returns…hmmm…what do tax returns have to do with giving?
The further question is, do people of faith give because of the benefits of a tax deduction?
Some faith groups are rather rigid about giving—members are mandated what they will give. Others will offer up guilt as a motivation to give. Other so-called “prosperity gospel” preachers promise that the more you give, the more God will give you blessings. At the other end, a good deal of churches NEVER talk about money, and thus stifle the faithful growth of a follower.
Human behavior also drives some members to only give when they show up for church—sort of a “fee for services rendered,” or Pay Per View model.
So what DO tax returns have to do with giving? Are we motived by altruism, or return on investment? Love of others, or love for stiffing Uncle Sam?
Do we have humanistic, financial, bottom-line goals? Or do we give, “just ‘cause?”
Are you waiting for an answer as you read this? Well guess what—so am I! Our hope (and prayer) is that people of faith will continue to give the same ways they always have, but as Russell James has taught us, The Almighty Tax Deduction drives peoples’ decisions.
So, as the Giving USA reports start coming in this time next year, let’s hope the needle will be moved in an upward tick rather than declining. The answers to these questions will then be revealed.
In the meantime, Heaven (and Congress!) Help Us!