Written by Dan LaValla
Friday, 18 May 2012 00:00
Giving in Light of the Challenges in our Current Economy
Based on current statistics and economic data, chances are good that you and your family probably share many of the financial challenges that are facing me and my family. With decreasing household incomes and inflationary costs of the basics such as groceries, utilities, gasoline, medical care, etc., we, like the majority of Americans, have much less disposable income these days, making it more challenging to give to the church and charities.
On May 3, 2012 I caught an informative 15-minute interview that Charlie Rose gave to Edward Luce (Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times, London) on his thoroughly researched book, Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent (released April 2012). His book contains much data supporting what many Americans are observing and experiencing. In the interview, he states that the American middle class is being hollowed out at an accelerating rate and is poorer in 2012 than they were in June 2009, which is considered the beginning of the recovery from the Great Recession that started in December 2007. Wages of the jobs being created during this economic recovery are much lower than the wages of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession. Further, this current business cycle is coming off the heels of the last business cycle (2002-2007) which was the first time in modern American history where the median household was poorer by $2000 in 2007 than they were in 2002, a phenomena that looks to be repeating in this cycle. See the interview at http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12335
No to Tithing; No to Legalism; Yes to Giving Cheerfully and Sacrificially!
There are many perspectives on the issue of tithing and giving. Many state that it is a minimum obligation to give at least 10% of one’s income. Opinions vary on whether it should be calculated on one’s gross or net income. Some teach the tithe is just for the church and other charities should be supported with money beyond the tithe. Many believe tithing is an Old Testament standard (Gen. 14:18-20; Lev. 27:30 and Deut. 14:22-28) that remains relevant for Christians and supported by the New Testament (Hebrews 7:7:-10). However, many Christians believe that Jesus discourages tithing because God is not concerned with religious rules, but concerned about our commitment to justice, mercy, and a relationship with our heavenly Father based on love and faith (Matt. 23:22-24, Luke 11:37-54 & 18:9-14). Many point to Jesus’ parable of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44) as an illustration that it is not the amount of money that we give but that our giving reflects that God is our first priority and that we love Him with all that we have: our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
My wife and I are committed to giving generously and sacrificially to the church and other charities. We look to 2Cor. 9 to help guide us as we budget our giving each year. We see giving as a privilege made possible by God’s provisions of employment and understand that God wants us to give cheerfully and with contentment in what we have and as purposed in our hearts through prayer. We make it a priority to not just give our leftovers, but intentionally make giving a priority. We have tried to teach this to our two sons as they grow.
Our Current Family Dilemma
Overall, we enjoy our giving commitments and budget so that we are able to do so; but at times, we find it inconvenient on a worldly level and even emotionally and spiritually painful. This past year has presented several challenges that have been painful and created many opportunities to discuss the issue of tithing and financial giving with our oldest son who turned 16 this past January. Unfortunately, our current dilemma has challenged our commitment to giving. With the stagnation of our family income over the past six years and the rising cost of core expenses (medical care, gasoline, groceries, utilities, etc.), we are not in a position to handle the increased costs associated with adding him as a licensed driver. This has been heart-wrenching and humbling as parents.
Sometimes I wonder if we should compromise our giving commitments to afford this rite of passage, but ultimately, driving for him is not yet a necessity, but a luxury which cannot justify such a compromise. Sometimes I am concerned whether this experience will have a long-term positive or negative impact on his commitment to giving charitably and in his walk with the Lord. He has already expressed that he thinks giving is something you do if you can afford it. For example, he feels he does not earn enough money with the limited number of hours he works to donate a portion of his income. Whether we agree or disagree or are proud or disappointed with his views and actions, my wife and I will not coerce him about aspects of his relationship with the Lord and how he chooses to express it and serve Christ because there are many ways in which we are proud of his growth in Christ and how he expresses it. Regardless, this is a dilemma that we hope and pray the Lord will eventually provide a means for eradicating.
Your views and opinions?
What are your views on tithing and Christian charity? How would you handle this situation?
Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.