Christianity Today posted its annual beat-down article on Christian stinginess this week, lambasting evangelical Christians for giving just 4% of their income to churches (compared to their even stingier mainline counterparts, who give just 2.43%, according to the latest empty tomb, inc. research).
The article quotes Ron Sider as being particularly scathing in his denouncement:
For Christians in the richest nation in history to be giving only 2.43 percent of their income to their churches is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience—blatant sin. We have become so seduced by the pervasive consumerism and materialism of our culture that we hardly notice the ghastly disjunction between our incredible wealth and the agonizing poverty in the world. Over the last 40 years, American Christians (as we have grown progressively richer) have given a smaller and smaller percent of our growing income to the ministries of our churches. Such behavior flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches about God, justice, and wealth. We should be giving not 2.4 percent but 10 percent, 15 percent, even 25 to 35 percent or more to kingdom work. Most of us could give 20 percent and not be close to poverty.”
True, that. And yet none of the commentators in the story posit a connection between the purported stinginess of Christians and the graph on overseas mission giving by denomination that appears in the same CT issue. That chart shows how much of each denominational dollar received goes to missions:
- Christian and Missionary Alliance: 11 cents
- Church of the Nazarene: 6 cents
- Southern Baptists: 2 cents
- Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: 1 cent
- …and so on
Terry Austin from Generous Church notes that “ninety-seven percent of all money that people give to the church is spent on the people who give it.”
Why would stingy churches and stingy denominations be producing generous Christians?
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.
–Jesus, from Luke 6:43-44