Stingy Givers

The massive economic crises of recent months have led to drastic cuts in the American family budget. These crises are sure to have financial implications on what is, according to Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell, already less-than-generous church giving.

In Passing the Plate: Why Amer­can Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, the authors shed light on why U.S. Christians are astonishingly un­generous. They outline giving trends with current data, startling statistics, and a clear sociological delivery—leaving the conscientious reader very troubled about the failure of Christian tithing.

According to their research, 20 percent of American Christ­ians give nothing to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities. The remaining 80 percent give something, but not much. The mean average of giving is 2.9 percent of their after-tax in­comes—no­where near the mark of biblical mandates of tithing.

For the authors, this lack of generous giving is a riddle of enormous consequence. Consi­dering cur­rent domestic and global needs, generous giving “could transform the world, starting right away,” they write. And, U.S. Christians appear to have the financial resources to give generously in light of these needs. Nearly every tradition in American Christianity teaches tithing. In light of these factors, why don’t we give away more money?

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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