This post is an expanded response to a comment to last week’s post about Christian giving. I gave the person commenting a short answer, but I think this topic deserves more attention. Here is the comment on which the post is primarily based:
Plainly speaking, Christian giving is almost always overstated by most Christians. In reality what they give at best covers about 1% of the total needs of the poor. According to Pell Research, which is a Christian polling organization, the median annual amount that congregations spent on social-service programs is $1,500. That might cover one family in their area for a month or so but that is about all.
I mentioned the 1% number to the commenter and asked him “Are the other 99% supposed to go without help so that the Christian giver can feel good about himself?” The response I got really didn’t answer that question but went on to spout other misconceptions. His belief is that since Christians are forced to give money to “the least of these” that makes some Christians actually join the ranks of the poor, so that hurts the problem instead of helping it! Unfortunately, that kind of logic is not that unusual for some Christians that I have come across.
I went on to assure him that people who are near or below the poverty level don’t pay the same taxes as those with higher incomes, so his logic was again without foundation.
Plainly speaking, the purpose of government is to do the people’s business. Of course a part of that is to provide for the “least of these” as Jesus told us to do. I’m certain that if Christian organizations suddenly raised their giving to the poor by 1,000% that the government would gladly let them provide for the need and step away. The tax dollars saved could be given back via a tax break, or given to increase the already ridiculous military budget, or just spent on something else. 😎
The sad fact is that the average of 80% of all congregation tax-deductible contributions end up just supporting the church building, special internal celebrations and staff. There is very little left for any of the things that Jesus told us to do to help each other. The other sad fact is that even though the Bible, or at least some interpretations of it, says that they should give 10% of our income to the work of the church 80% of members give less than 2% and as shown above that barely covers the overhead costs of the local congregation.
One could argue that giving to support the clubhouse and its social director should not be tax-deductible. That status should be reserved for actual charitable giving outside the church and not to maintain the internal social functions of the congregation. It has been found that the difference between religious giving and non-religious is for all practical purposes are sadly the same or tilted slightly toward the non-religious. The Least of these just doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in many churches today.