Crunching the Numbers

As soon as the word spread, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly Givi_2 jdrfseattleguild.orgthe tithe of everything.   2 Chronicles 31:5

This year’s Congregational Giving letter has a chart with numbers on it.  This chart shows us what different percentages of various annual gross incomes amount to (you can find a similar one here).  Most of us can calculate percentages of our income easily. Why include a chart? It seems a bit crass. Many churches, knowing how complex monetary decisions are, never mention numbers. We know there’s no one answer for everybody, so we don’t suggest any answers at all.

If we omit dollars and percentages from our conversation, though, we pretend our faith giving is separate from the rest of our finances. Almost everyone else makes very specific requests for our money. We receive bills, non-profit soliciatations, and loads of advertisements with required or requested payment amounts. How does the church fit into that picture?

One suggestion from our tradition is that we set aside a tithe (10%) of our income for others. Some Christians give all of that money to their church, with the understanding that the church will serve those beyond its membership. Other Christians give 5% of their income to the church and 5% to other causes. But many people find any form of tithe difficult, either because it would cause financial hardship or because it would require a radical reorientation of thinking and budgeting. As a result, Christian communities increasingly encourage their members to focus on “percentage giving.”  Simply learning what percentage of our income we give away, and praying about what we feel called to give, is a powerful exercise.

Do you know what percentage of your income you give? Do you feel moved to change that percentage over time? What portion of those gifts do you feel called to give to the church? No one answer is right for everyone, but I hope this season will be rich in reflection for you.