One of the great things about personal finance blogs is that money touches almost every part of our lives, including our spiritual lives. Whether you regularly attend religious services, or even if you are an atheist, there is a sense of right and wrong, good and bad in all of us. This raises the question, how should we use the money we have to impact this world in a positive way? I intend to write about this subject each Sunday.
As a Christian (with an attitude, I might add), I’ve heard all my life that we should tithe 10% to the church. Putting aside what the Bible says about tithing (that’s for another post, perhaps), should we really be giving 10% of our gross income to the church? In the United States, bigger is better. We super-size everything from french fries to houses to SUVs. And we spend everything we make, and then some. The church in the United States today reflects these same tendencies. When a church nears its capacity, what does it do? It starts a building program, of course. I wonder if a pastor ever considered telling the congregation that some should start attending other churches of similar faith in the community that aren’t overflowing? Imagine the impact we could have on the world with the money saved. And in the past 5 to 10 years, mega-churches have sprouted that rival the modern day indoor mall. In these churches today you can:
- order a frap from Starbucks
- browse a Borders-like bookstore
- enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the restaurant
- get your hair done
And the kids have it even better:
- skateboard on an indoor half-pipe
- shoot pool
- play video games on 20-foot screens
Now, please don�t misunderstand me. It�s fine if folks want to contribute to a mega-church so they can enjoy all of these things. I�ve got no problem with that, any more than I have a problem with somebody wanting a nice home or car. And these mega-churches do reach a lot of people. We even attended a mega-church for awhile. But we�re just fooling ourselves if we think that giving 10% of our income to church so we can enjoy these luxuries is tithing or charitable giving. With all the hunger, disease and poverty in the world, should we feel good about ourselves for giving 10% of our income so we can attend church in luxury and style that even King Solomon would envy?
Rick Warren is the senior paster at Saddleback Church in California. In an interview, he responded to questions concerning the mythes about the mega-church. It’s an interview worth reading. One myth, according to Warren, is that mega-churches are a uniquely American phenomenon. He points out that the largest churches are not in the United States, and cites as an example Pastor Kumuyi’s church, Deeper Christian Life Ministry in Nigeria which reaches 120,000. Perhaps, but what is uniquely American is the luxury of our mega-churches. Here are pictures of Pastor Kumuyi’s church in Nigeria and Saddleback (can you tell which one is Saddleback?):
Of course, the standard of living in the United States is significantly higher than Nigeria. But the question is, should we consider any donations above what would be required to maintain a modest church facility (even by U.S. standards), a tithe or charitable gift? And as one preacher (and a very good one, I might add) says after each of his radio ads–Not a sermon, just a thought.
Recently there have been a number of blog articles about tithing. They are all worth reading, and here are some of them: