Have you ever been a part of a project at work or maybe part of an organization, where you just came to a point with your partners and said, “Thanks for your participation, I’ll take it from here”? You just knew, deep inside your gut, you could do the job more efficiently and effectively if everyone else got out of the way.
In America, we are in that time and place. The partners (our government) in this project called “the economy” just aren’t right for the job.
To most Americans it appears we have no control over the way money is allocated or spent. On any given day, lobbyists saunter into offices on Capitol Hill sharing the stories of their client’s “needs” and “dreams”, while promising long term support for those whom they are making deals. The people making these decisions don’t care or aren’t interested in using our money morally.
For those of us who follow the words of Jesus, we believe we are to “Render to Caesar (pay taxes) the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21 NAS), at least most of us are rendering. In doing this, we think we are at Washington’s mercy and behave as though there is nothing we can do to correct the financial path we are traveling due to Washington’s radical spending.
Recently while reading Robert Morris’ book, The Blessed Life, I realized with a grassroots effort, conservative Americans can make a difference financially at the community level, which just might put Washington out of business. The social services business, at least.
The Blessed Life discusses the principle of tithing to God. Tithing is the offering of the first of our labors, a tenth of what we have been blessed with in life, a continual offering to God, not just once or once in a while.
From the beginning of time, God asked His people for only the first 10 percent, the best of their best, directly given back to Him. Any additional giving to others was and remains to this day, above and beyond that ten percent. This giving is done today in our local churches.
Imagine the potential, as a nation we have to lessen the portion of the Federal Budget, which manages items for helping those in need, if our participation in local churches and its financial giving would render the need for involvement of the Federal and maybe even State governments unnecessary. What a picture, to envision our faith communities as truly serving those needs, without Federal and State aid and thus eliminating the need for taxes being directed to those line items and in turn helping to reduce our budget problems.
In a 2010 Pew Research poll, 78.3 percent of Americans distinguished themselves as Christians. The American population at that time was approximately 311,000,000 calculates to approximately 245,000,000 people aligning themselves with Christian faiths. (I realize that for many, the topic of money in church is like the sound of nails dragging down a chalkboard, but stick with me.)
Mr. Morris’ book sparked the idea with me, that for conservative Christians, who are regular attenders at their local church, we may actually hold the key to putting the government out of the business of taking care of our communities and states in a number of potential ways.
A 2004 survey of church attendance in the U.S., done by Dave Olson, director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, Christian churches surveyed (i.e., evangelical, mainline and Catholic) showed 18.7% of Americans regularly attended church.
If we use the 2010 population survey and the 2004 attendance survey (using approximations) we could estimate approximately 50,000,000 Americans attend a specifically Christian church service regularly. According to America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2010 from the United States Census Bureau in 2010 the average house size was 2.59 people per family. This gives us approximately 20,000,000 families attending church regularly. The 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) from the US Census Bureau reported the real median household income in the United States to be $50,502.
Realistically, there are families regularly attending church who make beyond the real median household income, but just working off this number, if each family gave the base tithing of 10 percent, it amounts to only $5,050 a year in giving to their local church. Then hoping that family gives an addition 10 percent to the same church and its community outreach activities, there is an additional $5,050 per family, totaling a family’s annual contribution of $10,100.
The first ten percent, or tithe, given in honor of God and how He has blessed our families and nation and the second as an additional step of faith, that churches and people of faith can reach into our communities more effectively and efficiently than the government, targeting money to those in need in the immediate community.
Here is where this experiment puts Washington out of a job. If at these numbers and minimal rates of giving not only back to God, which is what is asked of Christians, but an equal amount of additional giving “above and beyond” this produces approximately $190,000,000,000 which can be used in our communities to fund projects the government is “managing” today.
Dream of what could be done with well-intended people, who have a laser focus of using the money specifically for those in need, without all the added pork Washington includes in their bills. While at the same time, those who are giving the money also have the opportunity of working hand in hand in serving their community and seeing the benefits firsthand of their financial aid; seizing the opportunity of being a steward in the community.
The concept of stewardship hasn’t reached Washington D.C. Congress may believe they are being stewards of our money when in fact, they aren’t. A steward, defined by Dictionary.com, is “a person who manages another’s property of financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others”. Stewardship is an action, something that should be taken seriously for the betterment of the one who has entrusted the finances, not for the betterment of the one who is managing the finances, in this case our government.
In looking at the action of tithing from a historical perspective, Mr. Morris’ book focuses on Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the twelfth king of Judea and was the son of Ahaz. King Ahaz had been condemned by the prophets as being a godless leader. (Might there be a correlation here?)
When Hezekiah took the throne, Judea had declined to the lowest of political and spiritual depravity. To give support for the priests and Levites in Judea, Hezekiah sent out a command for the people of Judea to commit themselves to the practices of the Law of the Lord. (You can read the entire story in 2 Chronicles 31:4-10 NIV).
The result of God’s people turning back to Him and giving as God directed them was a phenomenal. As the people gave to God, He gave back to them and the storehouses (which today could be compared to food banks at churches and within our local communities, clothing distribution centers for those in need as well as job training centers and homeless shelters) were overflowing with supplies. (See 2 Chronicles 31:10 NIV)
There was no longer a population of needy people in their community.
The government didn’t create this success. King Hezekiah didn’t try to take the credit. It was the people responding to God and in turn God blessing His people. As a blessing from God, the people had enough to take care of their own and lessened the government involvement in everyone’s life.
Sounds good, right? So would God allow this to happen in America?
If we still believe we can be a Christian nation, we need to look at the words of God. God is telling us to test His words. “Bring in the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for enough of it”. Malachi 3:10
There are churches all over this country whose absolute focus is on helping others. That support needs to come from conservative Americans who follow the path set out by God.
I am truly convicted that if we give to God and our churches, we will be able to take care of many (and maybe eventually all) of the social entitlement programs the government believes they need to be in charge of and put the government out of the social services business. In turn, those areas of the budget can be cut because we take care of each other directly, not through government channels.
The Gateway church where Robert Morris is the Senior Pastor, last year alone gave $10million dollars to outreach programs. With 5 campuses in the Dallas area and 22,000 people attending regularly, they gave $10million dollars.
What could we do as the American citizens I know we are and can be, with over 48,000,000 church going Americans, if we set it in our heart to no longer entrust the government with this portion of “their duties”?
Just imagine if we could tell Washington, “Thanks for your participation; we will take it from here. You’re fired!”