The days before and after Thanksgiving make for an odd holiday. Most Americans barely sit down to dinner before Elvis, Santa, and Mariah Carey invade their lives. Then comes the corporate fever dream known as “Black Friday,” followed by its digital sequel, “Cyber Monday.”
In all that time, there is precious little room left to be thankful as citizens of the wealthiest nation, or consider how to give back in light of that reality. Another tradition, however, offers the opportunity to buck the trend. Falling on November 29 this year, Giving Tuesday is a chance to celebrate the abundance so many enjoy and pass it along to others.
Christians have an even deeper legacy of giving, and a more powerful motivation to give. God generously created the world, generously blesses it with His presence, and generously, in Christ, gave Himself for us.
Despite its reputation, America is the world’s most generous country, both in terms of net donations and other individual metrics of charity. According to Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Americans gave away over $480 billion last year. In 2021, some 60% of Americans gave money, and 42% volunteered their time. Incredibly, American charitable giving increased during the pandemic, defying most predictions.
Other studies demonstrate the encouraging link between religious belief and generosity. As Karl Zinsmeister with nonprofit Philanthropy Roundtable wrote, “In study after study, religious practice is the behavioral variable with the strongest and most consistent association with generous giving.” Young Christians, for example, consistently out gave their non-Christian counterparts, donating as much as three times more over the course of a year, according to Lifeway Research.
Still, as generous as American Christians are, we might not be as generous as we think. For example, according to Lifeway Research, 83% of American churchgoers believe tithing 10% of one’s income is a biblical command that still applies today. In practice, however, only 13% of evangelical Protestants give “anything close to a tithe.” Instead, the average evangelical donor gave around 4%.
Even then, Lifeway’s Marissa Postell writes, “A few large givers … can skew the average significantly higher. Because of this, median giving can be a more accurate reflection of ‘typical’ givers.” In reality, something like half of all American evangelicals give less than 1% of their household income to church or charity, according to Grey Matter Research.
This means that many American Christians have yet to tap into the incredible spiritual riches found in generosity. Scripture is unequivocal about the first principle of kingdom giving. As the Apostle Paul quoted Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Recently, I spoke on behalf of the Christian nonprofit Generous Giving on this very theme. Their goal is not to tell Christians how to spend their money, and they never ask for money themselves. Instead, the entire ministry is about simply teaching Christians about what God-centered generosity can do, both in our hearts and in the world.
Out of His supernatural abundance, the Creator brought life and existence into the world, knowing His finite creations could never pay Him back. Through the cross and His resurrection, Jesus liberated people from the power of sin and death. Because of what God has done, people thrive when they give: parents to children, children to parents, churches to communities, neighbors to neighbors.
Generosity includes far more than money, but it doesn’t include less. This view is, of course, incompatible with our culture’s worship of self-expression, which is why, even in the Church, those least shaped by Scripture have the lowest rates of giving.
Who will you give to this Giving Tuesday? If Breakpoint and other Colson Center resources have helped you make sense of this culture, we invite you to join us in this work. Go to colsoncenter.org/givingtuesday2022. Wherever you choose to invest, remember that this Giving Tuesday is an incredible opportunity. Because God has given us everything, generosity is part of the Church’s living testimony of what God has done for us.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
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