It’s called “cognitive dissonance” when our thought process is different from our life choices.
For example, we know greasy cheeseburgers aren’t good for us, but we still enjoy them. And we know we need to exercise but won’t get out of the easy chair. Another example is our generosity.
“The Christian Post” released a study Nov. 1 about the giving habits of Christians. According to the report, a majority of evangelicals believe tithing (giving 10 percent of one’s income) is biblical, but about 13 percent practice tithing. Furthermore, about half of evangelicals donate less than one percent of their income annually.
Tithing was part of the law in the Old Testament. Though we’re hard-pressed to find it in the New Testament, we do find another concept: “grace giving.” That is, because of God’s life-changing love for me, I respond with gratitude. I give not because of the law, but because I’m compelled by love. I think most believers know this is true.
Thus, cognitive dissonance. We know the truth, but we don’t practice it. Perhaps we convince ourselves we don’t have enough to give, or the student loans and other bills are overpowering, or we promise that when we get an increase in salary we’ll do better.
Another finding in this survey is there’s “relatively little difference in average generosity levels between an evangelical in a household earning $50,000 and in one earning $150,000.”
This belies the assertion that people give more when they have more. Jesus said, “He that is faithful in the least is faithful also in the much” (Luke 16:10). If we’re not generous in our current life situation, how could we expect God to bless us with additional wealth?
The survey found one more interesting fact; namely, evangelicals who attend church regularly give more to God’s work. This makes sense because it is in the church that we talk about giving as an act of worship, point to the ministry needs of our communities and have means of receiving and spending money for ministries and missions.
We had a pastor when I was a teenager who announced in the pulpit that he studied the giving records of the members. This is certainly inappropriate since giving is a confidential matter. He dug himself deeper when he said, “And some of you don’t pay your share of the light bill!” The pastor created resentment, of course.
We don’t give to God’s work to be seen and heralded by others, even the pastor. We give to God’s work from a heart of love in response to his love that changed our lives, and with the conviction that our money is well-invested when we spend it to help others.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.