What could the church in America do with an extra $46 billion? That’s how much extra money the authors of the new book, Passing the Plate, say the church would have if just the “committed Christians” tithed (they define committed Christians as those who attend church at least a few times a month). For starters, notes Ron Sider who recently reviewed the book for Books & Culture, the church could send 150,000 new missionaries next year. Or they could decide to provide theological training for 50,000 pastors in the developing world. Or perhaps they might decide to provide food, clothing and shelter for all 6,500,000 current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East combined. Or they might decide to sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide. When I think of the story of the loaves and fishes, I think, who knows, if we simply gave what we had, Christ might take that, bless it, break it, and give it out in such a way that we could do everything on the authors’ list.
When I think of God's judgment as outlined in passages like Matthew 25 and realize that God often judges our sins of omission more harshly than our sins of commission - I shudder to think what judgment will fall on a people who have simply failed to share $46 billion with the least of these in this world. People often ask why God allows so much suffering to exist in the world. We might start by asking why do we? What suffering might be alleviated if just the church in American began to give in generous ways? I attended the Baptist General Convention of Texas Annual Meeting earlier in the week and one of the challenges coming out of the convention was to more than double the Offering for World Hunger this next year to $2 million dollars (this is the offering we take up at the door on the way out of church on Sundays in which we observe the Lord’s Supper). What would it take to achieve this goal? Have every Baptist worshiper in Texas give just $1 dollar next week. That’s it. A one Sunday offering where everyone gives a dollar would meet this “bold” goal. Truth be told, Texas Baptists should be giving $10 million, $20 million, $100 million to fight world hunger.
Our church is a generous church. Very likely, for the second year in a row, we will set a new record for offerings received. God has used these offerings in a variety of marvelous ways. Meals have been served to the hungry, visits have been made to the prisoner, care has been extended to the hurting. The gospel has been taught and modeled to hundreds of people in San Angelo and beyond. That beyond has included just this past year, Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia, and Ethiopia. We’ll give away through Cooperative giving, through the Wallers’ Ministry, through other partnership ministries and designated gifts, over $300,000 to ministries outside the “walls” of our own church. And yet, I wonder, what else might have happened, where else might we have gone, if we as a church collectively tithed?
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough to receive it” – Malachi 3:10.