Are Australian Christians More Generous?
Would you expect the generosity of Australian Christians to be different than your non-Christians friends? After all, aren't Christians living with eternity in mind? More concerned about God's kingdom than their own. Right? Maybe?
The 'Giving Australia Study 2016' (commissioned by the Australian Department of Social Services and referred to in the previous blog), did a comparison of donations and volunteer times between Australians who identify with a religion and those that do not.
Before reviewing the comparison, we should deal with two issues. Firstly, we are using the study as a proxy for Christian giving. While the study is on religions in general, approximately 85% of Australians who identify with a religion are Christian. Secondly, many who affiliated themselves with Christianity are presumably nominal or Christian in name only. The inclusion of such, ‘weakens’ the Christian ‘results’.
Donations and the religion difference
The 2016 study found that Australian adults who identified with a religion (and donated) gave a yearly average of A$1001. For those that did not identify with a religion (and donated), the figure was almost half at A$551. The gap would be wider if the study factored in those that did not donate during the year.
As raised earlier, the inclusion of nominal Christians (or Christians by name only) lowered the figures for those identifying with a religion. If we just focus on those who regularly attend services (at least weekly), then the same report suggests a higher annual average giving of over A$1,500. In other words, around three time higher than those with no religion identify.
It is worth noting that numerous studies from around the world (eg- USA, UK) are consistent with the observation that Christians are (in general) more generous than non-Christians. This provides a good sign that the Christian giving culture is different but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Volunteering and the religion difference
The giving study found that Australian adults who identify with a religion (and did volunteer work) volunteered more time (145 hours per year) than those that do not identify with a religion (123 hours per year). Given that over half of Australian adults didn't volunteer any time during the year, these averages are considerably overstated. The medium for both groups is a disappointing zero hours. Fifty-two (52) percent of those that identify with a religion did no volunteering, and sixty (60) percent of those that not identified with are religion did zero volunteering. With this factored in the group gap would have been greater.
These volunteer comparisons seem to be consistent with other findings around the world.
Clarification - Wrong reason for Christian giving
Giving does not earn anyone salvation or special privileges from God. Christians receive salvation as an unearned and undeserved gift from God. Christian giving should be done out of a love and appreciation for what God has done for them.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Reflections on the generosity (or otherwise) of Australian Christians
Is the generosity of Australian Christians different from those around them?
Firstly, yes, clearly Australian Christians give more money and volunteer more time than non-believers. Australian Christians punch above their weight when it comes to making contributions to the rest of society. While the 'average' Christian's giving figure doesn't look remarkable, there are a faithful few that make humble and inspiring contributions that go unnoticed.
Secondly, yes, Christians give more, BUT not by a margin that Christians should be comfortable with. If we apply the average Australian income (in the same year, it was A$60,320) to the average Christian giving (A$1,001) we can see that average giving was under 2% of income. (Apparently, the Christian giving figures for the USA typically sits between 2 and 3% of income). Early Christians would find it hard to relate to our current relatively low giving levels. Read the following passage from Acts.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Regardless of the answer, perhaps the more important question is - should I be more generous? OR what is stopping me from being more generous?
The people of the Old Testament would give a tithe of 10% of their produce. While the tithe is an Old Testament thing, surely today, in Australia we are far wealthier than old time Israelites? They lived in poverty compared to our Aussie standard of living.
Should we be able to give a higher portion of our income? Does that sound too hard? Something to think about, according to an NCLS research report, many Australian Christians actually already do give away at least 10% of their income. Now that is very different than the rest of our Australian society. Imagine the impact of more Australian Christians giving like that.
Want to give more? - Check out projects and Christian workers needing financial support at Givehigher, or look for ways to volunteer at Mission Seek.