What stops Australian Christians from giving more?

The average Australian Christian gives away less than 2% of their income. When it comes to your own giving, what stops you from giving more. This is the last of three articles on Australian Christian giving.

The book “Passing the Plate – Why American Christians don’t give away more money”, poses the dilemma as follows. (I have added [Australia] )

"..why is it that American [Australian] Christians give away so little of their money? Contemporary American [Australian] Christians are among the wealthiest of their faith in the world today and probably the most affluent single group of Christians in two thousand years of church history”. The authors then talks about how the church teaches about the mission of God and the needs of the world before continuing with “[Yet] All of the evidence .. points to the same conclusion: when it comes to sharing their money, most contemporary American [Australian] Christians are remarkably ungenerous”.

Ouch. It gets worse – American Christians (to their credit) are apparently more generous (in general) than Australian Christians.

Common reasons for not giving more

According to Randy Alcorn (author of “The Treasure Principle”), there many reasons Christians don’t give move including “unbelief, insecurity, pride, idolatry, desire for power and control. But … the greatest deterrent to giving is … the illusion that earth is our home”.

For Christians, our "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). Alcorn’s point is that wrong thinking leads Christians to focus their 'money' on earthly things (rather than 'higher' things).

With different things going on in people's minds, hearts, and circumstances there is no universal answer to why Christians don’t give more. Let’s look at some of the common reasons.

1. Faith Anxiety

A lack of faith can hinder giving in two ways.

Firstly, perhaps many claiming to be 'Christians' are not actually Christian. The Bible says that "faith without deeds is dead." (Refer to James 2:14-26). While being generous does not make one a Christian, it may be a sign of Christian faith.

Secondly, do Christians really believe it is better to give than receive? Do Christians really believe God wants us to be more generous? Do Christians really believe that they can be more generous because God is looking after their needs? (Refer to Matthew 6:26-27)

In Matthew 10:17-31, Jesus gives the rich young ruler the following command.

.Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'
Matthew 10v21

How would the faith of most Christians respond to that?

2. Status Anxiety

We often buy to impress or at least not feel inadequate around peers. Many are not comfortable having an old phone, dated car, non-fashion brand clothes, ordinary home, etc. The more you give, the less available to maintain the image you want to project. This can lead to 'status anxiety' - an anxiety about what others think of you. Underlying this anxiety is of course pride.

Much of this is fuelled by consumerism:

....every Christian impulse to generously give money away inevitably runs up against potent counter-impulses driven by mass consumerism to instead perpetually spend, borrow, acquire, consume, discard, and then spend more on oneself and family
Smith, Emerson & Snell
"Passing the Plate"
3. Financial Anxiety

There are two common financial concerns that limit giving.

Firstly, having enough money to pay the current bills. A study "Faith and Giving in Australia" (2019) found that some Australians felt "there is little left to give after covering living costs". This reason was investigated by the authors of "Passing the Plate" who found that the real reason (in general) is a reluctance to forgo 'luxuries'. Between 1959 and 2000, they found that American Christian financial giving declined, while American personal consumption expenditures increased across a range of luxuries. Christians struggled to give because they 'needed' more luxuries. (This is, of course, a general finding. Many Christians are truly struggling, and yet still making sacrifices to give.).

Secondly, many Australian Christians feel anxious about having enough their future financial security (eg: retirement). The "Faith and Giving" study found that 1 in 3 Australian churchgoers worry about their finances because "the future is too uncertain for them"

4. Lack of Trust in Organisations

A significant number of Australian churchgoers don’t give more due to "doubt[s] surrounding how the money is used" (Faith and Giving report) . What if they waste my money? Clearly some do not trust (or expect) churches, charities, and/or leaders to use their donations effectively. Incidentally, many American Christians feel the same way.

5. Lack of planned intent

Many Christians give spontaneously and periodically rather than planned systematic giving. This can lead to less giving over time. The 'Australian Giving Report 2016' (commissioned by the Australian Department of Social Services), found that planned givers give "significantly more" than spontaneous givers. (This reason was also noted in the USA).

6. Lack of education on Biblical giving

Some Christians do not give more due to a poor understanding on Biblical giving. Many pastors are uncomfortable approaching the ‘money’ topic with their church members. This can lead to low giving expectations.

Moving forward

Only you can answer what stops you from giving more.

To finish with a new question and a higher purpose.

Cortines & Baumer (authors of “God and Money”) claim that too many Christians ask, ‘How much should I give?’ [when] the right question is, 'How much do I need to keep?'

A final word from Randy Alcorn.

God's money has a higher purpose than my affluence ... Giving affirms Christ's lordship. It dethrones me and exalts Him. ... it shifts my vested interests from earth to heaven - from self to God. Giving breaks me free from the gravitational hold of money and possessions. Giving shifts me to a new centre of gravity - heaven
Randy Alcorn
Author, "The Treasure Principle"

Want to give more? - Check out projects and Christian workers needing financial support at Givehigher, or look for ways to volunteer at Mission Seek.

  • Alcorn, "The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving", Crown Publishing Group, 2017
  • Baumer & Cortines, "God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School", Rose Publishing, 2016
  • Smith, Emerson & Snell,“Passing the Plate – Why American Christians don’t give away more money”, Oxford University Press, 2008
  • Baptist Financial Services with McCrindle Research, Faith and Giving in Australia Report, 2019
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