Five good reasons for not giving

Many people in churches are reticent to talk about the question of money and giving. The Church of England has long had a goal of asking people to give 5% of their net income to the church—and has long failed to achieve this. Some denominations and theological traditions are much better at giving, and include a culture of giving in their approach to discipleship. But many others find it hard to broach the subject.

There are lots of good reasons for commending giving as a spiritual discipline, seen as part of our following Jesus. But I wonder whether part of reason for our lack of effectiveness is that we do not deal with the (sometimes well founded) objections to sacrificial personal giving.

So when I was recently asked to preach about this at another church, I decided to address what I felt were the five main reasons people have for not giving. Do you think there are others? Tell me in the comments.

1. It is personal

‘What I do with my money is my business. It is personal, and private, and has nothing to do with you. So mind your own business!’

This is a powerful cultural response in many parts of the UK. We have a long cultural tradition of considering these sorts of issues as personal and private, in contrast to many other cultures around the world, including elsewhere in the West. It is such a strong feeling that there is even a TV advertising campaign currently based exactly this feeling: a group of people are visiting someone’s home, and one guest has the temerity to ask out loud how much the house is worth. An awkward and embarrassing silence sudden falls in the room!

This is a stark contrast to what I have experienced elsewhere. When visiting the States some years ago, I went to an American football match, and the wealthy sponsor of one of the clubs was standing outside the main entrance happily giving away the most expensive tickets to any who looked deserving. (We got great seats!)

Interestingly, Jesus’ teaching supports such a response to some extent. In Matthew 6.1, 6 and 16, he challenges his own culture’s practice of ostentatious display, and argues that we should do our ‘deeds of righteousness’ (meaning practical holy living) in secret ‘so that your heavenly Father sees you’.

But the counterpoint to this secrecy is that, Jesus assures us, one day it will be made public. ‘What has been done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops!’ (Luke 12.3). One day we will give an account of how we have used the time, energy, resource and money that God has given us.

2. I have worked hard and I earned it

‘The money I have is the result of my own hard work, and my own good use of what I have earned, so I deserve to use it for myself.’

This feels like quite a compelling argument, especially for those who have indeed been focussed and disciplined both in their work lives and their personal use of what they have earned. Some will feel that they have more resources precisely because they have acted responsibly, where others have been frivolous.

Yet there are several things that this objection fails to take into account.

First, you might well have worked hard—but others have done so too, and have not earned as much as you. That is quite possibly the case within our own country—but it is certainly the case when considered historically or globally. Even someone relatively poor in the UK is likely in the top 1% of earners in the world today.

Secondly, you might well have worked hard and earned well—but suppose you had been in a different job or career, which did not pay so well? Suppose this other career had paid, say, 10% less? Would you still feel this way? Then why not give away that 10%?

Thirdly, it is good to make use of all the opportunities that we have been given—but they have been given to us! We did not ‘earn’ the education, context, and openings that we have been offered.

3. It belongs to me

‘What I have is mine; it belongs to me legally and morally; therefore I can spend it how I choose.’

Yes, that is true legally, and could be argued to be so morally. But it is not true theologically! Scripture is clear and consistent: ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’ (Ps 24.1). Scripture’s vision of the created world is that it was created by God, continues to belong to God, and is cared for by him.

In the first creation narrative, in Gen 1.27 and following, the picture we are given is that God created humanity to share in his divine kingship, ruling over the earth, and nurturing it into fruitfulness. When the humanity turns from him, one of the first things that is spoilt is this relationship with the fruitful earth.

Yet it continues to belong to God, and we are to be no more (or less) than responsible tenants. That is the idea behind the command to celebrate the Jubilee in Leviticus 25.8–55. Since we are all tenants, and the earth (and its resources) belong to God, there needs to be a periodic review, involving rest and redistribution, since none of this ‘belongs’ to us at all.

‘Who has anything that he has not been given?’ Paul asks the Corinthians (1 Cor 4.7). We are not owners; we are stewards, trusted with God’s creation to use wisely and generously. And that includes the generous use of our money.

4. I need what I have—how will I survive on less?

This is a powerful pastoral argument, and is felt especially keenly at the moment, in time of rising energy costs, high food prices, and a time when incomes have fallen in real terms since 2008. For many people, this is a pastoral and personal reality.

Whilst taking this concern seriously, we still need to reflect on some important realities. Despite our present situation, we are still much better off than we were 20 or 30 years ago. Somehow we managed then! So why do we find it hard now?

The simple answer for many of us is that we have become used to a particular lifestyle. Many of us don’t think twice about buying coffee and cake on an outing; spending more than we need to on our food shopping; expecting to have a certain standard of holiday. Watching TV programme like ‘Eat Well for Less’ is a real eye-opener to see what cultural expectations we have become used to.

But the pressing question behind all this is the theological one: do we trust God for our provision? Jesus challenges his listeners in Matt 5, many of whom would be at or near subsistence level of income, for whom one season of bad harvest would be seriously threatening. God provides for those he loves; will he not provide for us if we are generous in the way he calls us to be?

When I was a young Christian, there was a lot of talk about simplicity of life as a spiritual discipline. ‘Live simply, that others might simply live.’ Since then, we have become much richer, and the world more unequal. I wonder why this focus has been lost?

5. They will waste it

‘I have seen what charities—and the church—does with other people’s money. They waste it and use it inefficiently. I will use my own money much better.’

Well, that might be true. So rather than withhold your giving, why not get involved in using it wisely with others? It is important to ask questions of responsible use, of transparency and accountability; it not good that other people’s money is wasted. So rather than just give money, why not also give your time and talents to help that money be used well?

Ultimately this is not a good argument against giving.

In the end, all these questions sound perfectly reasonable—when we put ourselves at the centre of the discussion. But in Paul’s engagement with the Corinthians about giving (in 2 Cor 8 and 9), he takes a strikingly different approach.

Firstly, he avoids telling the Corinthians what they ought to do at all.

Secondly, he focusses not on them, but on God. In the reading we had when I preached on this, 2 Cor 9.6–15, it is God, not the Corinthians (or Paul) who is the subject of most of the verbs. God loves; God is able to bless you; God is the generous giver; God will supply all your needs; God will enrich you; and as a result God will be glorified.

This completely turns inside out and upside down our own thinking about giving. It is part of that gospel revolution, by which we love God, and love our neighbours as ourselves, putting God and others at the centre rather than our own questions and concerns—legitimate though they might be.

And this approach makes no sense in the calculation done by our culture—it only make sense in the economy of the kingdom.

Abundance comes, not in acquiring things, but by giving them away—true abundance.

Joy comes, not from the things we have, but from the things we give. I have found far more joy in the things I have given away than in the things I have kept for myself—and this is what Paul means when he says ‘God loves a cheerful (Gk hilaros) giver. It is not that we ought to be happy when we give, but that in giving we do find true, lasting joy.

Wealth is found—not in material things—but in the riches that God gives us through his son Jesus. When Jesus says ‘where you treasure is, there will your heart be’ (Matt 6.21) he is not telling us what we ought to think, but what will actually happen.

All this is rooted in the nature of God himself. The central claim that Paul makes in previous chapter is this: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor 8.9). God longs for us to have this spiritual wealth by our generous giving to others.

You have heard it said: ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’. But when it comes to money and giving, the truth is that to grasp is human, to give is divine. God does not want us to be robbed of this divine joy.

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92 thoughts on “Five good reasons for not giving”

  1. As I heard recently, “The last part of a person usually converted is their wallet”.

    Main points, please:
    1. I agree that giving is good;
    2. Giving should be proportionate; based on one’s financial discernment and other priorities;

    Some challenges I foresee in the C of E, concerning more generous giving:

    1. Some may consider the £100million set aside for reparations [1] to be unnecessary, when that same money could be used for more domestic purposes, eg financial increases for retired Clergy who have broadly complained that their pensions are poor [2] and they do not have their own permanent home to live in, instead using rented retirement property [3]; Save the Parish Network called for this money to be diverted to help with domestic challenges [4] ;

    2. Historical financial losses: Some of us older Anglicans still feel resentment towards the Church Commissioners and the material £800million loss in the 1980s [5] which is still impacting the Church [6] . Further losses of £80million in 2002 [7];

    3. Empty buildings: What to do with the large number of empty churches? This for me is the “elephant in the room”, with 350 (estimated) set to close in the next few years [8].


    • I was resistant to tithing in my early walk because of the annual pressure drives to support Annie Armstrong (North American Missions) and Lottie Moon (Foreign Missions) over and above the pressure to give 10% and the arguments around whether the tithe is 10% of Gross or 10% of Net. Regardless, “10%” was rigidly commanded as Scriptural.

      But most of all I felt that saving for the health care of my long chronically ill wife and complicated by my inability to get life insurance to take care of her. Nevertheless, we freely gave to individuals as we discovered there was a need (though this was infrequent). That changed when she died and I remarried and we were secure in our combined abundance.

      Some will argue that my earlier position reflected my lack of faith in the Lord, who would surely provide for our needs. I am sure there is truth in that position. But I have been following 1 Timothy 5:8 and relying on 2 Corinthians 9:7. In this new season of my life, and in my second God-blessed marriage, our regular giving has been in the 17% range (NOT – for me – to catch up) and extra as we are presented with an individual’s need. WHAT a blessing it is to be able to give away what is only ours as stewards to protect to share.

  2. An additional response to “it’s mine” would be the words of David as he gave for the building of the temple:

    Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

    “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.

    1 Chron: 29:11,14-16

    Words based on this have been used liturgically at the offering, thereby providing a repeated teaching of the principle.

      • I’m not certain (the opposite really) that people see how liturgy connects with either scripture or the shape of worship. I can only speak re the CofE and in my observations.

        I’ve heard reasonably intelligent people think it’s just words that they can replace with their own views. A personal ramble between songs. (It’s not an argument for mindless use of liturgy). Should anyone be let loose leading a public service if their understanding is so threadbare?

        So “no” I don’t think liturgy always gets its point across, especially to the “liturgy is empty of spiritual value” crowd.

  3. I often came across the following reason:
    ‘I give to other things.’ Which may be true and laudable but might disguise a desire not to give much.

    • I was going to say this Jonathan. The argument may be: “I give ten per cent (or whatever) away: I think Oxfam or Christian Aid make a better use of it than my church’s desire to redecorate its hall or give rich families chocolate at Easter or whatever, and so I object to giving half my tithe to the church.” I’m not sure about this one. We should bear in mind that by giving (in the C of E) we are helping poorer churches than our own, and also that we are in effect paying for the services we receive, in terms of provision of worship, Sunday school for our children, etc etc.

      • I see your point but you could have chosen better charities than Oxfam and Christian Aid. One pays itself too large a proportion of what it received, the other begs from the world in the name of Christ which is the opposite of the gospel.

  4. Thank you, Ian; challenging and needed!

    One of the dangers of a literal reading of the bible comes to mind: Ps 37.25 ‘I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.’
    Extreme need amongst our sisters and brothers in Christ is highly relevant, and anyone else, for that matter! Political, geographical, criminal and narco-activity, terrorism, poor health, and a whole host of adverse circumstances often mean they are in the most dreadful of straights. Our diocese supports the Anglican Diocese of Perú, where poverty and subsistence are the dominant themes in their churches and across the country. The children are not getting their bread!

    If nothing else, the circumstances of others have to be the Spirit speaking to us to be generous in our relatively high-wealth circumstances.

    On a different note, I was horrified some years ago when on a PCC elsewhere, that one of the church officers asked whether we could ensure that our parish share went only to support work in the wider church that this person felt theologically comfortable with. I shared that person’s theological position, but with others, was very uncomfortable that financial resources might be thought of being useable in this way. I sense that this is an issue becoming more relevant in some parts of the CofE.

    • I can understand the sentiment behind your horror at only supporting the churches you agree with – if you construe it very narrowly! Sure, only wanting to fund ministries that can sign up to your 20 point theological treaties doesn’t seem right. We needn’t agree on every single theological point.

      But on the other hand, discernment when giving is surely a good thing. There are plenty of causes you wouldn’t wish to fund. Presumably there are some ministries that would claim the name of Christian that you wouldn’t wish to fund. Is it inconceivable that there may be ministries within your denomination you wouldn’t wish to fund?

      The question seems to me to be about where one should rightly draw the line rather than being uncomfortable with the principle full stop. A more charitable explanation of what you are alluding to in the CofE is that others have a more sensitive conscience on this matter than you do.

      • Luke
        “We needn’t agree on every single theological point”.
        But we do need to believe and preach that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil and that we will face that wrath and condemnation in eternity unless we repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection.
        Phil Almond

        • Hi, Philip :

          Do you think that babies face wrath and condemnation as soon as they are born, or does the Divine wrath only start when they grow up, and eventually commit an actual sin?

          • Do you think that babies face wrath and condemnation as soon as they are born, or does the Divine wrath only start when they grow up, and eventually commit an actual sin?

            Question based on a false premise. They (all of us) have committed an actual sin before they were born: the sin of being in rebellion against God, due to their corrupted nature.

        • To ‘S’;

          How would you translate ‘eph ho’ in Romans 5:12, ‘S’, and how would you (briefly) understand the phrase?

        • To ‘S’ :

          You may not be an expert in Koine Greek, ‘S’, but you presumably have an opinion regarding Romans 5:12?

          Let’s see what Philip may think.

          • but you presumably have an opinion regarding Romans 5:12?

            You mean my opinion on ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:’?

            My opinion is exactly what I wrote above: ‘all have sinned’. All. No discrimination by sex, race, or indeed age. All have sinned. Teenagers have sinned. Septuagenarians have sinned. Those in middle age have sinned. Babies have sinned. All have sinned. All. Have. Sinned. All have sinned. Sinned, all have. Who has sinned? All, Dave. All.

            Not sure I can be clearer with my opinion.

          • I have missed this debate. My answer is that I believe ‘all sinned’ in 5:12 means all sinned in Adam. This view is of course rejected by some evangelicals, including Ian Paul, who has declined my invitation to debate the whole passage. But in any case 5:16 and 5:18 make it clear that because of Adam’s sin we do all face God’s condemnation from birth onwards.

            Phil Almond

          • I am not sure what debate there is to be had here. You literally just edited the text!

            Paul does *not* say that ‘all sinned in Adam’; he says all sinned. We are guilty for what we have done, not merely because of the race we were born into (out of no choice of our own).

          • Ian
            You posted
            ‘We are guilty for what we have done, not merely because of the race we were born into (out of no choice of our own).’
            I invite you to give your view on what Paul means by 5:16 and 5:18. I have reasons for my view on ‘all sinned’ which I will set out if you agree to have a full discussion on 5:12 to 5:21.

            Phil Almond

          • “Ian Paul
            May 5, 2023 at 3:30 pm
            Well, this blog post is about giving. So let’s discuss it when I write a blog post on Romans 5 and original sin.”
            Are you going to “write a blog” please?
            Phil Almond

  5. I would offer another reason that the church often makes it difficult; as I have found technology and covid seem to have significantly impacted. The number of churches where I preach where still the only way of giving for a visitor is cash and not digitally and yet so many do not carry cash (or at least at that sort of amount); equally Covid has led in most of these to the collection being a bowl as you enter which is easily ignored (or just missed) and although then blessed by the preacher does not provide any time to reflect prior to given. My own church once we went back to a collection saw a significant increase at that point and also created printed cards to be put in for anyone who donates by direct debit.

    • If I had used money more wisely when younger, I would be able to bless our children with more financial relief when I die. Where, a generation ago one parent’s pay packet could pay for a mortgage, now both parents have to go out to work to have a roof over their children’s heads- a huge additional pressure inevitably leading to kids resorting to passive on-line entertainment because parents are exhausted. This thought always enters my head whenever I’m asked to give: ‘that’ll mean less for my offspring and theirs.’ I’m often meaner as a result, not cheerfuller, in giving.

  6. Thanks Ian. This is a thoughtful and constructive consideration of the issue, and very helpful to churches wanting to have a proper discussion about it.

    This might be an extension of point 5, but I’ve heard some people object to giving to maintain an ineffective and/or faithless institution. Sometimes this is bound up with the idea that their money will just go on building maintenance or other things they consider peripheral. The current crisis over same-sex blessings might discourage some from giving, even if their own beliefs align with those of their church. How can we address those kinds of objections?

  7. I’d add

    6. The church leader gets paid far more than me and I’m really struggling to afford the basics (this doesn’t apply to me personally right now, but has in the past and will to lots of people right now)

    7. (Similar to 5) I know that the church will spend a great deal of the money on lawyers defending charges of abuse on behalf of church leaders

    • I understand that, (6) though I’d suggest that part of the problem might be the appallingly low pay that some receive. “The worker is worthy of his hire” presumably also has some relevance church leaders? Are we asking for lower income for them?

      I’ve known free church leaders paid appallingly little… I wonder what the bigger picture might be.

      • Yes it’s not all churches, and CofE is not the worst offender(!), however there certainly are plenty of churches, even which pile on the pressure to give while the leaders enjoy lifestyles the average congregant could never afford.

        Since I wrote my no 6 yet more has come out about Hillsong in this regard. They probably are the worst, but I know in the past when I discovered my own church leaders salary whether they really were as strapped for cash as they claimed

    • Re 6, in a similar vein I remember my mum giving money each week from her small pension to a ‘building fund’ which largely went to the cost of building a nice new and large home for the rector. Many like my mum lived in small terrace houses in a housing estate, but the rectory was in a better area, with the new one being a large detached house. It always irked me. It’s not as if work-related meetings were regularly held there, so I really didnt see the need for such a large house, but that seems to be rather common in the Anglican church. I accept that sometimes that is just due to the age of the house, but this was a newly built one.

  8. Many thanks, Ian. Constructive and thought provoking.

    Allied to your point 5 and some of the points above, a lack of accountability on the part of the church can also contribute. As a (very reluctant) finance lead, I try to publish six monthly summaries, mostly in graphic form, showing where our money has come from and where it is going.

    This is in church where the older members were brought up to tithe, a principle that may, in the light of NT attitudes in general and especially 1 Cor 16:1-3, be open to debate, although given the OT background it does not seem to be an unreasonable starting point. When older members argue this the response from younger members is that they can’t afford it, essentially point 4. The older respond that it is a matter of faith and point out that ‘God is no one’s debtor’ – a phrase I don’t fully understand, but which I take to mean that God blesses those who are generous.

    As a footnote, I was once asked as a visiting preacher to speak on giving (so much easier to put it on a visiting speaker!). After the service an ex-docker, who had recently come to faith in his sixties, said, ‘That was absolute c**p!’ Thankfully 15 minutes of discussion resolved the issue. He had formed in his earlier life the view that the church was always asking for money and this prejudiced his attitude to giving.

    Dare I, as a non-conformist, point out that there is also the erroneous perception that the C of E is rolling in money, which I have found to act as deterrent?

    • Dare I, as a non-conformist, point out that there is also the erroneous perception that the C of E is rolling in money, which I have found to act as deterrent?

      I actually think that it’s probably morally wrong for a church to have sufficient assets that it could pay its running costs indefinitely — or even just for any long period — without giving by its congregation.

      Thus isn’t just a Church of England problem: there exist churches in other denominations which have been left, for example, gifts of land that have turned out to be situated such that they generate rental income sufficient to cover the costs of the church.

      The inevitable result is that the church gets lazy and soft. The members get less committed; after all, if they were to stop giving the church would survive, and if they were to stop turning up the church could just hire people to do the necessary jobs.

      Of course a financial buffer is good; but no church should ever be more that one generation, at most, from financial oblivion. No church has any entitlement to exist infinitely; if not enough committed Christians are willing to put in the money, and the work, for the church to survive, on an ongoing basis, it should die.

    • Erroneous? Welby just found 100 million quid behind the sofa as part of virtue signalling. What you mean is that expenses are barely covered by income.

  9. Helpful Ian and many of these issues are common in other churches. But…
    How about ‘The CofE already has £10bn of assets’ (plus property assets held at more local levels worth (literally) no-one knows how much…). There are a long list of explanations/excuses for this but at its most basic £10bn versus my £50 a month is a problem of this vastness: How dare the CofE ask one penny from any member of its congregations until it has systemically divested itself of the trappings and assets of power, influence and wealth it holds very tightly to, thank you very much, and then complain that its congregants do the same? If you preach chicken pox but have mumps, which will people catch?

    People will give, and give generously, to what they can see is coherent, purposeful and godly. I wonder what in the current life of the church might make them hesitant to give, even at basic level of 5%, just at the moment? Go figure…

    • You are not alone in raising that point! And I think it is worth differentiating between giving to the local church and giving to the bigger institution…

      • Two weeks ago we went for a meal out with a pretty wealthy man who also has a very healthy income to the point that even well past retirement age he doesn’t yet draw his pension. He didn’t offer to pay for the meal because he didn’t have the cash that the place preferred. Someone else paid but afterwards someone else in the group, who didn’t know who paid at the time, said they though it was odd/off that he didn’t at least offer to pay or even contribute substantially afterwards. He was cash poor but asset rich. Such bifurcated thinking, carefully maintained by tiers/hierarchies of ecclesiastical structure, allows churches to keep saying to people ‘we are stretched’ when the church is wealthy. It’s an unsustainable illusion that people see straight through.
        Its not just a Church Commissioners problem, of course. A close relative, trained never, ever to walk out of a service in disgust by years of periodic nonsense in church (some of it from me), got their closest ever to heading out when the leader of a certain west London church started his giving appeal with ‘this is not a rich church’.
        We are kidding ourselves that we can plead poverty at one level (largely the local or diocesan one) whilst sitting on a vast pile of cash at another (more often the national one).
        If there is an upside to more reliance on local giving it is that it is closer to the real mission of the churches and imposes a greater degree of accountability on the local leadership. Who pays the piper calls the tune. Asking more of congregations means more congregational autonomy and more clout for the churches with an excess of income over expenditure. These are largely (though in well-heeled parts of the country, no exclusively) more conservative churches. I’m all for that.

  10. I think just talking about ‘giving’ puts us in the wrong paradigm to begin with. We have nothing to give. Nothing is ours. It is not till we start there and take seriously that everything is God’s that we can begin to untangle the issues. As you say in the piece Ian it looks very different when we put God not ourselves in the centre of the picture. I think it probably looks even more radical than you suggest. Loads I would like to say but this isn’t the place!

  11. 2. I have worked hard and I earned it
    3. It belongs to me

    These seem to miss the point rather. They are both true; yes, I earnt it; yes, it is mine. That means I get to freely choose what to do with it.

    The point is that I ought to freely choose, of my own will, to give it to God.

    ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    that were a present far too small.
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    demands my soul, my life, my all. ‘

  12. 6. My bishop is committed to liberal theology and we should not pay a hierarchy that ministers doubt in place of faith. They should justify themselves to us, in fact, not vice-versa.

    • Fair comment, Anton – but what do you think of Ian’s point that there is a difference in giving to the local church, and giving to the bigger institution. Do you know if that point have any validity in your case?

        • I’d ringfence my giving to the local congregation in that case.

          But you’re still subsidising the hierarchy if you do that, because of opportunity cost. So while you may have found a loophole through which you can salve your conscience you haven’t actually done anything.

          • So how much (if anything) could Anton actually ringfence, ‘S’ ? Is it possible to put a figure on it?

          • So how much (if anything) could Anton actually ringfence, ‘S’ ? Is it possible to put a figure on it?

            Nothing. Every penny given to a local congregation in an organisation like the Church of England is a penny that would otherwise have had to be spent by the central funds in subsidy, and therefore which would not be available to the centre for other purposes (the opportunity cost). So giving to the local congregation, even ring fenced, is exactly the same as giving to the central funds.

            Consider wishing to make a gift of £50,000 to your old college, but getting wind that the college wishes to put up a statue to an alumnus that you didn’t get on with and is coincidentally £50,000 short of the target. You don’t want your money going to the statue, so you give it with a proviso that it can only be spent on bursaries. The college takes the money and thanks you, then reduces its annual bursaries budget by £50,000 (but thanks to you donation paying out the same amount) and next time you visit you see your old risk looming over the lawn.

            Ring-fencing only words if it’s ring-fenced to be spent on something the institution wouldn’t otherwise be doing. If you give but ring-fenced to something that the institution would be spending money on anyway, then they can always shuffle the budget around so that it’s as if you had given to general funds.

          • I’m not trying to salve my conscience, I’m trying to starve out apostate hypocrites. I would also advocate that everybody else in the congregation ringfence their giving.

          • I’m not trying to salve my conscience, I’m trying to starve out apostate hypocrites.

            But by what mechanism do you think you’re doing that, when all you’re doing is reducing the subsidy the central funds have to pay?

            Assume the running costs of the local church are, to take someone else’s figure, £200,000 p.a. (the actual amount doesn’t matter, these are just for illustration). So if no one in the congregation gave anything, central funds would have to pay out that £200,000.

            Now say you give £2,000 p.a., ring-fenced for the local congregation. Well, costs stay the same, but now central funds don’t have to pay the whole lot, they just have to make up the difference — £180,000. So your gift has made central funds £2,000 p.a. richer than they would otherwise have been. So your gift, even ring-fenced, has meant that central funds has an extra £2,000 to put towards a church drag queen performance or a Pride parade float or a rainbow altar flag.

            So explain to me how ring-fencing helps to ‘starve out apostate hypocrites’?

            I would also advocate that everybody else in the congregation ringfence their giving.

            Makes no difference. Maybe you all ring-fence your giving, cover the £200,000, and not a penny of it goes to central funds. Well, that still means central funds don’t have to give out any subsidy, so you’ve saved them £200,000 to spend on their apostasy and hypocrisy.

            See how it works?

          • (What you’re saying would make sense if local congregations were a net source of revenue for central funds. In that case ring-fencing donations, if it could be done on a large enough scale, would make the amount available to central funds smaller. But as I understand it, local congregations are actually a net drain on central funds; the income for central funds are endowment income and government grants. Subsidising local congregations is a net cost. So every penny paid to a local congregation ring-fenced for that congregation only achieves reducing the amount of that subsidy, therefore reducing the drain on central funds, and therefore is the same as giving that amount directly to central funds.)

          • (This incidentally is one of the reasons, though not the main reason, why I think that churches, or denominations, holding any significant income-generating endowments is immoral. It’s a crazy, topsy-turvey situation when what is supposed to be the main business of a church, meeting together to worship and proclaim the Gospel, is not just an irrelevance to the economics of the institution but an active drain on it so that all the incentives are to shut down, or slowly starve, that part, in order to concentrate on the sorts of things that maintain the social status of the hierarchy.)

          • Dear S, you take me to task for my sentence “I’m not trying to salve my conscience, I’m trying to starve out apostate hypocrites” but you ignore the next sentence which deals with what you say: “I would also advocate that everybody else in the congregation ringfence their giving.”

          • you take me to task for my sentence “I’m not trying to salve my conscience, I’m trying to starve out apostate hypocrites” but you ignore the next sentence which deals with what you say: “I would also advocate that everybody else in the congregation ringfence their giving.”

            I did not ignore it. I repeat my response to that sentence:

            Makes no difference. Maybe you all ring-fence your giving, cover the £200,000, and not a penny of it goes to central funds. Well, that still means central funds don’t have to give out any subsidy, so you’ve saved them £200,000 to spend on their apostasy and hypocrisy.

            See how it works?

          • Look, I’m not ‘taking you to task’, I’m just pointing out that in practical terms there’s no difference between ring-fenced and non-ring-fenced giving. This isn’t controversial, it’s just a consequence of money being fungible and opportunity cost. Ask anyone who works with charities or institutions. You can always find a way to shuffle things around to be able to spend where you want.

          • Dear S, “salve my conscience” is an offensive phrase and was unnecessary. Please save such rhetoric for people you are genuinely and openly opposed to, ie liberal theologians, rather than people you believe are naive.

            If all evangelicals gave only to their local congregation then the hierarchy would starve. That is up to other evangelicals, but I can make the point to them.

          • “salve my conscience” is an offensive phrase and was unnecessary. Please save such rhetoric for people you are genuinely and openly opposed to, ie liberal theologians, rather than people you believe are naive.

            I will continue to use the language I choose, thank you very much.

            If all evangelicals gave only to their local congregation then the hierarchy would starve.

            Is that actually true? As above, as I understand it the vast majority of central fund income is from endowments and government grants, so even if all income from the local congregations were to cease entirely, provided the congregations were self-supporting rather than requiring subsidy, the hierarchy would not starve.

            Perhaps I have misunderstood and the central funds are dependent on income from local congregations, but that is not the case as I understand it.

          • Dear S, In using “Salve [my] conscience” you sre pretending to know my motive. Only I know that, and you guessed wrong. That makes your comment a form of the judging that we have been commanded not to do.

  13. An American preacher asked once, “Do you give what is right … or what is left?” Would an English preacher in the CofE would be as bold?
    When my wife and I started married life over 40 years ago we decided that we would give away at least 10% of our income. We have managed to do that even when I was the only earner on just over £3,000 a year and when our income was around 30 times that amount. Our absolute amounts have varied (particularly after I retired) but now we are giving almost as much to the church as we used to despite my pension being far less than my income when I was working.
    We have learned that if you can be faithful with little, you can also be faithful with a lot. What you cannot do is outgive God. Time after time we have found God giving us money from unexpected sources, often straight after He has challenged us to give more generously than we had originally intended. Truly where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Perhaps this famous Scripture (Mt 6:21, Lk 12:34) needs to be preached more?
    Perhaps too how the money is spent could be more transparent? In a Baptist church (I have been in two) if members don’t give enough, then ministers and staff don’t get paid. In the CofE Parish Share means that church members end up paying for staff we don’t need in dioceses and even worse, unbiblical views are promulgated by bishops who should know better and funded by parishes who oppose such heretical views. It also means that the clergy get paid whether or not their parish provides sufficient funds, which is not healthy and means we have too many clergy who don’t even believe in God any longer.
    Perhaps if we all were to set aside 10% of our GROSS (not net) income before tax before considering how much we could afford to pay for a mortgage, food, clothes for the children etc, we might wonder about all those subscriptions to gyms we don’t use, TV channels we don’t watch, smartphone data and minutes that we don’t need, lunches we buy because we are too lazy to make our own etc.
    The real questions for giving are … to Whom are we giving and … whose money is it anyway? If we recognise that it is all God’s money (not ours) and we are giving to Him, then our treasure will be in the right place. Otherwise we shall just be like rich Pharisees, showing off what we give rather than giving so that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
    If we are giving what is right to God, then 10% may not be enough (remember a widow gave all that she had, Mk 12:41-44, Lk 21:1-4) but let’s aim at what is a biblical norm. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to use at least half of that to support the church of which we are members.
    In the end we may want to ask bigger questions like whether we are participants or mere spectators within our church, but that’s big enough for its own blog post some time if Ian would like to do that at some stage in the future.
    If you don’t like anything I have written, please blame it on me being (a) Jewish so the contents of the Old Testament matter to me (b) a retired accountant so money matters to me (c) a lay person who is not a theologian so I have a tendency to take them at face value and (d) a member of three very different PCCs over the years so I know what a big issue this is within parishes. Alternatively, if you want to be loved, just remember that God loves a cheerful, not a reluctant, giver! (2 Cor 9:7)

    • “An American preacher asked once, “Do you give what is right … or what is left?” Would an English preacher in the CofE would be as bold?”

      Yes. Bit of an odd assumption that “we don’t”….

      • In my experience Anglican preachers are reluctant to speak about money and I have almost never heard one state boldly that all our money comes from God and therefore we should start with giving back to Him at least a tenth and then see what’s left after that.

        Most Anglicans start from the position that folk have already overborrowed to pay for their mortgage, cars, children’s school fees, latest technology etc etc and then, being polite English people, don’t want to cause anyone offence. That is probably why we have been so reluctant over LLF to state that without repentance (go and sin no more) there can be no salvation. English people hate being called judgmental which is why Ozanne & her cronies can ride roughshod over thousands of years of God’s teachings. Thankfully there are Anglicans in the Global South who prefer to call a spade a spade, not an agricultural lifting implement. Such obfuscation is as rife in the CofE as it is in the Civil Service.

        • Your observations about the English Anglican temperament are spot on.
          Welby is rather afraid of Jayne Ozanne – and it has to be said that an angry judgmental, teary lesbian like Jayne Ozanne with the unhappy sensationalist story of her love life (‘I was seduced by a priest I thought loved me’, ‘I endured the horrors of conversion therapy’, ‘I had a five year lesbian relationship that failed’) can say things that no male homosexual could say – yes, men are afraid of women, even lesbians, playing the victim card.
          But it’s also true that Welby also agrees with her trashing of biblical teaching.

          • Yes, me too. I used to go to All Souls Langham Place and this was always said in the context of giving. Same in the church where I presently serve.

          • Good for you. We regularly rotate three themes in our offering prayers on a Sunday which keeps these matters in front of the congregation even when we are not preaching on them: The principle of grace: God has given to us, we give in response to his generosity to us (the ‘pay it forward’ principle). The principle of stewardship: all we have is from God, so we are only giving from what he has given us to hold in trust (‘All things come from you and of your own do we give you’ – better for offering than Communion imho). The principle of investment: we are laying up treasure in heaven (for where our treasure is, there our heart will be). Not sure this latter has been mentioned here (I haven’t read it all – life intervenes from time to time) but it is the Lord Jesus saying: ‘giving for the kingdom is is not expenditure but the best possible investment – an investment in God promised future’. Of course it may be that some feel that giving to a particular local church is not a kingdom investment but there is plenty here covering that base!

    • “unbiblical views are promulgated by bishops who should know better and funded by parishes who oppose such heretical views”

      I’m all for a purge of Bishops but the Parish Share doesn’t pay for Bishops. That’s centrally funded I think … and maybe that’s the problem…

  14. Right now, I feel more inclined to donate to the ‘buy some HIMARs for Ukraine’ fund rather than give to a church.

    I don’t belong to any church fellowship right now, but if anyone can suggest a reliable Christian organisation that is doing good missionary work in Poland, then I’d be happy to give regular contributions to them.

  15. A C of E perspective. A member of an electoral roll could reasonably expect to give his/her “fair share” of the what the church’s total expenses *would* be if it were an independent fellowship without links to any diocese or Church Commissioners. This requires the member to conduct a finger-in-the-air guesstimate of his/her own income in relation to the average income of the other members.
    For example, if there are 100 electoral roll members and person X reckons his income to be “average” then he is morally responsible for 1% of what the church expenses *would* be if it were a wholly independent entity. Say minister salary + housing + pension 90K, part-time curate salary + housing + pension 50K, church operating expenses 60K, total 200K, that makes him morally responsible for £2000 a year (1%) which he could give without question. Only if he plans to give £3000 a year or £4000 a year, and if the parish is genuinely paying more into central funds than value-received, does he have any right to begin to grumble about Church Commissioners, liberal bishops or subsidising heresy.

    • Only if he plans to give £3000 a year or £4000 a year, and if the parish is genuinely paying more into central funds than value-received, does he have any right to begin to grumble about Church Commissioners, liberal bishops or subsidising heresy.

      It’s not quite that simple though because you have to consider opportunity cost of central funds; if more central funds were to be used to pay the running costs there’d be less left over for heresy, so by contributing to the running costs the person in question is enabling more to be spent on heresy than otherwise, so it’s perfectly reasonable to say they are ‘funding heresy’ even if they don’t directly pay towards the heresy.

      For instance if someone were to give room and board to a terrorist, thus allowing the terrorist to use their time and money for terrorism rather than having to earn rent, they couldn’t claim they weren’t ‘funding terrorism’ on the grounds that they didn’t give any money which was directly used to buy SemtexTM.

      What the person should do in that position is find a local church of an actually Christian denomination, and start to contribute their time and money there instead of to the Church of England. Or perhaps the entire congregation might want to set up either as an independent Christian church or join an existing Christian denomination en masse.

          • Yes, ‘S’; and just to clarify :

            My local vicar, and his Bishop, take a traditional, biblical view of marriage. In this situation, would giving to one’s local church still, in some way, financially aid the apostatizing elements within the current ‘Church of England’?

          • My local vicar, and his Bishop, take a traditional, biblical view of marriage. In this situation, would giving to one’s local church still, in some way, financially aid the apostatizing elements within the current ‘Church of England’?

            Maybe. Depends on how the central funds are split between dioceses. If those who hold the central purse-strings can use giving to the faithful bishop’s diocese as an excuse to reduce its funding and divert the money instead to be used for Pride floats in a diocese that toes the progressive line then surely you must see that that would be financially aiding the apostatising elements?

      • “… join an existing Christian denomination”

        Tad harder to find than just saying it? Perfect church not-joining notwithstanding…

  16. One way of not donating to Parish Share where you have realistic concerns about how it will be used is not to give to your PCC’s General Fund. Most parishes have a number of restricted funds, which can only be used for their designated purpose.

    For example, my own parish has a Children and Youth Fund, which is restricted to funding work with children and young people including supporting a dedicated worker and purchasing materials for this work. I have now stipulated to our Treasurer that all my gifts to the parish should be used for this work.

    As the parish has a lot of children involved in various activities, I feel that I am supporting the next generation of the church and also ensuring that these gifts are being used within the parish. (I also give to a number of other charities, almost all of which are Christian ones, to support God’s work in the wider world so that my giving is not selfishly just in this country.)

    • One way of not donating to Parish Share where you have realistic concerns about how it will be used is not to give to your PCC’s General Fund. Most parishes have a number of restricted funds, which can only be used for their designated purpose.

      And as I wrote above, that doesn’t actually work. Because your donation to the children’s fund just means that less money has to go from the General Fund to the children’s fund; so at the end of the year there is more left over in the general fund than there would have been had you not donated, by the amount of your donation. So the end result is exactly as if you had donated to the general fund. Do I have to go through the working again or will you check out what I’ve written elsewhere on this page and understand?

      Don’t kid yourself. By restricting your donation in this way you achieve precisely nothing. If your Treasurer is honest then he or she should have told you that.

  17. A few short comments to add to your excellent article
    (1) our attitude to money can have a spiritual element. I found that the decision to “let go” and tithe removed an important barrier to becoming a Christian
    (2) in the Baptist Church, unless the congregation give, the church closes (Home Mission can help but is quite limited). This adds to motivation to give.
    (3) in our (Baptist) church we (also) tithe collectively on giving so 10 percent goes to charity (Open Doors etc.) This is considered normal.
    (4) giving can be in terms of service (time and talents) as well as cash
    (5) Wesley in 1789 offered a helpful challenge to believers “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can”.
    (6) if your fist is closed on your money (and talents), how can God give you his blessings? That needs an open hand.
    (7) or in a similar vein, it can be suggested that being generous with God is like allowing a river to flow through our lives, clean and fresh, rather than seeking to dam it, causing deserts elsewhere and stagnation within.

    • We have a similar approach in our Baptist church Philip. If people don’t give (in the ways you have outlined. then we will not survive. We don’t require people to tithe individually, but our outside giving is always more than 10%. Over the years, we have found ourselves able to punch above our weight financially.

      C.S Lewis once remarked that

      “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

  18. So many complicated arguments here, its hard to know what to think. One very obvious question arising from some of the above comments is this : How is heresy determined, who by, and with what authority? In my experience this comes down to “Well, that’s your opinion, and I’ve got more authority and clout by virtue of position, seniority or appointment to you…….” (And those who shout the loudest longest are most likely to get their way.) “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, one’s heretic is another’s saint.”

    On a personal level, giving isn’t necessarily solely in terms of cash. It was more feasible for me, as a young man on a low income to give time and talents; growing older, with inherited money invested I’m able to be generous to both my church and other church charities because God has enabled me to, and thankfully done something in my heart that makes me want to. And I still invest time and talents too.

    It helps to see my giving as personal involvement in Tear Fund, Leprosy Mission and whatever. The folks in the field are my hands and feet, doing the things I would wish to do; I am God’s hands, providing their resource base as he flows through me in response to their needs. It is very much a practical, dynamic three way partnership.

    I have to admit I loathe the ‘blab it and grab it’ theology of some church groups, which sound almost as if God is a magical chocolate machine at New Street Station. God deals primarily in spiritual matters, dealing in material ones via us, his people. And some of the stories and claims made by ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers have probably alienated a great many people by their sheer incredibility. Didn’t someone say that the difference between British and American Christians was that one judges a believer’s spirituality by the depth of the pile on their carpet, the other by the extent to which they’re on their beam ends?

  19. Excellent post, Ian! Provoking in all the right ways. The ways we think about “our” money and possessions are striking when we see how Scripture references them. Here’s a blurb excerpted from my post on tithing at

    “Interestingly, the largest passage on giving (2 Cor. 8-9) has little if anything to do with supporting a local church ministry in terms of its operating expenses, but has everything to do with the relief of poverty in the Church at large. This alone should give churches pause before committing abundant resources to buildings, unnecessarily high staff salaries, and the like. While there is nothing explicitly unbiblical about having sufficient staff and facilities that meet the needs of a local congregation, the burden of New Testament teaching is in meeting the needs of the poor. To diminish or even ignore this emphasis in Scripture while building larger parking lots and acquiring sufficient acreage to build the church “campus” seems well beyond Scripture when there are so many legitimate needs of the poor that confront us.

    Upon a cursory reading of 2 Cor. 8-9, various principles or guidelines emerge such as reciprocity (God often gives back to us when we give to him, 2 Cor. 9:6; see also Philip. 4:18-19), equality (as far as is known, poverty should be reduced or eliminated in the Church, 2 Cor. 8:13), generosity (2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13), sacrifice (2 Cor. 8:3; Heb. 13:16, also see 2 Sam. 24:24), and willingness (2 Cor. 9:7). These are the overarching standards by which giving is to be measured. Amounts simply are not specified. This comports with the freewill offering of the Old Testament, which, as we have seen, is interested in the character and heart of the giver rather than the quantity. Nowhere is this clearer than in Mark 12:41-44. The poor widow who contributed the smallest amount actually gave “more than all those who are contributing to the offering box,” because she gave all she had. Moreover, this passage manifestly demonstrates that sacrificial giving is always valued by God.”

  20. “Despite our present situation, we are still much better off than we were 20 or 30 years ago.”

    Ian, I would like to interrogate this a little. It appears ambiguous. If you are referring to presently middle-aged people in comparison to their younger selves of 20-30 years ago, I agree. However, I don’t think this is actually a relevant comparison for the purposes of the subject at hand. It seems more pertinent to compare today’s young people with their equivalent age group of 20-30 years ago (i.e. today’s middle-aged). Is the statement still true? I think it could easily be argued that today’s young are *worse* off than the young of a generation ago!

    You and your readers will know in general terms why that is: far higher house prices when adjusting for income growth; student grants replaced by loans; a more precarious employment environment; and the erosion of pension expectations. The question, then, is how to apply the Biblical teaching on giving to the present generation of young adults in church in the context of the above considerations – and I don’t think there are easy answers to this.


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