Why Giving Stops – Overcoming Cirrhosis of the Giver

Why Giving Stops – Overcoming Cirrhosis of the Giver by Rev. Tony Cooke

I became concerned a few years ago when I read some very startling statistics about how Christians were handling their money… especially in the areas of tithing and giving.  According to the studies I came across:

  • Only around 6% of those claiming to be “born-again” in America actually tithe to their local church.
  • 9% of those who identify themselves as “evangelicals” tithe to their church.
  • The average church member in America gives 2.5% of his or her income to the church.

Stop and think about it.  If every church member in America began tithing, the budget of churches would quadruple!  If all church members in the U.S. tithed, there would be an additional $156 billion available each year for the mission of the church. 

Our Greatest Opportunity is Right Now!

There are more people alive now on the earth than ever before. 

  • When Jesus was born, the entire world population was 200 million people. 
  • In 1,000 A.D., the population of the entire world was 300 million people.
  • Today, there are around 303 million people in the United States alone, and the great majority of the 6.7 billion people living on the face of the earth do NOT know Jesus.

The Wycliffe Bible Translators estimate that there are 2,000 people groups that don’t have a single verse of Scripture available to them in their own language, and another group suggests that there are probably 1.6 billion people who have never even heard John 3:16. The task before us is massive, and we have far greater potential than what has been realized. 

When I address these issues, I’m not primarily thinking about dollars and cents, but about lives and hearts!  We know that Jesus taught that, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Billy Graham said, “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.”  What does this mean?  If the money of people is not coming into the church—into the work of God—then it’s an indicator that their hearts and their thoughts are not in the mission of the church either.

After the ushers brought the offering to the front of one church, the pastor held it up and prayed: “Lord, regardless of what we say about you with our lips, this is really what we say about you, this is really what we feel about you. This is really what you mean to us. Amen.”

Let me briefly mention five factors that can contribute to believers not being the kind of tithers and givers that God desires:

1.  Economic Issues

There is a logical, common-sense approach to this.  If people don’t have money, they can’t give it.  However, I’m convinced that there are certain heart issues that go beyond the economy.  When you read Luke 21:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, you’ll notice that the economic conditions were not great for the widow woman or for the churches in Macedonia, and yet they gave generously in ways that evoked the recognition and praise of Jesus and Paul respectively.  Their external actions of generosity were a reflection of hearts (and wallets) that were totally consecrated to God!

One of the reasons I believe that economic issues are not the ultimate factor in giving is that U.S. Christians give proportionately less today than they did during the Great Depression.  In 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, average per-member giving was at 3.3%.  Compare that to the average church member today who gives an average of 2.5% of his or her income to the Lord.

2.  People Have Not Positioned Themselves to Give

Lynn A. Miller said, “Stewardship is the act of organizing your life so that God can spend you.”  We live in a day of unprecedented spending (including excessive credit spending), and seemingly, people are saving less and giving less.  One person said, “Our problem is that we spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.”  Another wisely noted, “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall.”

John Wesley taught people to “earn all you can” without hurting one’s body, soul, or neighbor.  Then to “save all you can,” cutting off needless expenses and not seeking to gratify the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, or the pride of life.  But Wesley said if you stop here (earning and saving all you can), that you haven’t done anything.  His third admonition to believers was to “give all you can.”

3.  Saturation – Christians Have a Multitude of Options

Some Christians have ceased to value their local church because of a “glut” or saturation of highly visible ministries. When there are a handful of preachers on TV at any given time, non-stop radio preachers, extensive ministry via the internet, newsletters and magazines arriving daily at the house from ministries and charitable organizations, and churches on every corner, it becomes easy for people to take churches and ministries for granted.  A constant bombardment of financial appeals can cause church members to be desensitized to vital needs, and to lose focus of the significance of the local church and its varied ministries.

4.  Disillusionment

Some believers have become disappointed when unrealistic expectations of instant prosperity did not materialize.  As a result, these believers have become closed, reluctant, and hesitant.  They feel they’ve been burnt, and are not quick to trust preachers.  Perhaps they saw giving as a “get-rich-quick” opportunity, and then gave up on giving entirely when it failed to produce the expected results.  Perhaps they gave impulsively in the midst of some high-pressure hype… when the emotions wore off, they felt regret, and felt manipulated and taken advantage of.

If people feel exploited, there’s a possibility they won’t just quit giving to the one that exploited them—some will quit giving altogether.  There are certainly godly and selfless ministers who have genuine leadings from the Lord to receive special offerings on occasion when expectation is high and the anointing is strong.  But there are also “master manipulators” who routinely manipulate and hype the saints, and many don’t recognize the difference between the honorable and the unscrupulous.

5.  Many Christians Have Yet to Establish Spiritual Resolve, Spiritual Maturity, and Obedience to the Bible in the Area of Stewardship and Giving.

Christian obedience and generosity is best expressed when it is a consistent and disciplined extension of a mind-set and lifestyle based on biblical truth.  That way, it’s not erratic or based on whims, impulsivity, or emotion.

Some Christians have excused themselves from their giving responsibilities (tithing, in particular) by stating that they are not “under the law.”  In reality, they are under a Covenant where God has done more for them than was ever done for people under the Law.  In response to God’s goodness, they have chosen to do less for Him.  One person said, “If we do less under grace than they did under law, it is a disgrace.”

Tithing did not originate under the Mosaic Law.  It actually began hundreds of years before the institution of the Law as an act of faith and devotion.  It was later regulated by the Law. Giving under the Old Testament went toward the support of the Temple in Jerusalem and of the priesthood.  That was a worthy cause, and God distributed that responsibility out equally among the people—each person doing his own part.  Giving under the New Testament goes toward the support of the church and the evangelization of the entire world.  If they gave 10% for the upkeep of a priesthood and a temple that was only a shadow of things to come, what should Christians do when it comes to supporting the proclamation of a message that causes people to be born-again and has the ability to impart the gift of eternal life?

T.S. Linscott wrote in 1888, “If Christian people would live up to the Bible demand, and pay God one-tenth of their income… there would be enough and to spare; and I believe the Millenium would soon be upon us, for the conversion of the world is, in my opinion, now reduced to a question of money.  We have the men and women whose hearts God has touched, and whose souls are aflame with missionary zeal; we have a Gospel that meets the requirements of all sorts and conditions of men; full provision has been made for the salvation of the world…”

A.W. Tozer said, “As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor.  It can keep a missionary actively winning lost men to the light of the gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values.  Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth.  Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.”


Pastors face challenges in teaching about stewardship, and yet it’s part of the biblical responsibility of spiritual leadership.  It’s easy to back off of this area because of not wanting to be lumped in with some who have gone to excesses and extremes, but balanced and solid teaching must come from healthy local churches.  We pray that God graces you with great wisdom in this area, as well as all the other areas that are involved in carrying out your wonderful calling!