How much should I give?

In his book “Good and Faithful Servant, Stewardship in the Orthodox Church”, Orthodox priest Fr. Anthony Scott summarizes a variety of prevalent attitudes and approaches for discerning what to give the church. These are reproduced briefly below as “seven common stewardship mindsets”:

  1. Disposable Giving — The church is last in line.
  2. Legal/minimal Giving – Dues mentality
  3. Averaged Budget Giving – (Necessary $) ÷(# families)
  4. Project Giving –  Not giving really –but buying; it’s transactional
  5. Comparative Giving — Smug superiority vs. others
  6. Herd Giving –Downward adjustments when moving to a different parish.
  7. First Portion/Sacrificial Giving –Joyful, meaningful proportional gift given without strings that expresses an investment in our parish purpose.

Which is proper? If you answered, “Number seven!” go to the head of the class!

What Proportion?

First portion giving of a tenth of one’s income (a tithe) is taught by all Christians– including Orthodox — as being a scriptural standard, established in the Old Testament and carried forward to the New Testament. In fact many sources speak of tithes and offerings–“tithes” being a baseline and “offerings” being what is given over and above a tithe. 

Often Orthodox people have been never been taught about tithing. A common reaction is that tithing is a “Baptist” or “Protestant” idea. Let us repeat. Tithing is Orthodox. Many, many Orthodox Christians tithe. Many give more than a tithe.

Two mites – Roman Coins

The actual proportion you choose should be your own prayerful decision. If there is one word to describe “how much”, we like the advice to make it “meaningful”.  This will vary considerably with an individual’s financial situation.

In considering the definition of meaningful, consider the lesson of the widow’s mite.  She gave a tiny amount but this was given in love, NOT from her abundance but from her necessities.

An Approach

So for those looking for an approach to determining their annual pledge donation we offer this:

1. Determine your household income. (For example $60,000/yr.) This will vary widely among our parishioners.

2. Determine what you currently give to the church (Example: $2,000/yr.)

3. Determine the current percentage/proportion you give back. (Current donation ÷ Household income = $2,000/$60,000= 3.33%)

4. Determine a target percentage. Decide what meaningful percentage of the resources God has given to you that you will give back to God through the church. (Example 10%)

5. Develop an annual plan for moving to that target. Some will try to get to the target in one year. Others may try to narrow the gap (the difference between 10% and 3.3%) over, say, three or four years moving from 5% to 7% to 9% to 10%.

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