Characteristics of the Religious Generous in America

Research has told us a lot about generous people in America.  A recent study conducted by State of the Plate Research has underscored some things we thought we knew about these people, but revealed some characteristics we may not have thought about.

Their conclusion is that about ten million people in America tithe – they give ten per cent of their income annually.  That translates to fifty billion dollars annually to religious and charitable causes. 

Consistent with other recent studies – they reported that Mormons continue to give the highest percentage of their income, followed by evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals.  Non-religious people are on average less generous than those who are religious.  This relationship between people of faith and higher giving has been a long-standing documented and accepted fact.

This particular study indicated a strong relationship between financially stable individuals and generous giving.  Specifically, they report 15% of people who tithe have a net worth in excess of one million dollars.  Another 20% have net assets over one half million dollars and 23% have net assets over one-fourth million dollars. 

Further, they report that 80% of tithers have no unpaid credit card bills.  74% of those who tithe have no car payment, 48% have no mortgage payment and 28% have no debt at all. 

Seeing these figures reminded me of Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Of course, the skeptic will say that a person is generous because he is well off.  The person of faith will say that God is generous to the generous. 

There is one final point of the study that should be mentioned.  They reported that in spite of the generosity exhibited by religious people, including tithers, only 38% indicated they were including any religious or charitable organization in their will or estate plan. 

This suggests a great disconnect that I have recognized for many years.  Why is it that so many people of faith fail to think of the Kingdom when they determine what is to become of their personal wealth?  Said another way: A majority of people who have been faithful givers throughout their life DO NOT include their church or ANY church-related ministry in their final distribution plans.

I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of Christians in the preparation of their estate plan.  Our findings are even more alarming than this particular study reported.  We found that less than 5% of people who had a will had included their church in their will.  If any religious organization had been included at all – and most of the time it had not – the organization was a school or favored ministry.

This is not a hopeless cause, however.  I have felt that most people have just not thought about it.  Further, they have not thought about it because they have not been taught about it.  That can be corrected.  All religious organizations, including churches, need to teach their supporters the importance of being generous in all aspects including in the preparation of their estate plan.