By Gary Skeen
“For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:44, NRSV
A survey of IRS data from 2006 to 2012 revealed that during the recent recession, people who made more money actually gave less to charity than those who made less. The numbers were eye-opening for me.
An online article revealed that the lowest income earners, under $25,000 a year, increased their giving more than 16 percent, while those who made more than $200,000 a year actually reduced their giving by nearly 5 percent.
Read this article here if you want to see the numbers yourself. It reminded me of the parable about the poor widow who gave two copper coins as an offering. The Bible says that many rich people contributed large sums, but that the two coins the widow contributed together added up to one cent. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those…”
I know the parable is familiar, but when I read the article about giving during the most recent recession, it was a confirmation to me that when the going gets tough, people’s true nature shines through. At times I am guilty of having a “me first” mentality, especially on money matters. But I was encouraged that generosity continues for many, regardless of how much, or little, they have to give.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of all the things we have been blessed with throughout the year and in reflection, throughout our lives. We all have much to be thankful for, not the least of which is to live in a country where even the most modest incomes rank among near the top worldwide.
Anyone who makes more than $37,000 a year is in the top 4 percent of the wealthiest people in the world. And if you’re blessed to make $49,000 or more, you’re in the top 1 percent worldwide.
In our busy lives now, if our car breaks down or if the plumbing in our house leaks, it can cause great inconvenience or even financial difficulties, but these are only problems of the wealthy. But there are people in the world who are consumed every day with shelter, transportation and where their next meal will come from.
We are all wealthier than we think. We are blessed to live in a prosperous country where most of us do not struggle with the basic needs to sustain life. In I Timothy 6:18, we learn that we are to “do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share.”
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for those who are generous in their communities, share their table with others and whose ministry is reflected every day in simple acts of grace. From all of us at the Church Benefits Board, Happy Thanksgiving!
Gary Skeen is President of the Church Benefits Board, a ministry of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.