Jewish Journal

Gov. Rick Perry getting cheap with God

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 13, 2011 | 9:59 pm

There are no examples in the Bible of someone’s giving pleasing God if it came in at less than 10 percent of income. Size doesn’t matter—just proportionality.

With that in mind, I’m always surprised by how few Christians appropriately tithe. To be sure, giving is between an individual and God, but when someone’s giving is reported, it always seem to come in well below 10 percent. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Rick Warren, who “reverse tithes” 90 percent of his income.

Case in point: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been playing up his Christian faith lately as oddsmakers bet on whether he will declare he’s running for president. Here’s the story from the Houston Chronicle:

Gov. Rick Perry has never been shy about putting his faith on display, from speeches at prayer breakfasts to his 2005 signing of abortion restrictions into law at a church school’s gym to inviting the nation’s governors to a prayer meeting at Reliant Stadium that some are calling “Prayer-a-palooza.”

But when it comes time to giving, the governor doesn’t come close to the biblical guidance of tithing.

From 2000, when Perry became governor, through 2009, he earned a total of $2.68 million, according to his tax records. Of that amount, he gave about half a percent to churches and religious organizations, or $14,243.

By comparison, Americans averaged gifts of nearly 1.2 percent of their income to churches and religious groups from 2004 to 2008, according to Empty Tomb Inc., an Illinois-based research firm specializing in U.S. church-giving trends.

Fourteen-thousand dollars—as in 10 percent of $140,000.

To be sure, those Empty Tomb stats evince the reality that many Christians give far less than 10 percent. But my understanding of the parable of the widow is that he who has much is expected to give even more. In other words, someone making $2.5 million should be giving a lot more than $250,000. Because when you’re bringing in $2.5 million a year, how much of a commitment do you really have to make to give away loose change?

I’m not going to judge Perry’s heart. I don’t know what he really believes. But there is something called putting your money where your mouth is. And this is a great example of why I just don’t trust politicians who make a big deal of Godtalk, whether it’s sincere or calculated.

(Hat tip: Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

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