After I have railed on several occasions about the stinginess of Barack Obama, and the extreme stinginess of Joe Biden, it comes as a great disappointment to read that Sarah Palin, professing evangelical believer, is also pretty stingy when it comes to charitable giving. Her attendance at an evangelical church is a good thing, but one of the clearest ways to demonstrate the depth of one’s commitment to Christ is through things which actually cost us something, and giving financially is near, if not at, the top of that list. Hopefully, she and her husband will take more seriously the teachings of that church when it comes to giving sacrificially.

36 responses »

  1. Laurie says:

    I don’t report all my giving to the IRS, have we considered that maybe she doesn’t either? Your original post addressed the agenda of Matthew 25 Org – helping “the least of these” by means of higher taxes to fund government programs which in effect prevent sincere Christians from doing all that they otherwise might to personally obey the call of Christ.

    Sarah is not calling for higher taxes to fund these types of programs, so she shouldn’t come under the gun on that issue.

  2. Byron says:

    Yes and no…I commented on Obama’s stinginess back in April, prior to the Matthew25.org post. Yes, give her credit that she isn’t calling for higher taxes, and she might have given more, but it’s pretty strange, seems to me, if she would report some of her charitable giving, but leave a big chunk unreported. I don’t report ALL my giving to the IRS, but I report as much as is reasonable, because a good conservative principle is that taxes should be, not EVADED, but AVOIDED!

  3. Laurie says:

    Good point.

  4. Bob Robinson says:

    Byron,
    I can’t help but notice (maybe I’m getting the wrong vibe from you?) that you are not willing to treat the Palins the same as the Obamas.

    Sure, you call out the Palins for being “pretty stingy” and that “hopefully, she and her husband will take more seriously the teachings of that church when it comes to giving sacrificially.”

    But, for Obama, you thought that his 5% giving was sure evidence that he is a liar when he says his faith is important to him (“I don’t believe him for one second”).

    I know you want to goose and gander here, but it does not seem to be quite the same. Why is it that for Right-leaning evangelicals Sarah Palin gets the benefit of the doubt but Barak Obama is always seen, in Laurie’s word, a “phony?”

  5. sherry says:

    Has anyone noticed that the tone of the article is that it’s somehow “unamerican” or “wrong” to take tax deductions? I know of very few americans who DON’T make every effort to take EVERY deduction legally available to them. In fact, I think it’s foolish not to!

    I know that’s not the point here, the point is that her charitable giving is, to put it mildly, MEASLY.

    That’s too bad. And I don’t believe that there’s giving by the Palins that’s going unreported. It doesn’t follow that a couple who is savvy enough to claim as many deductions as they do would “neglect” to take as much in charitable deductions as well.

    So as far as thier tax returns, you go girl! 🙂 (and I wouldn’t sweat those supposed penalties etc….everyone seems to run across things like that a time or two for WHATEVER reason, usually not willfull neglect but mistakes, like the “missing” $600)

    But as far as thier giving, Sarah honey where’s your TITHE????

  6. Don says:

    I gotta tell you, Byron, this kinda thing really makes me itchy. It’s one thing to point out the error in people’s doctrine. Certainly there is plenty of biblical precedent for that. But pointing out the deficiency in people’s faith is another matter all together. I think most Christians would be horrified to have their church contributions made public in the same way as our candidates for office. Jesus taught that when it comes to giving we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Unfortunately in American politics it’s all out there for everyone to see. I think as responsible Christ followers we oughta leave well enough alone. What Sarah Palin or Brack Obama, or anyone else for that matter, chooses to give to their local church is between them and God and nobody else. The fact that the government requires them to publicly declare that which should be left private does not give us free license for commentary.

  7. Byron says:

    I agree with some of what you say, Don; I don’t think that most Americans would want their tax returns made public; I don’t give in order for anyone to find out what my church contributions were. That said, I wouldn’t be embarrassed if they were. Further, it is between them and God.

    But that said, the test is simple, it seems to me: take a generic, no-name individual. Attribute to that person the giving that the Palins and the Obamas have evidenced, in light of their incomes. Then step back and ask, “do those numbers compare with what one would expect from a seriously-committed Christian?” In other words, if you didn’t have names, only figures, would you have a problem saying, of each of those records, “this doesn’t measure up real well with what a committed Christian ought to be doing financially”. I wouldn’t. Would you stand publicly in the pulpit at Northside, hold up those numbers, and say, “this represents a pattern of giving acceptable to a committed Christian”? Perhaps the “itchiness” is to be found in the fact that we know the names of these folks, but at least in the case of Obama, where much has been made of his faith, where he has been willing to be out front on it, not cede the faithful to the Republicans, it’s fair game. I don’t know that the Palins have made the issue of their faith that Obama has; some reporting has been done on it, but Obama has specifically, I believe, positioned himself as a man of serious faith and called on fellow Dems to do the same (Biden, by the way, has not, at least from anything I’ve heard, so this is not a “slam” on all Democrats). But if you’re going to talk the talk, you darn well better walk the walk. Nobody’s perfect, least of all me, but this is one of those fairly easy benchmarks, it seems to me, and neither the Palins nor the Obamas are particularly impressive in this area.

    By the way, I don’t believe that the government requires them to make their tax returns known; political prudence does, at least these days. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. Byron says:

    Third try to get a post to work right; maybe this time I won’t hit the wrong key on the computer and wipe out what I have to say!

    I know exactly two things about the Palins’ faith, one positive and one negative. The negative is the giving; the positive (in general terms) is the church affiliation. They have chosen churches where, ostensibly, the gospel is preached (even if I’d disagree on some of the finer points of doctrine). These churches are evangelical in orientation. Why they’ve moved churches, I don’t know of course. But bottom line is that they’ve attended churches where the gospel is preached. Those two things represent the sum total of all I know. Further, unlike Obama, I haven’t seen Sarah Palin trying to make faith an issue, though I could be wrong about that. Some has been written about her church background, but I don’t know that I’ve heard her say much about it herself.

    By contrast, I find nothing encouraging in what I know of Obama’s faith, on the other hand, other than perhaps his 20-year commitment to the same church, but given what that church stands for, is that a positive? It’s a church that is part of arguably the most liberal mainline denomination in America. It is a church infected from top to bottom with the lies, not only of liberal theology, but of “black liberation” theology. Under no circumstances could I imagine encouraging a person to attend this church. Further, reading some in the book “The Faith of Barack Obama”, his own words are quite telling; in a chapter entitled “Faith Fit for Our Age”, Obama’s words paint him as a main whose faith exhibits more of the spirit of the age in which we live than it does a serious commitment to the authority of the Word of God and all that flows from that. Hearing him give his testimony isn’t particularly impressive either; it’s notably devoid of specifics and definitions.

    Then, throw the paltry giving on top of that, and what is there that gives us confidence that this man is serious about his faith? Maybe he does know Christ, but if he’s going to talk about Democrats being more vocal about their faith, well, it’s hard for me to see him as an example.

  9. Don says:

    Well, I can tell you this. If I were running for political office I would NOT declare my tithes and offerings on my Tax returns. And no, I would not stand publicly in the pulpit and hold up those numbers. Even if it is a spiritual “benchmark” as you say, it’s a benchmark that is nobody’s business but God’s. I’m sorry, Byron, but there is absolutely no biblical precedent for this kind of public scrutiny.

  10. Laurie says:

    I have to agree with Don here – I think the original intent of the post here was to point out the perceived discrepancy between Obama asking people to pay more taxes and his personal habit of giving, but – correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t making this information public more about showing the American public this person has complied with the tax laws, as is fitting for those who seek the offices of P & VP?

    It always makes me feel uncomfortable when people that give generously are held up as a shining example to others, often with the not so subtle implication that those who didn’t rise to that standard are either disobedient, will miss out on financial blessings from God, or need to consider whether they are genuine believers if they don’t meet the standard that is being set. As was pointed out, we’re not to let the left hand know what the right is doing, and we’re also not to give preference to those who have/give money – which happens all too often.

    I believe there are guidelines to giving, and we’re told to be cheerful givers, but I think it should be God moving people to give – not other people. I think it’s a good practice to purpose in your heart what you give on a regular basis, and to give when there is a need. There are many opportunities to do this, at the supermarket when you’re asked to donate a few dollars, to someone you run into on the street, to those who are collecting for some cause, to a friend or family member who has a need, to clothes/items given away, to a plea from organizations like the Red Cross or World Vision – it’s endless. I admire those who are good at keeping records of these things so they can be a good steward and not pay taxes on them – I’m not that good at it, and to be honest I’m not thinking about that when I feel led to give.

    I think there are other good reasons to be skeptical of Obama’s faith, maybe this isn’t one of them.

  11. Jack Brooks says:

    There are two issues at play here. One is, hypocrisy. If a candidate calls on people to be more giving, how well does he or she give? If they criticize other people for a lack of generosity, and are not generous themselves, then they’re hypocritical. Al Gore is a hypocrite on global warming issues, in light of his house, jets, and other energy-guzzling aspects of his personal lifestyle.

    The second is, what does your giving pattern say about the quality of your claim to Christian faith? Poor giving patterns over a long period of time suggest a weakness in the walk. It doesn’t invalidate the claim to faith. But it’s a weakness shared by nearly all American evangelicals. Our national level of giving to foreign missions, for instance, is patheticlaly bad.

    Tactically, it’s never a good idea for any public figure to throw stones if you love in a glass house.

  12. Don says:

    …love in a glass house, you say? I would at least draw the curtains.

  13. Byron says:

    I assume that you’d just claim nothing on your tax returns as charitable giving, then? Running for office wouldn’t change my position on that in the least…only because I like to avoid taxes, and I wouldn’t allow the fact that they’d be made public to deter me; I’ve got nothing to hide.

    At any rate, you sound decidedly like a liberal on this one, Don (though I’m sure you don’t mean to). You don’t mean to say that we can tell nothing about a person’s commitment to Christ by his willingness to give/lack thereof, do you? If nobody at Northside gave anything, you wouldn’t see that as a sign of spiritual problems? I’m saying that if I found out that every person in my church gave, say, 2% of his income to the Lord’s work, it would be legitimate for me to find a way to challenge people as to their lack of faith, because that low level is evidence of that, I believe. Don’t you?

    Now, this is an unusual situation; it’s rare that we have access to this information, and I don’t go seeking it out; I couldn’t tell you what anyone in my church gives, don’t want to know. But it’s a matter of public information, and giving is one benchmark; not the only, sure (I’d never say that), but it’s a powerfully important one. And I think that, now that the public info is out there, it’s something that fits into the mix of evaluating the candidates. I see plenty of biblical precedent for public scrutiny of the actions of individuals.

  14. Byron says:

    Not the original intent of THIS post, Laurie; that was another post.

    I haven’t raised anyone up as a “shining example” (wish I had one!). 🙂

    “Every man purpose in his heart” is valid, but let’s admit that there are people who purpose in their hearts to be stingy, right?

    All of your other concerns are certainly biblical and valid, Laurie, but read my response to Don, and let me know what you think.

  15. Byron says:

    I agree with what you’re saying, Jack. Ironically, the Palins and Obamas are probably about average when it comes to contemporary standards.

    Sadly.

  16. Don says:

    Byron,

    Not sure how this makes me sound like a liberal. What I’m saying is that it’s nobody’s business what I give, and if I were to have to publicly disclose my contributions, I would chose to disclose nothing. That’s not liberal, it’s actually biblical.

    And no, I’m not saying that we can tell nothing about a person’s commitment to Christ by his willingness to give. It’s not a matter of if we CAN, it’s a matter of if we SHOULD.

  17. Laurie says:

    Byron,

    I didn’t mean to include you when I was talking about setting people up as shining examples, I’m sorry if it came off that way. It’s good that you don’t know what anyone in your church gives, I’ve known of pastors who do otherwise and no good usually comes from it.

    I think it’s fine that you keep track of your giving because you want to avoid paying taxes on it, maybe one day I’ll get motivated to do the same, but the idea of challenging the level of someone’s faith on the basis of the amount they give still bothers me; what else could come under that category – the amount of time you spend praying or reading/studying the Bible; going to church, caring for widows/orphans, visiting the sick, etc. These are certainly things we should all be doing, but I’m not so sure it’s anyone’s job to decide what an acceptable amount of time/effort is “enough”. I think people in general are going to be stronger in some areas than others – that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad Christians because they don’t excel in every area.

    You said if you found out everyone in your church only gave 2% of their income; it would be grounds for you to challenge their faith. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’ve seen pastors do that, and what can happen is that they think it will automatically result in everyone having a change of heart, and if it doesn’t happen, they harp on it more and more, thinking that will do the trick. It can become something where the pastor is no longer letting God work on people’s hearts; he is now trying to make it happen in his own strength – it reminds me of Moses making the people believe God was angry with them and striking the rock – I’m not saying you would ever do that, I’m saying some pastors behave that way.

    I think Paul got it right when he said we shouldn’t despise those who are weak in the faith, or feel superior to them; each should answer to his master.

  18. Byron says:

    I knew you didn’t mean to, dude…your first sentence of your second paragraph confirms that we agree (I’m messing with you by suggesting that it’d be a liberal response to suggest that our giving says nothing about our commitment–liberals detest accountability, generally speaking).

    I don’t think it’s per se unbiblical, though, to disclose one’s tax returns. I’d fault neither Obama nor Palin for doing this. Reason is that I wouldn’t pretend, despite my misgivings about their giving, to suggest that their reason for giving in the first place was for it to be disclosed to the world; i.e., to receive the praise of men.

    Perhaps, on your final point, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  19. Don says:

    I’m fine with agreeing to disagree, but I wonder if you might agree to share a biblical basis for your position. Frankly, I’m at a loss for one. I’ve certainly provided a biblical basis for mine.

  20. Byron says:

    Define the issue first, and we’ll go from there. We may think that the issue(s) is different, and that’s why we need to clarify.

  21. Don says:

    Going back to my original comment…

    “What Sarah Palin or Brack Obama, or anyone else for that matter, chooses to give to their local church is between them and God and nobody else. The fact that the government requires them to publicly declare that which should be left private does not give us free license for commentary.”

  22. Byron says:

    OK, so it’s the “free license for commentary” thing that you question. Both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama claim to be followers of Christ. We have the prerogative to investigate those claims as to their validity; Jesus reminded us that it is by the fruits of professing believers that we will know them. There are some things that we know of both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama as to the fruits of their professed faith; their giving is one, but only one, of those things. It is valid for me to “examine fruit”, to “judge righteous judgment”, with regard to the actions of others. It is not valid for me to pretend to make the final call; fair enough. I have not done that, nor would I; what I have said is that there are fruits in their lives, and in the case of their giving, I don’t find that their fruit matches their profession. As I told you, the fact that we know names makes this a bit different, but I could easily say that a person who is stingy with his giving is demonstrating fruit that is not in keeping with commitment to Christ. It so happens that we can put names and faces together here.

    I would ask why their giving is different from anything/everything else we’ve come to know about them. Obama’s association with Rev. Wright is fair game for consideration; why not this facet of his life?

  23. Jack Brooks says:

    It only takes an aorist’s moment of faith to be accounted righteous; and “commitment” to Christ — i.e., a conscious decision to be obedient to the moral laws of the New Testament — isn’t a condition of salvation.

  24. Don says:

    I think I’ve explained why I believe giving is different. I’m not convinced you can make a biblical case others.

  25. Byron says:

    What’s the point you’re making, Jack?

  26. Byron says:

    Don, are you saying that your biblical basis is the left hand/right hand argument? That’s the only biblical case I see you have laid out; correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll speak to others. But that passage (Matthew 6) is written to the one doing the giving, and speaks to the motives in giving, does it not? The Palins or the Obamas or the Blacks or the Harveys would be in violation of it if our giving were done for the purpose of trumpeting our righteousness. I don’t believe any of the above have done that.

    For my part, I see no difference in evaluating whatever knowledge comes to light in order to try to “judge righteous judgment”. Bill Clinton dallied with ladies right and left, yet is (or was) a Southern Baptist. This is incompatible. Let’s suppose, conversely, that Sarah and Todd Palin gave 15 or 20% of their income to charity. Would we not be praising them for their generosity?

  27. Don says:

    And I still say it makes me itchy.

  28. Don says:

    There is one other verse that I would share. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul describes the care we should afford the various members of the Body.

    “And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” – 1 Cor. 12:23-25.

    I have always believed that giving is one of those unpresentable parts that require greater modesty. We may preach about its importance in a general sense, but it is never appropriate to either confront or praise someone individually for their giving. “Judge righteous judgment” till the cows come home, but there is something private about giving, “secret” Jesus calls it, that I think makes it off limits.

  29. Byron says:

    I can respect that. Agree? No, but respect, sure.

  30. Don says:

    And your biblical basis is…

  31. Byron says:

    Duuuuuude…gave you my biblical basis. I don’t agree with your take on the “unpresentable parts”. You might be right, sure, but simply presenting your take doesn’t mean I agree with it, or that it’s right.

  32. Don says:

    So your saying that it’s perfectly all right to confront people about their giving? Do you really mean that?

  33. Byron says:

    Nope, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that we have this information. We didn’t seek it out. But like other information, which we may or may not seek out, we have it, and it says something about a person. Just like having an affair says something. Just like if the Palins gave 20%.

    This is why I asked about the issue(s); I think that there are more than one.

  34. Jack Brooks says:

    I suppose it depends on what you meant by “commitment” to Christ. Perhaps I misunderstood you. My point was that degree of charitable giving isn’t a mark of saving faith. People can tithe and give and completely lack any saving faith at all; others can give “off the books” — politicians in particular, who might not want to alienate potential voters who might peer at their public giving record like you have, so they give donations to churches in the form of cash, or through surrogates.

  35. Byron says:

    Of course it isn’t a mark of salvation, but it is one of obedience. And I doubt that what’s operating in these cases is what you suggest, Jack, giving “off the books”, for both the Palins and the Obamas gave to their churches; they just did so in a relatively measly fashion.

  36. Debbie says:

    I know for a fact that there are many people who faithfully put their tithe in the plate each week in cash…no identification. They do this out of principle. And if I was a public figure, I might be inclined to do the same.

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