Christians shouldn't stop giving or feel discouraged when their pastor emphasizes the need for members to increase their tithes, says the Rev. Billy Graham, who explains that all ministries needs financial support.
Responding to a question posed to him by a reader of the Kansas City Star on Friday, Graham expounded on the topic of giving by noting that "it's not wrong to make God's people aware of those needs and seek their help."
The evangelical leader further noted that it's important to remember that "everything we have — including our money — is a gift from God," and therefore Christians should not feel discouraged if their pastor asks for donations for the church budget.
"Every ministry needs financial support," he said, referencing the Apostle Paul, who in 2 Corinthians 9:12 encouraged the giving of money to Christians in need.
Graham also discouraged greed, and called on believers to remember that ultimately, money does not belong to them but to God.
"We can't take credit for [our money], nor should we use it selfishly or thoughtlessly. Instead, we should seek to use it wisely and for God's glory. When we give to God's work, we are only returning to Him a portion of what He has already given us," Graham added.
The 97-year-old Baptist minister goes on to say that it is possible certain pastors ask for money too often, or focus on the subject too frequently in their sermons, but such behavior on behalf of the pastor should not stunt the individual generosity of a church's members.
Instead of feeling discouraged, Christians should "let Christ be your example in your giving. In Heaven He possessed everything, and yet He sacrificed it all — even His life — so we could be saved," the religious leader concluded.
The importance of tithing has long been discussed in the evangelical church, with a 2013 study finding that those who tithe to their church have an overall healthier financial situation than those who don't.
The State of the Plate study, led by Brian Kluth, founder of Maximum Generosity, discovered that in categories such as credit card debt, car loans and home loans, tithers faired far better than non-tithers.
For example, of those who tithed, the study found that 80 percent had no unpaid credit card bills, 74 percent didn't have car loans, and nearly half owned their homes.
Kluth told The Christian Post at the time of the study that he believes the difference in finances between tithers and non-tithers is based on their mentality.
"The weird thing is, a tither looks at that and says to himself, 'Well, I'm better off because I give.' A non-tither looks at that and says, 'Oh, they give because they're better off,'" Kluth said.
Kenton Beshore, lead pastor of one of the largest megachurches in the nation, Mariners Church in Irvine, California, spoke on the importance of generosity for spiritual health in a recent sermon, saying there are two types of people: those who choose to be generous first, and those who choose to consume first.
By giving first, we allow generosity to work through us in all facets of life. However, if we choose to consume first, money becomes our God, Beshore told his congregation.