Americans are the most generous and charitable of people. Of those who give, Christians are the most generous and charitable of all. Just common folks out-give the wealthy when it comes to church and charitable giving.

There are many causes that seek to take advantage of this generosity — churches, nonprofit agencies, relief centers, rescue missions, orphanages, schools, hospitals and many other agencies.

There are many Christians who believe that they should give 10% of their gross income. Of course, there are many who use this “tithe” with some qualifications, that is, they adjust the 10% depending on how much they pay in taxes or expenses and tithe on only the net result of that calculation.

As taxes go up, charitable giving naturally diminishes because many people consider cutting expenses in order to “make ends meet.”

Through the years, I have learned a great deal about the generosity of people. I once had an elderly lady who was doing her spring-cleaning drive up in the church parking lot where I was serving as senior pastor in Kentucky.

It was an historic church, the one that had ordained the famous Landmark minister, J. R. Graves, and one that maintained a strong ministry and missionary emphasis.

This lady was ushered into my office by the church secretary. She said, “Pastor, I’m spring cleaning. I have this old piano out in the truck. I want to donate it to the church. It won’t play, but I thought the church could use it.”

I responded, saying, “Myrtle, you have more faith than I do!”

This true story illustrates how many people treat the church and charitable giving. They give things they don’t want, need or use, even things that won’t work! They give little or nothing.

Then there are those who give like the woman in Jesus’ famous story about the “widow’s mite.” The Scribes gave a little out of their abundance; she gave far more because she gave much out of her poverty (Mark 12:41-44).

In one church where I served, there were four millionaires. A couple of those gave substantial amounts to the church. One didn’t give much, but he made a great deal about what he did give.

One day he came to my office at church to explain his poor giving. I didn’t know what he gave and wasn’t really interested in knowing. I told him that it wasn’t any of my business, but he insisted on talking about it.

He said, “I want to explain why I don’t give what I should to our church. I don’t want our church to become dependent on my wealth.”

I replied, “Obviously, the church isn’t dependent on your wealth!” I don’t know what came of that conversation, because, as I said to him, I wasn’t interested in individual giving. I am interested in how individuals are honoring God with who they are, what they have and what they do.

One thing that all of us must realize is that God is in charge of things. He can cut our lives short, as much as He can cut our income, should He decide to do so.

All of us, particularly in America, need to remember that God blesses us.

Even as Job, one of the wealthiest men in history, admitted, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). We should trust God, honor Him with our gifts and bless others with our generosity. Greed and hoarding are sins not easily managed or overcome.

Charitable giving in America is voluntary. We are not required by law to support a church or charity. It is entirely voluntary on the part of those who give.

There was a time in Colonial America when tax dollars were used to support a church. It was the effort of some courageous Baptists, along with men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who brought about the end of religious taxation to support churches. With that came the end of religious persecution.

This is part of the history of the separation of church and state that our forefathers wisely initiated and that we must maintain if we are to remain a free and unfettered people.

This is an incredibly important issue now that radical Islam is bent on gaining control in our country, if not destroying it as a free society. In this kind of situation our freedom is used against us in order to enslave us.

Taxes are not voluntary, even though that is what the law says. We cannot decide not to pay our taxes. If we do there will eventually come the judgment of the Internal Revenue Service to take what the government requires us to pay.

Of course, the IRS isn’t the only collector of taxes that we face as citizens. There are many taxes that we MUST pay and we will have to pay, no matter what.

We are at a very dangerous point in our history as a nation in terms of taxes, debts and excessive spending. Charities and nonprofits are suffering because of the financial stresses of our economic times. Now the actions of “Big Brother” government come to do even more financial damage and destruction to the generous and gracious charitable institutions and groups.

It is time our representatives in Washington rise up to put some limits and checks on the Internal Revenue Service operations. Again, there is a serious flaw in the system that has evolved over many years. Those who operate it benefit from it and they are not interested in making significant changes or reducing what taxpayers must pay.

We need a much simpler and saner system of taxation, in addition to some serious cutting of government expenses and employment. We do not need more government, more government employees or programs. We need less!

There are many more things that need to be said about taxes and charities. We need to encourage others in their thinking about taxes, our personal charitableness and our nation’s future.

We all have a responsibility to pay taxes, but we also should share in helping others charitably. We are not alone and isolated in earning and using our incomes.

God will judge us, not just as individuals, but as social beings, agreeing or disagreeing with what we are, do and give. We need one another in the development of our lives.

Let me hear from you on what you think. Share your thoughts with me at drjerryhopkins@yahoo.com. You may also reach me by “snail” mail at Dr. Jerry Hopkins, P.O. Box 1363, Marshall, Texas 75671.

— Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired university professor.