A recent article on MSN from Business Insider reported the average income gap between the top 1% in a state and the bottom 99%. The largest gap between the highest average income and the lowest average income is in Connecticut. The average gap is about $2,400,000. The lowest gap is found in West Virginia, where there is only a gap of $454,000 between the top 1% and the bottom 99% of wage earners. Mississippi is located just above West Virginia with a gap of $532,000.
The gap is very large, if you are in the bottom percentile. But this information can be helpful in discussing generosity in our churches. Those in lower income levels cannot be allowed to expect the rich folks in the church to take care of all financial needs, because Mississippi is not heavily populated with rich folks. Generosity is about spiritual growth and discipleship and not dollars and cents. Dollars and cents are one measure of spiritual maturity and growth as a disciple.
The gap also reminds us that one size does not fit all in generosity requests. It is not fair to expect the lowest income members of a congregation to give $100 to a special project, while expecting the highest income members to give the same amount. Expectations should be proportional to one’s ability to give based upon income levels. Yes, this means doing more talking about money and people’s income levels. But this is the only way to encourage persons to grow as disciples in a responsible and consistent manner.