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Make Charity a Budget Item

By Michelle Singletary
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 7, 2004; Page F01

"The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give." -- Walt Whitman

Why is the subject of giving such a difficult one to discuss? Some folks would rather ask someone for a kidney than for a donation to a charitable cause.

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Then there are people who give as little as their consciences will let them get away with.

In 2002, Protestants gave an average of 2.6 percent of their personal income after taxes to their churches, according to a recent study by Empty Tomb Inc., a nonprofit group based in Champaign, Ill., that studies religious giving.

Oh, and let me not forget the folks who don't believe in charity, who say knucklehead things like: "People need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps."

Think about that expression.

Have you ever met anyone who could reach down and use his bootstraps to heave himself up? Not possible.

There's another type of giving that's hard to discuss -- tithing, which means to give one-tenth of your annual income, typically for the support of a religious organization. When my minister preaches about prosperity, the "amens" are plentiful. But let him talk about tithing and heads go down and people start to feel uncomfortable.

Tithing is, of course, a personal choice you have to make based on what your religion requires or what you aspire to do. But I know some people struggle with their faith's call to tithe. If that's you, what's holding you back? Is it your debts?

On Sundays my grandmother, Big Mama, would put just a few dollars in the collection plate.


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