Indiana Governor Mike Pence has done this week what presidential nominees and vice presidential candidates have done for 40 years, by releasing 10 years of his tax returns. He follows 2016 Democratic VP Candidate, Senator Tim Kaine, who released his last decade of tax information in August.
While all ten years showed a six-figure income, in 2015 Governor Pence and his wife, Karen, reported a modest, middle-class, adjusted-gross-income of $113,026, most of it from his salary as governor. The Pence family is notably Protestant in their faith and evangelical in their religious practice. Accordingly, it is not surprising their most recent returns showed charitable contributions of $8,923, nearly eight percent.
According to IRS statistics, families with adjusted-gross-incomes in the $100,000 to $200,000 range give an average of $3,939 in charitable donations. The generous rate of charitable giving by the Pence family reflects their religious convictions and biblical training.
Generous Giving reflects Biblical Training
Biblical training in mid-western, evangelical churches would have inculcated the Pence’s with an understanding of the “grace of giving” that begins with the biblical practice of tithing (giving God the first 10%) and extends to the added practice of generous giving of offerings and services, both in the church and in the community. The Apostle Paul taught early believers that “…God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Regular giving of “tithes and offerings” to God is an act of worship, obedience, and faith. As a biblical principle, tithing is found in the lives of Abel and Abraham, long before it was included in the Laws of Moses for the Jewish people when God later promised blessings to those who obeyed and chastisement when they disobeyed this historic practice (Malachi 3:8-10). This tested principle and practice of giving to God “off the top” of one’s income or increase have been observed by religious and non-religious alike, in various cultures and over many time periods.
Modern financial guru Dave Ramsey asks and answers the question “Why does God have us tithe?” His response is revealing: “Is it because He needs our money? No. He tells us to tithe because of what it does inside of us. It keeps us from being so stinking self-centered.” Noting that a tithe is 10% of one’s income or financial increase, Ramsey continued, saying “If you can’t live on 90%, you probably can’t live on 100%.”
Learning and practicing biblical tithing and generosity released a “grace of giving” and allowed the Pence family to donate nearly $9,000 in charitable giving in 2015—more than double the IRS average for that tax bracket. If YOU had to release a decade of tax returns, how generous would reviewers find you have been?