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Monday, 07 November 2016 08:44

The Value of Faith

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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What do you think is the value to society of the practice of religion?  Could you place a “dollar value” on it?

Well, two researchers have attempted to do just that. Brian Grim of Georgetown University and his daughter, Melissa Grim of Newseum Institute, have released a study that has calculated three estimates of religion’s socio-economic value to the United States, according to an article on the Christianity Today website.


Estimate #1 is just over $378 billion. The story relates that in a recent article posted at Religjournal.com, it was explained how the Grims arrived at the three estimates in their study, which was sponsored by Faith Counts.  They wrote: “The most conservative estimate takes into account only the revenues of faith-based organizations falling into several sectors: education, healthcare, local congregational activities, charities, media, and food.”

 

Faith-based health care systems raise about $161 billion a year. Congregations raise revenues of $84 billion a year, with $74.5 billion of it coming from individual donations.  This total represents an amount greater than the global revenues of Apple and Microsoft combined.



Estimate #2: $1.2 trillion. The Grims say the first estimate is an undervaluation because it does not take into account the actual value of the goods and services provided by these organizations.  So, this next estimate factors in the price of social services. The article states that:

Churches sponsor more than 1.6 million social services programs in America each year, and provide 7.6 million volunteers. More than 9 in 10 congregations actively recruit volunteers for outside projects (93%), half allow their building to be used for non-congregational purposes (50%), and close to half have groups that think about how to meet community needs (48%).

 

Included in that estimate is what is called a “halo effect” of having a church nearby: “...it encourages investment in family and children; stimulates the local economy by buying goods and services; provides a place to host weddings, funerals, or large community events; may run schools or day cares; provides outdoor space for leisure activities; and augments the city’s social services.” The value: $418.9 billion.

 

The study also factored in the effect of businesses with religious roots, such as Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods, Chick-fil-A, and Walmart.  These businesses pull in $422 billion dollars per year, with $279 billion from Walmart.



Estimate #3: $4.8 trillion. This is a calculation of just the personal revenues of people of faith, the equivalent of a third of America’s gross domestic product.  The study states: “The third estimate of this study recognizes that many, if not most, people of faith aim to conduct their affairs (to some extent, however imperfectly) guided by and inspired by their religious ideals,” adding, “To the extent that religious ethics and ethos pervade how Americans approach work and life, it could be argued that religion’s socio-economic contribution to American society is incalculably large.”

 

A closing quote from the study, as related in the Christianity Today story:

“Religion is a highly significant sector of the American economy,” the study said. “Religion provides purpose-driven institutional and economic contributions to health, education, social cohesion, social services, media, food and business itself. Perhaps most significantly, religion helps set Americans free to do good by harnessing the power of millions of volunteers from nearly 345,000 diverse congregations present in every corner of the country’s urban and rural landscape.”

 

Recently, I commented on God’s economy.  And, indeed, applied to Christians, if we are using our money according to His principles, we recognize that it all belongs to Him, as it’s been said, and we are stewards of those resources.  God will direct us to use those resources wisely, and I believe that giving from a charitable heart is an essential component of Christian money management.

 

I think it is also important that society recognize the significant contribution of the church.  In his closing comments at The Gathering, a national solemn assembly held recently, Dr. Tony Evans referenced a three-prong strategy, one of which involves helping people recognize, essentially, the value of the church to their communities.  I believe in order for that to occur, we have to be doing the work of Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct and empower our work.  Imagine a culture without the work of Christian charities, including hospitals, the social services that are provided by Christian organizations, and businesses run by Christian principles, not to mention those believers who reinforce the good in society by the financial decisions we make.

 

So, finally, we can think together about using what God has entrusted to us to make a positive impact on our culture.  We all have resources, whether in physical form, or in the form of gifts and talents, to be used to advance the Kingdom of God - and we are called to be about our Father’s business.

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 08:55
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