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Who Tithes These Days?

posted by Scot McKnight

You might be surprised what the numbers tell us about who and who doesn’t tithe. In What Americans Really Believe we get a pretty full disclosure of some significant facts about tithing.

But there’s an issue here: some pastors urge the tithe; the NT evidence is hardly clearly in favor of tithing; the NT focuses on generosity; Pope Adrian I in 787 mandated a tithe; many countries have a church tax — Denmark, Italy, Austria and Sweden.
Fact #1: poor people are more likely to tithe and give a higher percent of their income that wealthy people. Thus, Americans who make 10,000 or less give 11.2% of their income, while those who make 150,000+ give 2.7% of their income. There is a basic descent of percent of income given from the poor to the wealthy.
Fact #2: denominationally, the spectrum moves from Catholics (2.2%) to Lib Prots (3.0) to Cons Prots (5.5) to Black Prots (5.7) to Mormons (7.1) in percent of income given to the church. The percent giving a tithe goes like this: RCC (2.5), Libs (5.9), Cons (14.4), Black Prots (13.5) to Mormons (34.0).
Fact #3: those who tithe or who give more correlate with such things as church attendance.
After the jump, two more interesting facts:


Fact: widows and widowers are the most likely to tithe: 20.1% widows vs. 16.7 widowers tithe.

Fact: older people are more likely to tithe. The average age of an American tither is 54.1 yrs.


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Travis Greene

posted June 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm


The income disparity figure is really striking. I guess wealth corresponds with education which corresponds with less religiosity? I certainly hope those wealthy folks are giving money to something.
Captcha: teargas Iraq. Really?



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Kenny Johnson

posted June 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm


I’ve always been bad at giving money to the church. It’s a discipline I lack. . . partially because I think I’m not very disciplined with money/budgeting as well.
But I try to be generous (both in and out of church) when I can. I’ve given away a car, TVs, radios, etc.
I want to get to a place where I can give at least 10% of my income. . . I don’t believe 10% is a mandate, just a personal goal I want to get to. . .



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AHH

posted June 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm


Part of the income disparity may be if the survey only counts money given directly to the church as an institution. There are other ways to give toward God’s work.
I think Christians with more wealth tend to direct a greater share of their total giving to para-church organizations, ministries for the poor, etc.
I know that as my wife and I have moved in the past 10 years to maybe the top of “upper middle class”, our giving to our local church has increased (maybe roughly constant on a percent basis) but our giving to things like Opportunity International and World Vision and our local food bank has increased quite a bit faster. And I think that pattern is common for Christians who move up on the socioeconomic ladder.



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Robert

posted June 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm


In reading the above post, you’d think the New Testament has some verse doing away with the principle of the tithe. There is a strange assumption that with the introduction of the New Covenant it eradicated practices from the Old Testament et al.
Strange, I don’t see that happening. Rather, I see a strong indication that God’s standard concerning giving is 100% in the New Testament.



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BradK

posted June 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm


Robert,
I think any assumption about the OT principle of the tithe being eliminated might stem from the lack of the institutions to which the OT tithe was given. The temple and priesthood no longer exist and there is no theocratic state of Israel. Also, the teachings in the NT that you mentioned regarding the standard for giving being 100% also would contribute to that assumption.



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Robin

posted June 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm


I think the assumption that as people get wealthier they give to other organizations is false. The research I have seen shows that giving to all organizations is more concentrated among the poor, religious, and conservative than other groups. This goes for tithing as well as donations to salvation army, and even to non-financial donations such as blood and plasma. It could be that the wealthy think their higher tax rates exempt them from giving, but I am not sure. Arthur Brooks pubished a rather comprehensive book on giving while he was at Syracuse.
If you want to look at people we know, President Obama gave between 1% and 6%, and Joe Biden Gave less than 1% in every year between 1998 and 2008.
Here are some comparisons of other Presidents/Candidates. I tried to use the second year in office of each President to give some consistency.
John McCain (2006)-28.6%
Sarah Palin (2006)-4%
George Bush (2001)- 10.2%
Dick Cheney (2002)- 10.5%
Bill Clinton (1993)-5.8%
Al Gore (1997) $353 TOTAL [Just had to put that in there, no data available from 1993-1996, but his 1992 donations were $50,000 for an Al Gore endowed chair at the University of Tennessee]
Goerge H.W. Bush (1989)-8.4%
Ronald Reagan (1981)-3%
Jimmy Carter (1977)-21%



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Robin

posted June 9, 2010 at 3:47 pm


I know that most Christians don’t consider a tither to be a ‘new law’ and that we operate under liberty regarding finances. But my question is this, especially for mainline and other progressive denominations – at every church I have ever been a member of, I have pledged to support the work of my church to the best of my ability, both with my service and financially. I have to believe that if we had a member who was a politician that made the same pledge yet only gave $1,000 on a $350,000 salary we would rightly believe that he had violated his promise and begin some form of church discipline.
What are other people’s thought on this, or is church discipline just too strange of a concept to apply to giving.



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Mike

posted June 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm


For the record, I’m an Old Testament guy who doesn’t believe OT tithing should be a requirement for NT believers. That said, I still believe New Covenant, sacrificial ministry and giving should very often exceed and surpass OT tithing. A tithe should be sort of, well, the starting point. Now if only I could consistently live up to my ideology ;)



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Jeff Doles

posted June 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm


The tithe was just a starting point in the OT, too. There were also offerings, and giving alms.
The tithe is not an obligation, it is an opportunity.



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kevin Chez

posted June 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm


Does the context of tithe in the Old Testament translate to us giving 10% of our income (now is that on the gross or the net?!) to the local church? I believe that it is quite a jump to make that correlation.
My understanding of the tithe is a giving to God in celebration of his blessings and God’s way of taking care of the Levites. It is so much more than dropping an envelope in to a golden plate passed through the aisles (or a KFC bucket that my college church used!).
When you think about paying 30% of your income to taxes, 20% to housing, and the expense of groceries, transportation, medicine, student loans, & giving to missionaries, tithing can be pretty scary – even maddening when the church staff live in a bigger houses, drive a nicer cars, talk on a nicer cell phone, or emails you from ipads.
I read “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger” but other than that I have not been able to find a good book on giving/tithing. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
One month out of the year my wife and I take our tithe and get together with friends from out of state and have a celebration. It helps me stay cheerful in my giving.



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Matthew (Levi)

posted June 9, 2010 at 9:48 pm


Though not a salvation issue, you can’t read Matthew 23:23 and tell me that Jesus Himself is not stating while there are other more important matters that neglecting our tithe is ok. Also as others stated, it should be a starting point. It’s not about the $$$ … God doesn’t “need” our money :) … it’s just a matter of showing Him where He stands … how important is Kingdom Work in your life? Look at your checkbook …



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Rick

posted June 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm


I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a.k.a Mormons. We are asked to tithe 10% of our annual increase or income. We fully believe in, and I have experienced, the promised blessings mentioned in Malachi 3. I can’t imagine not giving 10% because from the time I got my first job as a teen I have been paying tithing and I have seen almost immediate blessings. We also donate “fast offerings” each month. This money is generally calculated by adding up how much money we would have spent on the two meals we fast for and then giving that amount to the bishop to be used for the feeding and clothing of the poor and needy. Our tithing funds go to build temples and churches. I have included a link that shows the number of LDS temples in use or under construction around the world. Whatever your denomination, tithing is a great opportunity to help move the Lord’s work forward and receive blessings in the process.



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kevin s,

posted June 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm


@Kevin Chez
I think tithing is supposed to be a bit scary. It is a reorientation of our values. If we really believe what we believe, then we should put faith in God to take us through scary circumstances.
I don’t get the thing with pastors who live in gated communities either. Our pastors sure don’t.



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Bry Leigh

posted June 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm


Why is everything spoken from the perspective of, “Why tithe?”
If you’re a Christian, why on earth would not you tithe?



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DRT

posted June 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm


I am a bit late in coming to this conversation, but I put the whole concept of tithing is out of date. After Jesus he wants all of you!
Having said that, the question is still out there about what is an appropriate amount to give. If I give 10 hours a week of my time to helping my church, how to I rate that? Does that “count” against my tithe? In the old days (OT), I think people had an inherent amount that they gave to the temple and society outside of the 10% (i.e. in addition to). So the idea of being a good church goer and giving 10% of your money when you make $300k per year is ludicrous. I would gladly give $30k of a $300k income and be absolved of all other responsibility.
Robin,
I would strongly contend that the amount of money a president or former president gives is in no way correlated with the amount of kingdom work or devotion they have toward God.
Dave



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Scott

posted June 11, 2010 at 2:07 am


@ Matthew (Levi)
“you can’t read Matthew 23:23 and tell me that Jesus Himself is not stating while there are other more important matters that neglecting our tithe is ok”
Actually, one could easily refute your description of this passage. Jesus was speaking to Jews. In particular he was speaking to (and about) the religious leaders who were commanded in the Old Testament law to tithe all of their goods. Neither Jesus, nor any of the NT authors, makes such a requirement for his followers.
Further, if you are going to use this text as a defense of NT tithing then you better be ready to hand over a tenth of anything that may grow from your home garden seeing as how Jesus clearly shows that this is a good thing for the Pharisees to be doing.



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Matthew (Levi)

posted June 11, 2010 at 11:42 am


@ Scott
First of all I understand where you are coming from, and while my view has changed, I most definatley have stated the things you state to me now.
Secondly, you seemed upset. I think it’s important to ask questions and explore our faith, but sometimes the brotherhood can divide against itself based on issues like this and it’s a true shame. I most definately have my views but I hope we can remember who we are in Him, and Whom we serve together. It could simply have been a misread of emotions as that’s sometimes what can happen electronically but just hope it didn’t stir you to the point of being upset. Reading back on my post I think I may have come across wrong too. The word “can’t” is rather offensive and implies that it’s a negative command to the other individual and shouldn’t have been stated. Perhaps I simply could have stated that my views are strong and as an example that passage clearly illustrates it (to me) what He is stating.
As far as your refute, I think it’s dangerous anytime one begins to discount OT Scripture, or to state that because He was talking to Jews that it doesn’t apply to the gentiles. He didn’t come to abolish the law, period. I don’t think either of us are going to change eachothers mind on this as I am not surprised by any of your references, nor do I intend to change minds (that’s His job). Do understand though that my position is not out of ignorance. From my study, prayer, and understanding this is what I beleive He calls us to do. Required for salvation? No … something that He wants us to do? Yes.
Either way thanks for your response. We serve one God, may His church not be divided on issues as such. If it wasn’t for your response I wouldn’t have realized how strong mine was. Apologies.
… though I still disagree ;)
Your brother in Christ,
~Matthew



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charles crabtree

posted June 12, 2010 at 7:36 am


Tithing is a total fabrication by the church and for the church.
The tithe was only food, for the Israelis and not for gentiles.
The only ones that tithed were farmers and herdsmen and only
in israel. The new covenant and jesus death on the cross ended
tithing. The new covenant teaches free will giving under grace.
The apostle paul was a tent maker, and he did not tithe. All trades in Israel did not tithe. There is nothing in the new covenant that teaches tithing. Be a berean christian and read your bible. Do not
listen to anyone that teaches tithing. Read your bible.



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Miguel

posted June 12, 2010 at 9:20 am


The tithe is Old Testament Law and we are no longer under it. Those who insist on it are in danger of being cursed, (Galatians 3).
Jesus doesn’t want your 10%, He wants it all. Give abundantly, give joyfully, give…give…give, but don’t tithe.



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Seth

posted June 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Oh my the excuses we make to hold onto our assets… assets that God has entrusted to us… Tithing is not OT… it predates “the law”… Abraham did it… Of course it’s not required in the OT… God doesn’t want your burnt offerings, he wants you heart. If he has your heart, you’ll tithe gladly (He also loves a cheerful giver) and then some… Tithing (one of your fruits) is simply evidence of faith, or a changed heart, of submission and obedience to our Lord. Each time the offering plate is passed to you, your response is a measure of your heart. So squabble away… back away from tithing because you’re “free in Christ”… Tell me, how’s that independence thing going in your life…?



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Scott

posted June 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm


Seth,
You have made some rather harsh and judgmental assumptions about those of us who do not believe that tithing should be taught in the church. The most awful assumption you have made is that we don’t give just because we don’t believe in tithing. I know of many persons who don’t believe in tithing and as a direct result give far more than 10% of their income. They do this because Jesus teaches generosity and sacrificial giving. For most of us in the US 10% is neither generous nor sacrificial. Please be a bit more gracious with those that disagree with you. Your assumptions are hurtful and simply untrue.
I am not going to spend much time debating your “predating the law” argument except to say that there are many “uncommanded” things which were done by God’s people as expressions of faithfulness to God prior to the law which are not followed by Christians today.



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Jason Lewis

posted June 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm


Fortunately, regardless of what Americans actually believe, tithing is never mentioned in the New Testament in the affirmative. I most certainly appreciate what Spurgeon said a century ago… “But you are not under a system similar to that by which the Jews were obliged to pay tithes to the priests. If there were any such rule laid down in the Gospel, it would destroy the beauty of spontaneous giving and take away all the bloom from the fruit of your liberality! There is no law to tell me what I should give my father on his birthday. There is no rule laid down in any law book to decide what present a husband should give to his wife, nor what token of affection we should bestow upon others whom we love. No, the gift must be a free one, or it has lost all its sweetness.”



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steward

posted June 15, 2010 at 5:37 am


It’s interesting to me how much attention this benchmark gets?
my notes
1. “in its 2008 report found 33.4% of estimated total giving, $103.32 billion, went to houses of worship and denominational organizations in 2007″

“85 percent of all church activity and funds is directed toward the internal operations of the congregation”
I’ve got a hunch that if more people tithed, the church would continue to spend 85% on internal operations. The truth is we spend less than 15% of our assets on outreach. Maybe the church needs to be poorer rather than richer? That’s if it is true – the less wealthy give more than the wealthy? . . . Just something to ponder.



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Gary Arnold

posted June 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm


The first time tithe is mentioned in the Bible is Abraham’s tithe of pagan spoils of war, and Abraham kept NOTHING for himself. This was NOT an act of worship. The goods that Abraham gave the tenth from didn?t even belong to Abraham:
Genesis 14:21 (NIV) – The king of Sodom said to Abram, ?Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.?
Notice in verse 21 the king of Sodom didn?t ask Abraham if he would give back to him the people, but rather said GIVE ME the people and keep the goods for yourself. The way that is worded indicates that the king of Sodom was claiming that the people and the goods belonged to him and those he represented.
Genesis 14:22-24 (NIV) – 22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ?I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ?I made Abram rich.? 24I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me?to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.?
Notice in verses 23 and 24 Abraham also acknowledges that the goods belonged to the king of Sodom and those he represented.
Therefore, it is clear that both the king of Sodom and Abraham acknowledged that the spoils of war did NOT belong to Abraham, yet he gave a tenth of the spoils to King Melchizedek. This would seem that Abraham did something wrong, if not even illegal, but Biblical historians agree that it was custom in Abraham’s day to give the king a tenth of the war spoils. Had Abraham not given the tenth, he would have gone against custom.
Conclusion: Abraham did NOT give a tenth of his income, or his wealth. Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils of war that didn?t belong to him. That is NOT an example for Christians to follow today.
The next mention of a tithe is Jacob’s VOW to tithe. Jacob set the conditions, not God. Nowhere in The Word does it tell us that Jacob actually tithed. Genesis 28:10-22
Next is The Lord’s Tithe. God gave His definition as a tenth of crops and animals which came from God’s hand, not man’s income. God NEVER commanded anyone to tithe on anything that man made or earned. Leviticus 27:30-33.
The ordinances (instructions, or laws) for The Lord’s Tithe are in Numbers 18. God gave strict orders to take His tithe to the Levites. God NEVER changed that command. Anyone who takes God’s tithe to anyone other than the Levites is being disobedient to God’s Word.
There are others tithes in the Bible such as the Festival Tithe and the Tithe for the Poor. It is The Lord’s Tithe that churches pattern their teaching after.
Church leaders ignore God’s definition of His tithe, and ignore God’s ordinances for His tithe. They change the words to fit their pocketbook. This is nothing but manipulation of God’s Word. They are false teachers.
The Bible CLEARLY SHOWS that the tithe ENDED at the cross in the Book of Hebrews. In the first nine verses of Hebrews 7 the words tenth or tithes appears SEVEN TIMES. The ONLY place in the Bible, after Calvary, that tithing appears is in Hebrews 7.
In Hebrews 7:5 we are told that Levi (the Levites) took the tithes under the law. In Hebrews 7:12 we are told that when the priesthood changes, the law will change. Hebrews 7:18 is telling us that Numbers 18 was disannulled. Numbers 18 established the Levitical priesthood, and part of that establishing included tithing. When the Levitical priesthood ended (at Calvary, or at least in the year 70AD when the temple was destroyed), all laws that established that priesthood were canceled. If Numbers 18 wasn’t canceled, we would still be under the Levitical priesthood.
Those who argue they didn’t have money or income then really need to study the scriptures. They had money and wages, even in Genesis. The farmers had income from barter exchanges, and they had markets to buy and sell as proven in Deuteronomy 14:24-26.
Those who argue Malachi 3:8, robbing God, need to start with verse 7. God is talking about His ordinances in Numbers 18 which we learned were disannulled according to Hebrews 7:18. Also, if you start with Malachi 1, you will see that God is speaking to the priests, not the people. The priests robbed God of the tithe (Nehemiah 13) and the priests robbed God of the offerings (Malachi 1).
The New Testament teaches GENEROUS, SACRIFICIAL giving, from the heart, ACCORDING TO OUR MEANS.



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Stephen Davis

posted June 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm


It is far better to be one who relieves the oppressed than to be the one who oppresses. For those who like to use Abraham to get their/God’s due, what does Abraham mean when he says, “I will not take to a shoe”. Read Amos chapters 2 and 8 to find that it is the poor and righteous that you are to not take from.



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tee

posted November 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm


Tithing Under The Law/ Grace And Mercy Is Of Christ
Through years of growth in the ministry, people have latched on to words that there Reverend, Pastor, Clergy, has told them about tithing. Malicah 3:10;is the #1 verse used to prospers the tithe giving. Through many years of believing that giving a tenth of my gross earnings to the church. God gave me a revelation in my spirit, to look at the first chapter of Malicah. I started to read from the first to the last chapter of the book. By reading through the whole book of Malicah, God opened my eyes to a big surprise. This book has been translated to me for years falsely, if I don’t pay my tithes, I will be curse with a curse. God revealed to me when you read from the first chapter, Mal;1-6 O Priest. Then, I read through to Malicah 2;1, that said, and now O Ye priest, this is a commandment for you…….I kept reading on to Malicah 3, God gave me another revelation. Malicah 3;8-9, Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9: Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. I’m going to break this whole book down were everyone can understand. Malicah was writing to the levitical priesthood. God sent them a message, through Malicah. The levitical priest was taking the widows, fatherless and the poor people portions and using it in a corrupt manners, and not giving the people there portion. When God told them you have robbed me even this whole nation, he was talking about the priest, they were using the peoples portion for there own corrupt use, and they corrupt the alters, with begging and disrespect.
.
This book reveals the truth about tithing. Endorsed by Min. T.McClurkin



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