Evangelicals and Money: Stingy, Generous, or Just Right?
Eight voices weigh in on the generosity of American Christians.

Last week, we pointed to research data highlighted by our sister magazine Christianity Today regarding average tithing levels among Christians. This week, we point to a series of short quotes obtained by Christianity Today from a variety of evangelical voices based on this question: Are American evangelicals stingy with their giving?

Of the eight responses, here are two–one answering an emphatic "yes," the other an emphatic "no":

"For Christians in the richest nation in history to be giving only 2.43 percent of their income to their churches is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience–blatant sin. We have become so seduced by the pervasive consumerism and materialism of our culture that we hardly notice the ghastly disjunction between our incredible wealth and the agonizing poverty in the world. Over the last 40 years, American Christians (as we have grown progressively richer) have given a smaller and smaller percent of our growing income to the ministries of our churches. Such behavior flatly contradicts what the Bible teaches about God, justice, and wealth. We should be giving not 2.4 percent but 10 percent, 15 percent, even 25 to 35 percent or more to kingdom work. Most of us could give 20 percent and not be close to poverty."

–Ron Sider, author, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

"Barna Group's research shows evangelicals to be among the most generous Americans. While not immune from the bad economy, evangelicals still consistently give more of their income to more places than virtually any other demographic or faith group. Evangelicals also easily qualify as the nation's most consistent tithers. And those who tithe are simply much more resilient in their giving—and distinctly more generous—than others. The problem is that evangelical Christians are also quite rare: just one out of every 12 Americans holds the theological underpinnings of evangelical belief and commitment. (We define evangelicals not based upon denominational affiliation or a respondent's self-labeling as evangelical, but based on a basic battery of questions assessing a person's theological views.)"

–David Kinnaman, president, Barna Group

Read all of the responses from Brian Kluth, Christian Smith, Arthur Brooks, and others, then head over to our "2011 State of the Plate" survey to tell us how giving went for your church in 2010.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments


May 10, 2014  11:12pm

In many cases, rightly or wrongly, many Christians are putting their monies 'directly' into needs, programs etc. w/o going through the church. Why? Mainly because of a growing propensity of churches to 'sock the money in the bank' to sit there and draw interest for some rainy day unknown need. (some might call this a total lack of faith in the Lord to provide for that need when and if it happens). The church is now being run like a business, where funds have to be pried out with a post hole digger in some cases. Until many people see their monies USED for the Lord's work instead of SAVED for some mythical future whatever..look for much of the same.

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March 10, 2011  5:02pm

Just as Jesus greatly increased the standard against adultery from the minimum in the OT, the standard for giving for the NT is much higher than the minimum of 10%. No doubt the rich young ruler gave his 10% already, but he was still lost. Christ said that we must give all we have to be his disciples, that we cannot serve both God and money. We disregard that by justifying what others do or by making it hypothetical. No one can truthfully say what percentage is required because the question is wrong. We now think of what we MUST give rather than being eager to give all we can. This indicates that we are serving money. Neither can we say what happens to those who pray to receive Christ but spend most of their lives serving money. Again, the rich young ruler probably had impeccable theology, but was lost. Where does that leave us??

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Jerry Chase

March 06, 2011  3:24pm

I've had the unexpected experience of learning, both first- and second-hand, how some evangelical churches in America have spent their money . . . and I'm shocked and grieved. I was utterly taken away by one church, right next to an evangelical college, spending $750,000 on interior decorating! I know of another that built a gymnasium instead of a needed Sunday School wing. I still think that we need to throw away all our television sets, and do our own thinking for a change. That's a radical concept today, sadly. Imagine, actually thinking! Besides, we'd all have more time to learn the Word of God: what genuine impact that would have on all of us! Jerry Chase Attleboro, Mass.

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March 01, 2011  9:45am

I think it is more people have gotten in to so much trouble with credit they find they cannot give. That does not excuse it but instead of beating them up why not help them with a budget and expectations. I am not a big believer in the 10% as that is old testament law, but I do believe that a person needs to set a benchmark and I think that 10% is a good place to start if you look before the law those that gave free will offerings were of 10%. Our families like our country are in serious trouble with credit and they need a way out. That should come from the leadership of the church. Instead of beating them down with heavy words lets find a way to help them out of debt, not paying it for them but giving them a plan.

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February 15, 2011  9:49am

A noteworthy item via The Nonprofit Quarterly (via Beliefnet.com): "The study referenced in the blog post "Churches, Charities Not in Competition for Dollars" (http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/02/report-churches-charities-not.php) reinforces the fact that donors are definitely not a zero sum game. A study conducted by Grey Matter Research Consulting suggests that 50 percent of those that give to their houses of worship also give to other causes. Additionally, the more the donor gives to his or her church, the more he or she will give elsewhere. The study, based on a telephone and online survey of 2,005 people, found that "donors who gave less than $100 to a house of worship also donated an average of $208 to other charities. Those who gave between $100 and $499 to a congregation gave an average of $376 to others. Donors of between $500 and $999 to places of worship gave an average of $916 to others."—Ruth McCambridge, NPQ

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