When Tithe Doesn't Mean Tenth
Average income given to churches appears on the decline.

Our sister publication Christianity Today magazine published some interesting new data from church giving research in its February issue.

Specifically, the average percentage of income given to churches appears on the decline, measuring 2.43 percent in 2008 (compared to 2.59 percent in 1985 and 3.11 percent in 1968). The magazine smartly includes additional data on all religious giving (not just to churches), which helps paint a more representative picture of the many ways that Christians give.

We're watching this subject particularly close this week as we launch the survey for the 2011 State of the Plate. We're hoping to hear from church leaders like you about how tithing went during 2010, and any effects on the budget–bad or good. Do you see commonalities between the decline in average income given to churches reported by Christianity Today and your congregation? What did that mean for your church in 2010, and how are you preparing for 2011?

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 1–10 of 13 comments


May 03, 2011  9:35pm

This seems to be getting to be more and more of a controversy. I understand that it is OT law, this still pertains to our God's word and can not be disregarded. Ultimately it is where your heart is. I truly believed when I first became a Christian that I had to, as maybe the Jew did and do today. But if we are to live in the NT as Christ would have. Our hearts are to be giving, servants. It is all his anyway. It's just money, but our salvation is priceless. God Bless.

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Ian Stewart

May 01, 2011  8:41am

I am a believer in giving what you can, not what you think the Church can get by with. A tithe is a great amount if you have the funds. In my working life, whenever I increased my Church giving I always had the increase greatly covered by a work bonus or salary increase. Now I am retired, I have a fixed pension so it's hard to fund an increase although I now give more as a % that when I was working. But God has blessed me in other than cash. I have a good family and health, which many of my age don't have.

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Fitz Linton

February 19, 2011  2:20am

I wish people would 1) Read their Bible carefully 2) Understand that the Law and the Prophets were until John the Baptist and that since then the Kingdom of God is preached 3)Understand that the Law was given by Moses while grace and truth came by Jesus Christ 4) Understand that New Testament saints are not under the Law but under grace 5) Understand the difference bewteen Law and grace is that the Law 'demands' while grace 'enables'. Grace does not demand that we give, grace enables us to give. God's work needs finances, etc. God's people need grace and more grace, especially in these troubulous times. IS THERE ANY MINISTER/TEACHER/PREACHER OF GRACE AROUND?

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February 17, 2011  5:50am

I have to take exception to Ellen's comment about not tithing to the church. The tithe was set up to provide for the Levites and their families. The Levites had no inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Their reward was God Himself and they lived and ate off the tithe of the nation. Giving over and above the tithe to godly organization that do His work is fine, but the tithe is for the work of His Body the Church.

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February 17, 2011  5:46am

Tithing was instituted long before the written law. Cain and Abel gave their tithe - one was accepted, one was not. Abraham gave his tithe to Melchizedek. I agree that in the New Testament the tenth was just a starting point. Israel gave their free will offering for the Tabernacle to be built and furnished. How many churches are mortgaged to the hilt because the Body does not give freely or sacrificially to the work of the Lord? Praise the Lord that even in today's economy, our church was able to pay off our mortgage recently thru freewill offerings. "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." Mal 3:10

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February 16, 2011  6:20pm

I always more than tithe, but rarely to a local church. I tend to see local churches as little more than social clubs a lot of the time, so I'd rather give to things like World Vision. Church tithes often go to building funds, big salaries, new gyms, etc. I want my money to have the most impact.

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February 11, 2011  11:50am

Pal, I agree with you. You can find a life changing series about Tithes and giving, its called "The Blessed Life" by Pastor Robert Morris from Gateway Church. It is the most complete teaching I've ever heard on Tithe. God used this series to transform my life and opened my eyes to God's financial principles for His people and its actually part of my personal Testimony. God Bless. You can get it here: http://store.gatewaypeople.com/home.php?xid=102339b1b993ee3c54704cfa1b280d7c

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February 11, 2011  10:35am

I don't have all the answers on this question, but I see several flaws in the arguments above. Matt thinks guilt is bad and shouldn't be used, however, the apostle Paul used guilt when comparing the Corinthian church's giving to that of the Macedonian church. Edward advocates giving without the expectation of getting something back, yet Jesus stated (Matthew 10:48) that we should expect a reward even for little things. The tone of certainty that comes across in these comments concerns me. Can someone recommend a good thoroughly researched study of this issue?

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Pal Madden

February 10, 2011  3:41pm

Every time I read an impassioned plea for the errantly taught tithe law Christ nailed dead at the cross as the standard by which to begin to measure a person's giving – I can't help but suspect that person has no understanding about the truth of God's grace, or why it is Christ went to the cross. Grace will never cause a person to give less than a dead tithe law. The problem is not that people are giving less than they should. The problem is people aren't taught true giving has no strings attached. That is, we have truly given only when we expect to receive nothing back but the joy that comes from giving. People giving a 10% tithe are too often led by what they think God is going to give back to them – how they'll be financially "blessed" in return. First, that's a lie. No one is blessed back because of any predetermined amount of money they give whether it be 10% or whatever portion of their income they give. Second, what more can God give than He already gave? He gave us Christ, the All in All. He is the fullness of God's grace and blessing. You'll never find Christians tithing in the New Testament. What you will find are those like the Macedonians who gave sacrificially out of their poverty. It welled up in RICH generosity. They gave only for the joy that comes from true giving. That's grace given. The tithe law would have only restrained their giving - not increased it to the point of sacrifice.

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Edward Hamilton

February 10, 2011  2:26pm

Every time I read an impassioned rant against tithing, I can't help but suspect that somewhere behind it there's a person giving far less than 10% and feeling guilty about it. Once average giving starts to exceed 10% and we have hardcore tithe advocates encouraging us to decrease giving to 10% on the grounds of OT legalism, I'll start to find these crusades a little more persuasive. For now, they're an example of fighting the right war at the wrong time.

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