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Survey: Minority of evangelical leaders say Bible requires tithing
April 7th, 2011
12:48 PM ET

Survey: Minority of evangelical leaders say Bible requires tithing

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Thou shalt not be required to financially support your church - but you should anyway.

That’s the upshot of a new informal survey of evangelical leaders finding that less than half believe that the Bible requires church members to tithe, the practice of giving at least 10 percent of one’s income to the church.

The survey, conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) among its 100-member board of directors, found that 42% of evangelical leaders believe the Bible requires tithing, while 58% do not.

“The Old Testament called for multiple tithes, sort of combining government taxes with religious stewardship,” NAE President Leith Anderson said, reacting to the survey.

“Since there is such a strong evangelical tradition of tithing, I was a little surprised that a majority of our evangelical leaders say the tithe system of the Old Testament does not carry over to the New Testament or to us,” Anderson said in a statement.

The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation’s biggest evangelical umbrella organization, would not say how many of its 100 board members responded to the survey, which was conducted in February.

The board includes such influential figures as the heads of the Salvation Army, the Assemblies of God - a major Pentecostal denomination - and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

The injunction to tithe comes from the Old Testament, or what Jews call the Hebrew Bible, which tells of Abraham and others giving ten percent of war spoils, a harvest or other goods as offerings to God or religious leaders.

Dan Olson, a Purdue University sociology professor who has studied tithing, says the new survey doesn’t mean Christian leaders think those in the pews shouldn’t give.

“Most of those leaders would probably say, ‘you really ought to tithe, but the term ‘requires’ gets at a theological point,” he said.

“Most Christians would say the laws of the Old Testament are not what save you – you’re supposed to be giving out of a spirit of freedom, not because you’re bound to laws,” he said.

The National Association of Evangelicals’ survey found that 95% of evangelical leaders say they give at least 10% of their salaries to church.

A recent study by group that tracks church giving, called Empty Tomb, Inc., found that evangelicals on a whole give an average of 4% of their income to their church, though Olson suspects the average is much lower, around 1% or 2%.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Money & Faith

soundoff (674 Responses)
  1. mark

    Religion is for the people whom are unable to transcend ordinary thought. Most people on this planet are incapable of such knowledge, this is why religions are able to profit off of your ignorance. If you want to read a book with substance, read Plato's The Republic, especially the Allegory of the Cave. This may begin to open up your eyes.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  2. STLBroker

    Forgive them Father, they know not what they say.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Now teeter your head in righteous indignation.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  3. Jeff

    You take your young child to McDonald's and buy them a Happy Meal. As they are enjoying it, you ask for a french fry. They, say, "No, these are my fries." The child does not realize that since you bought the Happy Meal, you own the whole thing, not just the fries. The child does not realize that even if you ate all the fries, you could buy them some more. The child doesn't realize that you could buy them a lifetime supply of fries if you wanted to. What father wouldn't be proud of the child that said, "Sure, Dad, you can have a french fry. Would you like a bite of my hamburger, too?"

    April 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Chris K

      Your post succeeds in making a good illustration.... and making me hungry!

      April 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Normon

      Is not the happy meal a gift? Do you frequently buy something, give it away, and then ask for it back?

      Assuming a metaphor of God/father and humans/child, if God gave me a meal and asked me to share it with him I would be happy to, as I think most people would, but I've yet to see that happen. Your analogy breaks down on the existence of the father.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Godless

      Why not just buy your own damn fries and stop mooching off your kid?

      April 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  4. Jonathan

    Why is is that every time I listen to NPR it seems like they are asking for money? Donate your car, make a monthly pledge ... it never stops! Why can't I just turn on my radio and enjoy the news without being brainwashed into donating all the time?

    April 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  5. MyJudgement

    Churches are corrupt and anti-Christian for the most part. I feel sorry for the godly pastors out there who got caught in the flame. but it was their decision as well.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Seaburger

      I agree but also wnnder, why would these pastors continue preaching the hypocrisy once they've discovered it?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  6. UCFknightman

    You would think that if there was an all-powerful omniscient God he'd be a lot better with money... (shrug)

    April 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  7. Tom R

    Let's try this again... you can keep on with your cute witty remarks. He's only a fairy tail in the sky. Get a brain dude. And you're free to party with your friends. Be lonely your whole life. Nowhere to turn when your spouse runs away with someone else or dies. And you can spend eternity isolated in a burning torment. There is a better way. A way that Jesus laid out very clearly. 1. Read your Bible. 2. Learn who Jesus is. 3. Accept that He is holy and knows more than you. 4. Surrender your life to Him. 5. Enjoy peace and joy in your life. 6. Live for eternity in heaven with no pain, guilt, hunger, or anger. No brainer? It is for me.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • harleyg

      "I surrender to no one,man or beast, lest I have been cast into the darkness by evils from within, or rendered useless by a body that has failed me"– Alpin

      April 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • mark

      Why would you want to live in eternity with only a select emotions. That sounds like hell to me.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  8. Joe

    Doc, you are way off base there. Yes it occurs, but I venture to say a large majority of churches are collecting money to pay the bills, help charities, mission work, etc. and pay their pastor a reasonable salary. Full-time ministers have to be paid something for their family to have food on the table. Typical anti-church rhetoric.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  9. STLBroker

    Pretty clear from the below that Jesus was in favor of someone financially supporting the church and God's work. Of course there are corrupt churches, we must use some wisdom and discernment in our giving. If you think that Jesus is mythological, well, I pray that you see the light.

    Mark 12:41-43
    Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

    April 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • harleyg

      So, in which book is it that mentions 10% ?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  10. cask23

    No way am I giving any cash to my local Catholic church! I don't want my money being spent as a legal defense fund for pedophile priests.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • harleyg

      X2 😀

      April 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  11. Bruce Hockenberry

    When Jesus needed money, He went fishing. Our modern pastors do the same thing, it is just in the pews instead of in the old fishing hole.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  12. Butter

    Jesus first called them hypocrites, and then asked one of them to produce a Roman coin that would be suitable for paying Caesar’s tax. One of them showed him a Roman coin, and he asked them whose name and inscription were on it. They answered, “Caesar’s,” and he responded “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

    April 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Religious sects

      And how does "God" pay for the chuch bldng and all the things in it without "Ceasars" coins?
      Seriously, what Jesus preached & what takes place in todays religion industry is quite contradictory.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • midwstrn girl

      Gods things to god can also be your time, energy and devotion...Not religious anymore. Just saying...

      April 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  13. IceT

    WWJT?
    what would jesus tythe?

    April 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  14. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Religion is a business, the entertainment business. And should be taxed the same as any other business.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Religious sects

      The religion industry is the largest industry the planet has ever seen. People need to step back & see the forest for the trees here. In the US they get representation without the taxation.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  15. Brian

    Amazing that so many athiest and non-christians are so well versed in the Scriptures and the Church! Trouble is that you are all like jail house lawyers, you heard something somewhere once so it must be right, regardless of the source or truth! If yo udon't belive, then why do you try so hard to convince others that they are wrong? What does it hurt you if I go to Church and decide to give 10, 20 or 30% of my income?

    For Christians, Jesus was very clear in the new testiment that Thithing was valid and expected. How do you think a church pays the electric bill? It sure doesn't get any money from the government (unlike so many other seculare private organizations).

    By the way, the word Christian means "Christ Follower", it does not mean I am a drone to the physical church.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Godless

      "If yo udon't belive, then why do you try so hard to convince others that they are wrong? What does it hurt you if I go to Church and decide to give 10, 20 or 30% of my income?"

      The problem is when that money is then used by the church to try to further a social agenda or force their beliefs on the general population (gay rights/marriage, abortion, ID in schools, etc). If the church (and all religions) would just keep to themselves, that would be one thing, but it's not what's happening, and that's why you see so many of us "non-believers" speaking up.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • safety girl

      You say "How do you think a church pays the electric bill? It sure doesn't get any money from the government (unlike so many other seculare private organizations)."

      Churches are exempt from paying taxes, so are, in effect, getting quite a bit of money from the government ie the money that they DON'T send to the government to pay for public services they all use.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Gary

      "Amazing that so many athiest and non-christians are so well versed in the Scriptures and the Church"

      Most that I know are former xtians who really are well versed in the bible, in fact the non-believers I've known indeed know the bible more so than xtians. How many denominations are there in xtianity? How many claim their interpretation and spin is correct and the others are wrong. You can't even agree amongst eachother.

      "For Christians, Jesus was very clear in the new testiment that Thithing was valid and expected."

      Please cite book & verse.

      "How do you think a church pays the electric bill? It sure doesn't get any money from the government "

      You can't be serious here; never heard of faith based initiatives, obviously.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • midwstrn girl

      Thithing is an old testament thing. In the new testment your contributions are voluntary – to come from your heart. You should give something – but its your choice as to what that is. Remember the story of the widow who gave very little? She gave what she could not what was demanded of her.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jim

      What's really amazing is how many people in the US are "believers" and have no clue what is in their holy book.

      "Leno moved through his audience asking people what they knew about the Bible. "Name one of the Ten Commandments," he said.
      "God helps those who help themselves?" someone ventured.
      "Name one of the apostles," Leno told them. No one could.
      Finally, he asked them to name the Beatles. Without hesitation, the answer came ringing from throughout the crowd: George, Paul, John and Ringo." -http://home.snu.edu/~HCULBERT/literacy.htm

      Yeah, the atheists who studied your religions and made a conscious choice to "not" are the problem...

      April 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  16. thetedster

    as Bono from U2 once sung: "the God I believe in isn't short of cash, Mister."

    April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Brian

      There is a very stong argument that U2 is a Christian Band. In numerous interviews Bono has been asked this and has not denied it, and just to be fair has not confirmed it either. But, actions speak louder than words.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • cestlavie

      Yeah, that Bono, he's quite the intellect.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mobicom

      Posted on Ultimately, I just don't like that I have to have that conversation at all to me, if it's myth, then it's got to be relaly special and big and it's gotta punch the world in the gut. Like the original trilogy. To me, even relaly great stories outside that core mythology just diminish the films, to a degree.I do hear lots of good things about Rogue Squadron where do I start there?

      October 10, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  17. Fair Fight

    @Gracko: They aren't required by the force of law or imprisonment so they aren't taxes. But good job trying to minimize the debate by playing the juvenile partisan card!
    Everything the church does (missions, services, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc) costs money...God doesn't 'need' it; the church needs it to do what is seen as God's work. The idiots like the Bakers, Dollar, Bishop Long, etc. give the whole religion a bad name. Just like one cop who takes his badge too seriously makes all officers look the same.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  18. james

    Spending your money on cigarettes? Now thats intelligent. Burn it up in smoke. Alcholol....oh ya.....act stupid, throw up and waste money on that....more intelligence. Drugs.....etc.....oh how about lottery tickets.....theres a bright future...so come again people? Throw the first stone on who is spending more foolishly???

    April 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Who has money for any of that? Most of us are just trying to keep a roof over our heads, food on our tables, and shoes on our feet, with hopefully enough left over to pay for whatever form of transportation we need to get to our jobs that barely pay for these necessities. That is, if we're lucky enough to have a job. And if you don't have a job, well, your church is welcome to 10% of nothing, right?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I don't smoke, drink, do drugs or buy lottery tickkets. Can I throw a stone?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  19. LeeCMH

    If I go to a snake handling church, may I bring a couple rats instead of money?

    April 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Joe Catholic

      Why not? People bring beer to watch Football Sunday. But if you would rather pray, worship and be in the presence of the Lord, just gather with some other Christ believers at Church on Sunday.

      April 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • LeeCMH

      Join the God fearing and -- feed the snakes?

      April 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  20. Donna

    I have attended church all my life, but about ready to stop. All they ever do is as for more $$, guilt you into giving more $$. Seems a big money grab and has changed my feelings about religion and what I really believe.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Joe

      You are overgeneralizing. My church doesn't ask or beg people for money, or make you feel guilty if you don't give. Contributing money to a church is a personal decision.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Donna

      Well, they put an envelope in every mailing asking for more to pay down deficits, then actually sent me a letter once about a capitol campaign suggesting that each family donate at least $1,200. I don't like being told what I am expected to give.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Fish

      I went to church all my life as well. 3-4 times a week growing up. This is why I stopped going too once I became an adult.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Jeff

      Maybe you are attending the wrong church?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Tara

      I hear your pain. Religion is not what we need, we need relationship. YOu need a church where the Holy Spirit is flowing. This may not make sense to you right now. You must understand what Jesus did for you and who you are in Christ. Once you have a relationship with God then you will naturally become more like Christ. YOu will begin to love people, want to giv etc... it is supernatural. Teh whole Bible is supernatural!!! It is awesome! Don't let 'man' blind your eyes to what is available to you in Christ! Your life will change!

      April 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Sacrifice

      Hello Donna, do you read your bible?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Blanca P

      I agree with the above comment. My church officially asks for donations about once a year, much like other non profits do, such as NPR, etc. Other than that, they rarely ever mention it. If you have annoying church leaders, blame the leaders, not the belief system or the faith itself. People are flawed, but we should keep our eyes above them, to God, not them.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Alex

      Before you leave you should explain to them what you posted and why it bothers you. If they won't listen to you then it may not be the right church for you.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • wilser

      please don't be discouraged. it is funny how certain scriptures are used to make you feel guilty into giving when there are others that command to give as God has blessed you to be able to. know your relationship and do what you know to do is right. your giving is something between you and God. it is a fine line between church and relationship.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • CuriousAboutStuff

      Donna – don't blame God for the way earthly wo/men treat you – God does not cause confusion – focus on Him and His Word and ask Him about your questions/doubts and you will be given the answer – Keep the Faith and God Bless you

      April 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • mark

      Religion is for the people whom are unable to transcend ordinary thought. Most people on this planet are incapable of such knowledge, this is why religions are able to profit off of your ignorance. If you want to read a book with substance, read Plato's The Republic, especially the Allegory of the Cave. This may begin to open up your eyes.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Scott Fillmer

      Sorry, but the bible is pretty clear about supporting the church with your financial gifts as well as many other areas... giving should always be done from the heart, scripture says God loves a cheerful giver, not a reluctant one that gives because they are told to give. That said, perhaps you should try visiting a few other churches. My particular church does a message on giving once a year, beyond that they rarely ever talk about giving, they focus on people, not money.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Chris K

      This seems to be a very all or nothing approach. I think what you need to ask is where you put your faith. Is it in God or in your church? If it is in God then what you give is more about you and God than what your church leaders say. But if you admit that your faith is in your church (habit, tradition etc.) then you need to re-evaluate your beliefs.

      I don't want to presume anything, but I cannot imagine the actions of others bringing me to a point where I would abandon my faith entirely. Because of that I seem to take from your post that you don't seem to have a working relationship with God.

      Whatever the case... I hope that you strengthen your relationship with God and give from your heart (desire) rather from your mind (emotion, guilt, fear).

      God Bless!

      April 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Marguerite

      I really agree with Tara and Biance and some who posted I thought was a bit rude non-the-less we wont let them get in the way of our strength in God. I just wanted to add that YOU WILL NOT be cursed or damned by choosing to do God's work yourself, I am living proof of that. I am not rich but i do have my own. I live in peace, I share happiness; so many ask a lot of questions when I'm not smiling or laughing, I have 3 sons ages 18,20,23 who all have relationships with Jesus. I am about to open whats to become a family owned corporation which is geared to assist victims, offenders of Domestic Violence. Because we care and we love and arent afraid to show it. That's God's children for you. God Bless

      April 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Martin

      Sorry the church has made you feel that way. I firmly believe that everything comes from above, and that the act of giving is us responding in trust and faith to God with our money. Sort of like saying, since you're in charge of everything anyways, I trust you enough to give a small portion back. Many churches have lost sight of that and began to focus too much on money - making it so they themselves aren't trusting that God will provide what they think solely the congregation must provide. I hope you would consider simply moving to a different church. No church is perfect, but there are many out there that do pursue Christ wholeheartedly, in opposition to greed and legalism

      April 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • mark

      Marguerite-– So what you are saying, is that you are incapable of leading a path of high morality. You require the existence of a supernatural being to make you feel as if you should be good. Instead of following a path, make your own. Lead a life of high morality without the existence of god and church. It can be done, but maybe you are not a leader.

      April 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.