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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. LeeCMH

    JPop: Thanks for the lookup on erudite. Now look up sarcasm. If you knew the word before your lookup you may have realized the sarcasm more quickly.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  2. Nero

    Here is a little question for the Christians: How can God be just if he sends people to Hell?

    Premise: If God just, then his punishments must be just.
    Premise: A person's sins have only a limited and finite effect on God's will.
    Premise: Hell is infinite punishment.

    Therefore: God is not just... or there is no Hell.

    And don't say "God doesn't send people to Hell, we send OURSELVES." That's total BS. How many verses describe God or Angels CASTING sinners INTO Hell? Quite a few.

    Even if we did "send ourselves" it's ultimately God's responsibility. After all, he created Hell with the full knowledge and understanding that billions of his own beloved Children would end up there. He also created the rules and regulations that determine whether or not a person goes to Hell.

    Conclusion: God doesn't care if people go to Hell – which would make him extremely evil – or God simply doesn't exist. I agree with the later.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Tracy

      That's because there is no hell really. We are in it – hell is earth. But, wait a delusional Christian will say otherwise.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Kevin

      Here's something you won't hear from most indoctrinated Christians: the "eternal torment" of hell isn't mentioned until Revelation. Jesus called it "destruction" and a "second death". He spoke of eternal fires, but not the hell so many people use as a scare tactic today. I believe that nonbelievers' souls simply die. That "nothing" that atheists believe is waiting for them? They're right. I believe there will be a few moments of knowing just what you missed out on, and then an unpleasant second death, then nothing.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Tim

      That's a hard question isn't it Nero? And I'm sure not to many people want to respond, but I'll try. We as Christians believe God made all things, so many people believe if God made all things then He must have created evil since there is so much of it in the world. Well when people do that, they don't understand God at all. In order for God to create evil, He would then have to be evil. But that isn't correct at all. God did create all things, but He created all things perfectly. And to create man and woman, a lineage that was capable of love, God made them according to a perfect love He has for us. And in that perfect love he gave us all perfect freedom, right? Besides if God made us to follow Him without choice then that isn't love at all, but prison. You cannot have the choice to choose right without the choice to choose evil. So it wasn't God who introduced evil into the world, but us through our own choice. If you're honest with me, you'll agree that everyone makes a choice. You either choose to believe in God or you choose not to believe in God. You and I owe that freedom of choice to God and not anyone else.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Spencer

      yeah there is no hell only the grave.

      The creator, according to these top selling Bibles, agreed with the Je-wish Old Testament that the conc-ept of the place of eternal torment for the un-righteous could not be found in the first three quarters of the Bible. Adam was not warned of hell. Abrah.am never heard of hell. Moses, who brought the Creator's Law into the world warned that the wages of sin is death, She.ol, the grave. He never ever warned about being roa.sted, toa.sted, and endlessly tort.ured. David, when chasing after Bat.hsheba, suffered the conse.quences of his sin, but eternal torment was not on his mind. How could the Creator be so thoughtless, and not warn millions of people of a fate they did not even know awaited them? Could this be just? Could this be loving?

      Using several thousand dollars of Bible research soft-ware and dozens of English Bible transla.tions, we wanted to see if these top respected English Bibles (NIV, NAS-B, etc.) just made a serious mistake or whether we stumbled on to something which should cause us to re-evaluate what we have just accepted because we heard it so many times and just as-s-u-med was correct. Of the many English Bible translations we searched, the King James Bible had the most number of cases where we found the word hell in the Old Testament. It trans-lated the Hebrew word Sheol as grave 31 times, hell 31 times, and p.it 3 times. Almost without excep-tion, all the other leading Prot-estant Bibles didn't have the nerve to do what the King's tran.slators did, that is, take the Hebrew word She.ol where everyone went, according to the Old Testament teachings, and divide it into hell, a place for the unrighteous, and grave or p-it, presumably the place for the righteous. They trans-lated this word according to their theology, and not according to the Hebrew. Most of the trans-lations did not have the word hell in any part of the Old Testament. The ones that did, have mentioned it only a hand-full of times, always from the Hebrew word She.ol which they trans-lated the vast majority of times grave, under-world, etc.. Those trans-lations that use the word hell are so incon.sistent with it, that it is impos.sible to determine which Scriptures clearly refers to hell and which refers to grave. Where one trans-lation had hell, another had grave. In other words, those trans-lations that tried to put hell into the Old Testament couldn't agree with each other as to which ver.ses spoke of hell and which spoke of the grave.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Nero got the question wrong to begin with: "How can God be just if he sends people to Hell?"

      God doesn't send ppl there.

      April 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Kevin

      Here's something you won't hear from most indoctrinated Christians: the "eternal torment" of hell isn't mentioned until Revelation. Jesus called it "destruction" and a "second death". He spoke of eternal fires, but not the hell so many people use as a scare tactic today. I believe that nonbelievers' souls simply die. That "nothing" that atheists believe is waiting for them? They're right. I believe there will be a few moments of knowing just what you missed out on, and then an unpleasant second death, then nothing.
      ----–
      Not true! Jesus himself spoke of Lazurus and the rich man!
      Luke 16

      19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
      20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
      21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
      22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.
      23 IN HELL, WHER E HE WAS IN TORMENT, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
      24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

      Jesus spoke of Hell and you can argue that all day long, you argument does not change the fact that it is true!

      April 8, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  3. Disgruntledgirl

    Let's see this get moved to the FRONT AND CENTER page of CNN.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  4. Zia

    Just to give an islamic perspective on this topic. Muslims are ordered to give zakat which is 2.5% on all savings that have been held for one year. The savings may not necessarily be in the form of money. It could be jewellery, stocks, and other commodities. This is meant to help the poor in the society and it is forbidden for the mosques. As for the buidling of mosques or their maintenance, there is no set contribution. A Muslim may give as much as they are capable of giving.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  5. coder

    Between the god and the government – one would think that the only reason we are born – is to produce money for god or government so that god or government can wage war over god or government - to me, religion itself has become the blasphemy and consistently being used as a stupid means of control a population of any size – since king james

    April 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  6. Veronica

    Malachi 3:10, PERIOD!!!!!!!

    April 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Magic

      Veronica

      Malachi 3:10

      Pretty much the same line the phony Nigerian former 'princes' use... send me a Western Union money wire for $5,000, and I will 'bless' you with millions.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Kevin

      I tested God just like that verse says to, and nearly faced financial ruin for my troubles. Now I give what I can give when I feel good will be done with it. I do not give directly to my church, as I do not believe money is always well-spent by church leadership.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  7. Catca

    Whether the scriptures require you to do it or not – you should give to the church if you are a part of the church community. The church has to pay utility bills, property maintenance costs, etc. It has operational expenses – and in return, it gives a lot back to its community. I don't believe in specific percentages – I'm more a "give what you can afford" kind of person – but to even debate whether to give something if you are an active member of the community.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  8. think about it

    Sounds like atheism is the only non-prophet organization.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • CHUCK

      Don't think so; it appears it costs a great deal of your very limited supply of kindness, acceptance, love, caring about others, as well as your ability to be tolerant.

      April 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  9. Philip

    People try to wrap all churches into the same bundle. Not all churches are corrupt. I have to agree how do you expect a church to pay it's bills if the people of the church don't give? My church is very open with it's finances and we leave a financial summary on the back wall every week. We give 10% of the church income to missionaries, another 20% to reaching out to our community (food drives, giving backpacks to kids for schools, thanksgiving meals, clean up in our neighborhood). A very small portion goes to staff salaries, and most goes to paying electric bills, water bills, all the stuff that if the church didn't have people would complain about and say that the church is outdated and people would never come.
    Not all churches are money hoarders, there are some out there that are genuine and aren't just pushing propaganda, some just want to show the love of God...
    My wife and I give 20% of our income to the church and we have been more blessed than I could ever tell you because of it.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  10. A Believer in Faith

    Wow Luis....tough words. I'm not sure what makes your wisdom any more superior to anyone else that is posting here. If you're goal is to insult considered it achieved. However, those of us who are believers forgive you for your persecution. More amazing than that is that God would accept you today, just as you are; empty, bitter, hateful and full of malice. He'd wipe it all away just to call you one of His own. You tell me Luis, can you truly say that anyone else would do that for you? Not once, but every stinking time you "sin"? The short answer Luis is no. He just wants you right where you are.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  11. Amber

    People who don't believe in God, sound too bitter to me. What is it with you people atheists and agnostics? If you don't believe in God, just don't believe in God, try to get some peace in your hearts and enjoy life. Believing in God or not beleiving in God is a matter of choice. Happy people do not waste hours and hours trying to make people feel bad about their choices. Looks to me you are not happy with your choices. Are you?

    April 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • bob

      we are perfectly happy with our choices, what we are not happy with is the religious Nazis shoving religious law down our throats in this secular country.

      Religion is like the male member.
      it is ok to have one, it is ok to be proud of it.
      but no one wants you to whip it out, fling it around and shove it down peoples throat.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Wow

      Wow bob, that is one of the best quotes I've ever heard. Did you just make that up?

      April 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • DBnNH

      See above post from me.

      April 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  12. Never Fails

    Atheist just cannot stay away from a story about God or religion. Fascinating.

    Until you guy's can prove there's not a God, your sarcasm and taunts fall on deaf ears with me. What an angry lot you are. And before you start in on my "religious beliefs", know that I'm not religious at all.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • ats

      How about you prove there is a god? Oh what you can't....so until you prove there is a god, than he doesn't exist

      April 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • DBnNH

      I am an atheist and have been so since the age of fourteen. More importantly, I am a strong defender of the First Amendment which protects my right to not believe as well as your right to believe in God. I would defend your right to believe in God as strongly as my right not to believe in the same God. When my neighbors, who are Christians, come to dinner at our house, I always ask them if they want to say Grace before dining. And when I have had a family tragedy and someone offers to pray for me, I simply smile and say, "thank you". With age, I have learned to respect others beliefs and hope they respect mine.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • standingwave

      Only fair considering what religionists do to science stories.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  13. Chris

    2 Corinthians 9:7
    Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  14. MA75082

    "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." – Joseph Smith, Jr.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Donald

      Thus sayeth the Mormon...

      April 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Pilgrim1

      Thus saith the Moron!

      April 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • MikefromWV

      I went into a Catholic church once that wanted fifty cents in order to sit down! That was the last time I ever went into a church, of any denomination. Whatever you can afford to give to a church, should be voluntary, be it 0 or $100 or more. Even the notion of passing the plate puts a guilt trip via peer pressure on everyone to give as much as they can. If the man next to me gives $10, then I have to give $20, or suffer the guilt of being a "cheapskate". And I also agree with those people who have said that the moment a church involves itself in politics, it should immediately lose it's "non-profit" status and be taxed like any other business.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Marky

      Please explain to me why having a bad experience in a Catholic Church caused you, or anyone, to never darken the door of a church of any type again? How does it compute to you that one church (not the whole denomination) would set some sort of standard that resulted in you never giving any church the glory of your presence? I attended Mass for years in multiple churches without ever having anyone even suggest I give money. I am now a Baptist, and still, giving is voluntary and I attend one of the largest Baptist churches in the country. I wonder how you have a person to converse with; surely someone you talked to at some time offended you–that means all people should be off-limits. Seems as if that is your reasoning, anyway.....

      April 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  15. Public Enemy Number 2

    We should keep tax-exempt status on churches that don't get involved in politics. As soon as they do, however, they are violating the separation of church and state and should be taxed accordingly. Separation of church and state protects BOTH from EACH OTHER.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Marky

      Wow, could you please study a bit more thoroughly what "Separation of Church and State" means? It means we will not have a State Religion, as some countries do; it does NOT mean anyone with religious beliefs (especially if they are Christians) cannot say what their political opinion is, it does NOT mean all Christians should shut their mouth and never say a word, while all people who believe in other religions can say what they please. Honestly, some of you betray your extreme bias, or lack of education on the subject when you talk out this subject.

      April 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Treese

      Actually, Marky, churches are not legally allowed to endorse political candidates while they have tax-free status.

      April 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  16. rdrd

    That has got to be the oldest stock photo of money ever.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Hugh Russell

      well if they use a more up to date picture i'm afraid it would be almost empty!

      April 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Anne

      Amen to that.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • vbscript2

      On the contrary, there's a lot more money out there now, since the Treasury keeps printing it. It just isn't worth as much and is largely sent to China.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Rob

    Christians don't follow the 613 laws of Moses, Most Jews don't either. Jesus fulfilled Mosaic law and stated that the 10 commandments should be kept. Churchs should be taxed, unless they do things that remove them from non profit status. Neither should schools, and I have never hear of a non profit hospital. I guess there is one somewhere. I can't comment becuase I am not aware of any.
    Some people suffer from a short cut to thinking when they speak. The internet makes that worse. Get some help!

    April 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • bob

      St Jude's hospital for children with cancer, Shriner's hospital for child burn victims, are both non-profit.

      Neither one charges patients for their services.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Kevin

      I work for a nonprofit hospital. It was founded by an order of nuns.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Churches should not be taxed. Non-profit hospitals aren't taxed and schools aren't usually taxed either (most of them are gov't-owned, already.) Taxing donations to help the poor merely reduces the amounts people can give to help the poor. I know I certainly wouldn't be able to afford to give what I do if I had to pay taxes on what I give away.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Have you read anything that Paul wrote in the NT? He warns the church from following those that would take them back to the law. Why? There is NO salvation in the law. The law was meant to lead folks to Christ. The law was given because of sin. The law declared what sin was but could not permanently deal with sin as there were annual sacrfices and periodid offerings! l Abraham lived over 430 years BEFORE the law. Yet God called him righteous! We don't follow the law because we follow the One the law pointed to, Christ Jesus! He fullfilled the law! Galations would be a great place to start!

      April 8, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  18. TryMy Best

    "Men hate what they cant understand", The answer is easy, the best freedom you have is freedom of choice. No one is forcing anyone to give a dime, True Christians give from the heart. I'm living testimony to GODS existance and it is very easy to not chose to live by rules that keep us from living lives that we cant even control. LUST, ANGER, JELOUSY, etc. Choose your path and leave the rest alone. I chose Jesus and if i had a chance to choose again i would do it a Billion times over. Blessed are those who carry the cross/ burden. Be blesed everyone !!!!

    April 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • ligia

      Amen 🙂

      April 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • terry

      love it!!!

      April 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  19. Dave

    Many years ago, I went to church as well. I was young, but I knew, even then, that something was wrong. At this church, not only did they clearly tell you how much to give, but every week the posted how much each family had given the week before and only those in the top ten percent were allowed to sit up front.

    Wanted to be cured of your sins? $19.95 + 4 hail marrys and an amen. And if you act now, we'll throw in some holy water for free!

    April 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Dorie

      Wow, I almost couldn't believe it when my mother told me this of her experience in an Orthadox Catholic church of her childhood (this must have been in the 1940's). Unbelievable. Glad to get confirmation years later from someone else (not that my mum would lie.....but she's been known to over-dramatize a situation) 🙂

      April 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • David

      Dave, I'm sorry to read about your experience. Most churches I've attended strongly encourage giving but also say that it is a personal matter between you and God. At no time should someone designate an amount for you nor publish how much each person gave. Luke 21:1-4 is a great example of how giving from the heart is more important than any specific amount.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • A Believer in Faith

      That's too bad Dave. No excuse for a "church" to behave in that manner. I am glad to say that not all churches are like that. Many are not. Perhaps you've experienced a "rea" church. Perhaps you haven't. But I hope some day you get the chance to do so. I know my church encourages giving. IT DOES NOT FORCE giving nor do they make a single person feel guilty. More important they welcome anyone, anytime from anywhere living any life style. They simply want to share Christ with the hurting and the lost. And you know what, man receive and are changed in a positive way for the rest of their lives. Truly a blessing.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Dave, sorry to hear that was your experience. The vast majority of churches do no such thing and the Bible does not condone that practice at all. The Bible teaches us to give willingly and chearfully what we (ourselves) purpose to give, not what someone else tells us to. It further teaches that this matter is between you and God, not to be advertised or boasted about to others. Please don't judge other churches on the basis of your experience, as the vast majority don't practice such things.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  20. revoltpastdue

    TAX ALL NONPROFITS INCLUDING HOSPITALS, CHURCHES, "FOUNDATIONS" all are loopholes for smegma-rich liars and users

    April 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • RealityChecker

      Tax tax tax..... tax breathing, tax eating, tax breeding, tax dying, tax, tax tax. Tax everything so the leeches can steal your money to fund their schemes that no one with an IQ above 12 supports willingly.

      April 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • ThereisnoGod

      Actually they should tax breeding. Not just take away the child tax credit but add a $1500 a year tax for every child you have! Maybe then people will stop having kids and stop contributing to over population.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Tony

      Yeah and having no kids will really help our economy and social security. Good one ThereisnoGod

      April 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • displeased

      Tony, having too many unwanted kids is a burden on our economy and society.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Kevin

      Abortion and contraceptives are supposed to prevent all those unwanted children.

      I'd love to know how i contribute to overpopulation by having two children. if every couple had two kids, the population would be just fine.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • vbscript2

      Newsflash: there is no overpopulation in the U.S. If anything, our (legal, taxpaying) population isn't growing fast enough. I guess that's what happens when you kill 53,000,000+ of your own over 38 years.

      revoltpastdue: Right, because helping the poor is clearly a loophole for the rich to not pay taxes. Or maybe it's just because you'd rather the gov't give their money directly to you. In reality, willful donations do far more (with far less overhead) than the gov't, but it doesn't work out as well for lazy leaches because then they actually have to go to all of the trouble of begging when they could instead just sit back and have the gov't steal from others for them.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:46 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.