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. Bumble bee


    April 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      There are fakes and phonies EVERYWHERE you go! They do not render God a liar! Are there no lying, thieving politicians? Shall we dismantle all of government because of a few rotten apples? All parents honest? All your neighbors? You? By your standards, lets get rid of everything because in everything are those that misrepresent and are evil! What would be left? Evil will be rooted out soon enough!

      April 8, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  2. oklahoma

    Why is it that during these hard economic times the only places that are building are churchs & hospitals? I think that says a lot about where our money is going.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  3. Erik

    Why donate to a church that squanders it on payouts for all of the rapists and molesters that they employ??

    Just give your money to some kid somewhere, and save them the hastle of being molested, then seeking restetution!!

    April 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  4. All religions are a Piece of S***!

    Shepherds need sheep to justify their existence! 🙂

    April 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Sean

      They call themselves “The flock” for a reason.

      Bha bha..

      April 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  5. Abner

    You know what I don't get, why supposed atheists and those hostile to faith keep coming on here to blog. They tell us to keep our opinions and faith to ourselves because we're dimwitted and stupid, but they have all the right to come in here and trash us and treat us like morons. Why don't you take your own advice and keep your opinion and insults to yourselves and not come down here? Or is it because you are insecure in your lack of faith and are still searching? Hmmm.... I think the atheist doth protest too much.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Estevan

      LOL. We don't come here because we're still searching....

      I come here because I have to deal with religious claptrap all the time and I'm sick and tired of the public proselytizing from the majority of people who surround me.

      On my way to work I pass several pro-life signs, I pass a dozen or so "This Valley Belongs to Jesus" signs, I see dozens of churches. I know my local politicians are Christians who have openly stated that ID should be taught in school and that it should be a requirement for children to say the lord's prayer every morning before class. An aide at my child's school told him he would go to hell because he did not go to church every Sunday, etc, etc, etc...

      Religious belief, Christianity in America, surrounds us all and the Christian majority is content shoving their beliefs down everyone else's throats. We are just fighting back.

      I could give many more examples. But that is why us non-believers feel the need to encourage rational thought and discourage belief in fantasy and myth.

      April 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  6. STLBroker

    Jesus didn't abolish the old law but he did have some harsh things to say about the teachers of law that didn't follow the "spirit" of the law, just the "letter" of the law. One very good example was when the disciples didn't wash their hands before eating and Jesus was taking grief for it. He said "It's not what goes in a man's mouth that defiles a man. It is what comes out of a man's mouth that defiles a man".

    Also, when Jesus was taking grief for healing people on the Sabbath. He said something to the effect, "if one of your sheep fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, would you not get it out?"

    Point is, many of the so called "teachers of the law" where missing the point and Jesus was setting them straight. The law and following the law is all about loving God first and foremost and also loving your neighbor as Jesus loved us.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. Martin

    Wow, never thought I'd see the day that Organized Religion is telling you that it's NOT required to give money, however is still EXPECTED.

    Hell must be very, very cold right now due to the freezing over effect.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Sean

      Actually it seems pretty clear it is just more contradiction. It is their calling card after all.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  8. MSG

    Malachi 3: 8-10 "Will a man rob God?"

    April 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Godless

      Austin 3:16 – I just whooped your @$$. Just as valid.

      April 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Dan

    I love it when people quote the bible as "evidence" of anything.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  10. whatevernyc

    Jesus said "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's"...

    April 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Sean

      A knife in the back?

      April 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  11. mrgup2

    OK, its like this...

    You lose a lottery ticket that you THINK may be a Powerball winner. You put out a $100 reward. When someone finds it and returns it to you, you realize that its REALLY the winner and worth $100 million.

    That rule you created that the reward would be $100 seems a little insulting now. This person has helped you so much, they deserve MORE.

    In other words, in realizing what was done FOR US on the cross, we should WANT to give away just about EVERYTHING we have!!!!

    April 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • FEW


      April 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Sean

      Expect we can prove the Powerball and ticket exist and are what they claim to be. Not just a carpenter.

      April 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Estevan

      Not that I believe any of it but let's pretend for argument's sake that this all happened as described in the bible...

      Jesus gave nothing and his sacrifice was worth less. Here is god's son martyred on the cross....with a guarantee that he will come back to life a few days later and then ascend to heaven where he would live happily for all of eternity. Essentially. How is that a sacrifice? It's the same thought process suicide bombers use to justify their horrendous acts. If you believe that your sacrifice will lead to heaven then it is not a sacrifice as you are trading a few moments of suffering for an eternity of joy and bliss. A sacrifice would be if Jesus dies on the cross knowing he was going to hell forever and ever with no possibility of redemption and did it anyhow. In this context sacrifice is only sacrifice if someone chooses to give up their life or suffer knowing (believing) that they are condemning themselves to an eternity of hurt but choose to do so anyway.

      Xians can't even decide if Jesus knew or not...some denominations hold that Jesus knew what was coming, some say he didn't...it's all irrelevant anyways. Just made up fairy tales.

      Jesus' crucifixion was NOT a sacrifice as God knew he would be going to heaven...it would only have been a sacrifice if Jesus had knowingly been sent to hell for all eternity.

      April 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  12. Jimbo

    All I know is Abraham got a sweet, sweet deal. 10% of the wealth, once.

    My church wants me to give 10% of the gross income. Not net income, gross income. Abraham didn't have to pay Uncle Sam 28%, Social InSecurity another 6.2, Jerry Brown another 6%. Local/State property taxes, etc. LOL

    Why is there so much victroil here? Demtards, give to NPR and Planned Parenthood. They will soon get NO Federal $.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  13. GetSome

    I tried believing in god once, but he cursed me with an open mind.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Jesus

      They keep on collecting billions in my name and I never see a nickel! What's up with that?

      April 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Sean

      Where are your immigration papers sir?!

      April 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  14. David

    What a non-story! "Required" vs. "Encouraged". Get all these pastors in a room together and I doubt you'd find much disagreement. I'm so tired of poorly worded surveys being trumped up as news.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  15. James

    In the USA the government through taxation does for the needy what the churches are supposed to do but don't – take care of people that can't take care of themselves. I don't blame the churches – I blame the people in them that are too greedy and selfcentered to do what is right . These people are Christians in name only and will pay the price when their time comes – as will we all.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Chris


      The government doesn't do enough, and that's fine because it isn't their responsibility. Most homeless shelters are supported by private donations or are outreaches of churches. Many hospitals are run by churches. I think the church should be doing more to help the homeless and elderly, but first people must give more to churches so they can afford to fund those types of outreaches. With church memberships dwindling, and people giving less, it doesn't look too promising.

      April 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  16. STLBroker

    "Once we forget that we are one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under." Ronald Reagan

    April 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Reagan said this...Reagan said that.... gets kinda tiring... as would quotes from any world leader present or past.

      April 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  17. Mark

    And on the seventh day, God created cash money and required his servants to return 10% of it to him.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  18. Cat MacLeod

    It's a business. They're selling invisibile thread. The pitch is full of pageantry and emotion but the emperor has no clothes.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  19. Ragweed

    The only place in the NT that says anything about how much to give is in I Cor. 16:2, i.e. as one prospers. The way to give is in II Cor. 9:7, as one purposes, or as he has decided, in his heart. Therre is no requirement for giving ten percent in the NT, although that is a good place to start from. And, giving in various ways is a requirement for the Christian.

    As to the validity of the Ten Commandments today, Jesus' teaching reflects the purposes of all the Ten Commandments except one, remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy.

    The Old Testament has value today as reflected by Paul in II Timothy 3:16-17.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • jrsharp

      Why is the fourth commandment singled-out as invalid?

      April 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Ragweed

      Reply to jrsharp....

      The fourth commandment, remembering the sabbath day, isn't singled out as such. In fact, because He was a Jew, the Lord kept the sabbath so He couldn't preach against keeping it – He had to keep it. However, after the Church was established at Pentecost, the Church worshipped on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). There is no direct commandment that says to worship on Sunday. We know, however, that the early church worshipped and broke bread (had communion) on the first day of the week. See Acts 20:7. There are many other references to the first day of the week and Christian enents. Mostly, the Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Google "first day of the week to see the references."

      April 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  20. onthefence

    parishioners should understand that it does in fact take money to run and maintain the church. When the church sets forth initiatives such as feeding and clotheing homeless or abuse counseling or after school programs for the kids and other mission work. It takes money to do these things and the more resources available to the church the more the church can do for the community. So I don't have a problem with the church asking for the resources it needs to do Gods will... However what I DO have a problem with is when the church continues to grow and members continue to give what they can and there are no tangible mission works in sight and the pastor/leader has adopted an untouchable celebrity style demeanor...

    April 7, 2011 at 3:13 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.