What Denominations Take Tithing Most Seriously?

January 31, 2011; Source: Christianity Today | How much of your income do you devote to charitable giving? According to emptytomb.org, Christians donated 2.43 percent of their income in 2008, down from 2.57 percent in 2007. Evangelicals give an estimated 4 percent. Those are solid proportions compared to all Americans, but less than a 10 percent tithe.

Should Christians give 10 percent? Ron Sider author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, says that a giving rate of 2.43 percent "is not just stinginess, it is biblical disobedience – blatant sin." He calls for giving 10, 15, 25, or even 35 percent "to kingdom work," suggesting that giving double a tithe annual would not leave many people anywhere near poverty.

Brian Kluth, author of GiveWithJoy.org’s eDevotional, thinks that churches have turned to focusing on raising money for the "'budget' instead of the Bible . . . [so] (i)f the 'budget' is okay, many churches won't speak on the finance/generosity subject." The budget emphasis, accordin to Kluth, makes giving "a duty and drudgery, not . . . a delight that God desires it to be."

A minister named Douglas Wilson suggests looking at some positives in the numbers: "Evangelicals are more generous than mainliners, Protestants are more generous than Catholics, Christians are more generous than secularists, and Americans are far more generous than everybody else in the world." Although Christians as a population aren't tithing, the American Enterprise Institute's Arthur Brooks notes that no one else is held to that standard, so it's absurd to criticize evangelicals for falling short of tithing when they appear to be the most charitably generous of Christians.

Could Christians give more? No one argues that Christians and all Americans could be more generous. Generally, lower income people and working people devote the highest proportions of their income to charity. But University of Connecticut sociology professor, Bradley Wright, suggests that we don't quite know enough about what makes people give. "There's a lot more to know before we can effectively increase Christian long-term patterns of giving," he said. "In short, we may not know enough now to change Christian stinginess."—Rick Cohen