What Would Happen if the Church Tithed?

How giving 10 percent could change the world.

The church of today is not great at at giving.  

This isn’t exactly news. But it is a statistical fact: 

  • Tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a normal congregation. 
  • Only 5 percent of the U.S. tithes, with 80 percent of Americans only giving 2 percent of their income. 
  • Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate. 

The truth is: Giving is a heart issue, not a money issue. 


Numbers like that can invoke a lot of guilt, which isn’t really the point. The larger point is what would happen if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let's say, 10 percent. There would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute. The global impact would be phenomenal. Here's just a few things the Church could do with the kind of money: 

  • $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
  • $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years. 
  • $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day. 
  • $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
  • $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion. 

Those are some amazing numbers.

So why don’t we give?

The real problem when it comes to our giving is not about money. Not really. Actually, the Bible says it's about our eyes. Rather, it’s what Jesus called "the evil eye." He said it like this.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:21-23 KJV) 

The term “evil eye” is a Jewish term. Whereas a “good eye” in Judaism refers to good will, benevolence and being genuinely happy when others prosper—the evil eye is quite the opposite.

The person with an “evil eye” feels distressed when others prosper, rejoices when others suffer, loves their money and would do nothing in the way of charity. 

So when Jesus spoke about the eye, He was speaking to a largely Jewish audience who knew what He was talking about. They knew a “good eye” was a generous person and an “evil eye” was a stingy, sour Scrooge.  

The truth is: Giving is a heart issue, not a money issue. 

When Paul spoke about the legendary giving of the Macedonian church he urged the Corinthian church to prove their love like the Macedonians proved theirs: 

“But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” (2 Corinthians 8:7-8) 
 
Then he took it a step further and talked about the highest standard in love and giving:
 
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT) 

God has always had a special place for radical givers.

“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.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) 
 

The full power of tithing is found in grace and not in fear—it's something we get to do rather than something we have to do.


So, what does cheerful giving actually look like?

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Here are a few suggestions. But I will warn you: This isn't for those satisfied with ordinary or normal:
 

1. Start Tithing: Based on the statistics, the Church could really do some wonderful things if we just started tithing consistently. But keep in mind: when you start tithing know there is a difference between the law of tithing and the grace to tithe. The full power of tithing is found in grace and not in fear—it's something we get to do rather than something we have to do.

2. Teach Tithing: This is a very delicate subject and has the power to split churches down the middle. This is why people water it down so much or resort to threats. But tithing is a subject that, with some tact and wisdom, can actually make for a great sermon.

3. Take Tithing to the next level: Tithing is just the foundation. Giving that really changes the world is that which is over and above what's required.    

Top Comments

Gary N. Tammy Milbourne

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Gary N. Tammy Milbourne commented…

Tithing is not about the law. Tithing was before the law demonstrated by Abraham. Tithing was endorsed by Jesus in the new testament, Matthew 23:23. Tithing is a universal principal that acknowledges ownership. It is found in many cultures worldwide and all throughout history, not just under Moses. Most of the people I know that teach "Grace giving" say that that means you give much more than 10% but ironically most of them give much less. Bashing tithing, for many, is just a theological loophole to keep what belongs to God. Not hatin'. Just sayin'.

Gary N. Tammy Milbourne

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Gary N. Tammy Milbourne replied to Kyle Knapp's comment

Tithing is not about the law. Tithing was before the law demonstrated by Abraham. Tithing was endorsed by Jesus in the new testament, Matthew 23:23. Tithing is a universal principal that acknowledges ownership. It is found in many cultures worldwide and all throughout history, not just under Moses. Most of the people I know that teach "Grace giving" say that that means you give much more than 10% but ironically most of them give much less. Bashing tithing is just a theological loophole to keep what belongs to God. Not hatin'. Just sayin'.

104 Comments

Jared Latigo

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Jared Latigo commented…

Very cool to see you here Mike! Congrats on landing this one and the article is great!

One interesting fact that you may know but I didn't get it from the article. You can't technically "tithe" anything other than a tenth. The word "tithe" literally means tenth in it's native language. (Latin maybe? I don't remember the root)

So technically, Christians don't tithe 2%, we give it. I know it's a little pointless but I found it interesting because of the whole argument about tithing and how much the bible says to. Because some churches say tithe what you can. But you can't. You can only tithe a tenth. Make sense?

Anyways, thanks for the read. The impact would be phenomenal for sure. I have done a much better job of tithing over the past few years, but still lapse and neglect it from time to time. This is certainly a good reminder :D

Mike Holmes

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Mike Holmes replied to Jared Latigo's comment

Jared!!!!!!!!!!

What's going on my man??!! It's been awhile. I hope all is well.

Technically...you are right :) Thank you for pointing that out.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope all is well with you

Roy Francis

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Roy Francis commented…

The function of the Old Testament tithe was to support the Levitical priesthood, through whose ministries was the only route to atonement before God. The book of Hebrews was written to explain that the entirety of the Levitical priesthood had been replaced by the higher order Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus, through whose sacrifice we all have direct access to right standing with God (no priesthood required).

A lot can and must be said about the Church body giving and giving sacrificially to the work of the ministry, but that can't be described in terms of adherence to a practice called "tithing".

Mike Holmes

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Mike Holmes replied to Roy Francis's comment

Good point Roy. So, would you say that since we're under a better covenant that we should be giving over and above the tithe? :)

Roy Francis

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Roy Francis replied to Mike Holmes's comment

Yeah, I do. I'd note, though, that I want the emphasis for this to come from a broader discipleship perspective. We need to be spurred on to remember that we're to be in the world but not of it, that instead we're to be moving agents of the ministry of reconciliation and not just going about our lives like everyone else.

I think most people - even me - give less than we ought because we're more encumbered by our things of the world rather than we are, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:4, living to please our commanding officer.

There are a couple of reasons that imploring our giving in relationship to the "tithe" is off-putting for me. First, because it's not Scripturally supported and puts believers in an awkward and awful battle with regard to an illusory obedience (I like the link that Joseph Dear posted), and second, because the pointer towards tithing does induce that anchor towards viewing 10% as the call in place of searched out direction for how much and where to give - this particularly with the example of self sacrifice exemplified by the early Church in Acts in mind (as others have noted).

I suppose all this so as to say we have a much stronger reckoning of "mine" than I think we ought...

Lindsay

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Lindsay replied to Roy Francis's comment

Are these the Church's version of Millennium Development Goals? Connecting tithing to the concept of Global impact is a slippery slop. Ultimately, we should give because God calls us to it along with the change that happens within us when we do give. Money alone will not elevate poverty. Lets remember that.

David Martin

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David Martin commented…

Perhaps a more salient, "relevant" reason that people don't tithe is their lack of trust in the church's stewardship. Regardless of whether I believe that God commands me to give ten percent of my income to the church, in order for me to responsibly, consistently give I must also have faith that my church will use my money to achieve God’s mission.

Some people would argue that I should simply “trust and obey” God’s command to tithe. Trust whom? God? Or the church? I could trust God with everything I own but miss at least half the point of tithing by giving my money to a church that squanders it (the other half being what tithing does for my own personal spiritual discipline).

Furthermore, even if we agree on what God’s mission actually is, we are still left with the question of how best to go about attaining it. What if my church spends far too much money on attracting more attendees through expensive A/V gear and trendy décor? In this way, the butts-in-seats benchmark for church health has derailed the practice of church tithing.

Grant Hooper

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Grant Hooper replied to David Martin's comment

amen. this is exactly the point. me. and my friends. and my parents. are all members of a church but the entirety of our giving does not go to them. we follow the bible. it goes to the widows, to the unfortunate.....it goes to whoever asks to be quite frank. and u know whats funny? when i ask my christian brothers for money, they give it to me. my one friend gave me 700$ the other day, and refused to allow me to pay him back. thats a big deal. that is God glorifying and made me in awe of what God has done to his heart, especially since I'm the one who led him to Christ..... i know that i didn't "convince" him to be that radical. only God could change him to give without asking in return. He used to sue people who didn't pay him back... so, because i'm a member at church i do give them some money. i try to give it to specific things that are mentioned, rather than "general" sunday giving, because you're right...i don't agree with how the money is spent when i look around. i believe it has created a corrupted hierarchy. so most of our money , which is Gods, we give to people and organizations we trust. that is being a good steward. it is much easier to blindly give ten percent without looking to where its going. to do that so haphazardly with God's money could actually be sin. we should glorify God with every dollar spent, all though we have not. i am however convicted to give some to the church, because i am a member, and therefore i want to pay for their utilities, salaries etc.... that is my responsibility. but that is minimal. most goes elsewhere. and i absolutely consider that "tithing." there are people who don't "tithe" to their church that are much more righteous and there are people that "tithe" blindly and sin in doing so.

Mike Lupe

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Mike Lupe replied to Grant Hooper's comment

Just because we "tithe" doesnt mean it has to all goto the church. There is missionary sponsorship, child sponsorship, homeless shelters and even direct giving. Personally I put aside 10% of my income and use that for a child sponsorship, red cross donation, church donation and other direct uses (hiring a guy in my congregation who needs work, to help him bridge the gap btwn now and next job).

I used to feel unhappy about how the church used the money, nearly 50% was salaries, and nearly the next 50% was the building. So i left and found a church that meets in a coffee shop and doesnt pay its pastor much (he has a day job).

Jared Bartholomew

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Jared Bartholomew commented…

In 2008 103 billion was given to churches worldwide. in 2007, over 370 Billion was donated to 'Christian' causes. That "B" as in BILLION! I don't think more money would solve our problem. Tithing is not the answer to greed. Just look at the Pharisees, who tithed perfectly, and yet Jesus calls, "Lovers of Money".

Mike Holmes

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Mike Holmes replied to Jared Bartholomew's comment

Hey Jared, good points. I am curious: what would be the answer to greed?

Steve Cornell

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Steve Cornell commented…

I used a visual illustration a few times with a stack of ten pieces of bread. I took one piece off to show what ten percent looked like. Then I cut that piece in half twice to help visualize 5 and 2 1/2 percent. Visuals are effective with good teaching. You might find helpful a post I wrote, "How then shall we give? 10 principles" http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/guidelines-for-giving/

Mike Holmes

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Mike Holmes replied to Steve Cornell's comment

Hey Steve, I'm going to check out this post right now.

Mike Holmes

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Mike Holmes replied to Steve Cornell's comment

Hey Steve, I tried to comment on the site but Wordpress blocked me cause they saw my email. I didn't have my password :(

Great post! I love the testimony and the way God is using you. Continue in the generosity you're teaching and modeling :)

Steve Cornell

257

Steve Cornell replied to Mike Holmes's comment

Mike,

Sorry about the blog difficulties. Glad you got the conversations started!

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