So what that evangelical leaders are divided over tithing?

My friend Devin Manzullo-Thomas over at The Search for Piety and Obedience tipped me off to waning loyalty to the biblical tithe among evangelical leaders. In a survey sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals, 58 percent of respondent said they do not believe the Bible requires a tithe, while 42 percent said they do.

Interestingly, 95 percent of those who completed the NAE survey claim to be tithers themselves — which, if we trust their self-reporting,  puts them in a class far apart from the folks to whom they minister. As I noted in a prior post, regular church goers give less than 3 percent of their after tax income to charities.

I wasn’t invited to respond to the  survey, but you can count me with the 58 percent who don’t consider the tithe  a biblical mandate. And I believe we can add Jesus to the group as well.  

Case in point. Jesus didn’t instruct the Rich Young Ruler to part with 10 percent of what he had. Jesus told the guy to sell and give it all. Then there’s Mary and the expensive perfume. It’s likely that a cheaper product — something worth 10 percent of her annual income perhaps — would have smelled as sweet. However, Jesus praised her extravagant generosity. Quibbling over percentages sounds like Pharisee behavior, not what Jesus would do.

That said, tithe talk can be helpful, and especially for individuals who are just getting started as givers. Ten percent is a worthy goal toward which people who are currently giving at lesser levels can stretch themselves.  It has a familiar ring to it, including for newcomers to the church. 

Of course there’s the question of 10 percent of what (e.g. tax or after tax income), but I’m willing to let donors solve the conundrum for themselves.  That someone cares enough to ask about it, is a victory for generosity.

In my experience, givers who reach the 10 percent mark are having so much fun that they keep on giving. Generous giving is habit forming. Before we know it, our focus shifts from percentages to passions.

When all is said and done, whether evangelical leaders agree on the subject of the biblical tithe isn’t of much consequence. It’s generous that matters.

What's your take on this topic?

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