Many evangelical churches regularly encourage their members to tithe, or give the church at least 10 percent of their income. Yet, according to the February Evangelical Leaders Survey, most evangelical leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe. The survey showed that 58 percent do not believe the Bible requires a tithe, while 42 percent do.
“The Old Testament called for multiple tithes, sort of combining government taxes with religious stewardship. Many churches later adopted 10 percent as the standard,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “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.”
NAE leaders are adamant that this doesn’t release Christians from giving. Alan Robinson of the Brethren in Christ Church said, “Tithing was an Old Testament legal model that ought to lead New Testament Christians to lives of sacrificial generosity. While tithing is not ‘required’ today, it is my view that Christian generosity will, at a minimum, reflect the Old Testament requirements of the law and should, in fact, greatly exceed it.”
David Neff, Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today, added, “Anything less [than 10 percent] seems like an ungenerous response to God.”
Although most leaders do not believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe, the overwhelming majority, 95 percent, indicated that they give at least 10 percent. This contrasts with an Empty Tomb, Inc., report that found that evangelicals give churches about 4 percent of their income (and all Christians only 2.43 percent).
One respondent who does not tithe said that he gives more or less depending on the needs and his situation. Another leader, Jerry Dykstra of the Christian Reformed Church in North America who believes tithing is required and indicated that he tithes said, “If folks actually tithed, churches would not know what to do with the money.”
“For many American Christians, sacrificial giving encouraged throughout the Bible would mean giving over 10 percent. Personally I believe that the New Testament teaches ‘proportionate giving’ that may be more or less than 10 percent depending on income. In my home we’ve always given more than 10 percent,” Anderson said. “Increasingly churches offer financial courses and teach on stewardship. My hope is that in coming years, we will see more generous, proportionate, cheerful and sacrificial giving among American evangelicals.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.