Your Teaching on Tithing Probably Sucks (Part 2)

We acknowledged the problem of uneven teaching in the Church in Part One of this post which results in a disparaged understanding of giving. Furthermore, it makes the act and action of tithing more difficult and unnecessarily complex than it has to be. Unfortunately, there is little written from a Lutheran perspective that specifically addresses not just the need for, but also the specific blessing of percentage giving as it pertains to the Christian life. So, let us take a moment and review the recent research on the financial concept of giving, gifts, altruism, and the realities of the social pressures of giving. It needs to be stated, though, that one of the goals for this segment is to avoid arguments based on emotion. Much of what I have reviewed and looked at in terms of giving and specifically tithing came down to how the author just did not feel right about it; either tithing or not. This is a look at actual data and arguments based on research to take a more scholarly look at both arguments.

If the problem were not clear enough, current literature easily bears out why giving is so important simply from a purely financial point of view. A practical example from a hypothetical church budget reveals a portion of the issue from simply a pragmatic standpoint. In a recent report from April of 2020, the Barna Group stated:

Financial Giving Continues to Trend Lower Than Normal In-Person Giving

For all the signs of optimism about well-being, attendance, or recovery in the Church, it is impossible to deny how the financial toll of the pandemic is extending to worship communities. This weekend, two-thirds of pastors (64%) reported that monetary giving is down, 28 percent significantly and 36 percent slightly. While roughly a quarter (23%) claims giving has stayed the same, 13 percent has indicated an increase (4% significantly, 9% slightly).

This does not seem like much of a problem when you consider that most Christians who give do so at an average of 2-3% of their income to their worship community. These numbers are shockingly low. This is especially true when you consider a hypothetical church budget based on real income statistics from my area. The median income in Kingman, AZ is $49,000. Using the range of 2-3%, the average giving from a household will be between $980 – $1470. From a practical standpoint, if the church budget is around $130,000 and you have fifty giving units each generously giving $1500 per year, the total giving will be $75,000. This means the average small to medium size congregation in this area will miss their budget by more than $50,000 without some serious financial help from either a loan, trusts, outside income, a big giver or three, or some other financial scheme.

For the sake of argument, if even half of those giving units tithed (10%) on their income, twenty-five units would be giving $4,900 per year for a total of $122,500. While this is still short of the proposed budget, if you consider the other half of the congregation gives $37,500, we now have a doable financial plan at $160,000 with plenty of room to spare for a party to celebrate their financial freedom as a congregation (a guy can dream).

If we go back to the original data from the Barna Group, that 64% of pastors report giving is down either slightly or significantly, the financial results alone for regional churches are devastating. This does not even take into consideration the spiritual loss being experienced by an overwhelming number of Christians who fail to experience the blessings of biblical generosity. 

To continue to create the foundation for teaching giving, we will need to explore more deeply giving in general. What is a gift? When is a gift really a gift or when is it something we have been coerced or cajoled into handing over? We know people will give in to the expectation or hope they get something out of it. People will also give in the expectation or hope that the gift does something for someone else. Furthermore, some people will give just because someone asks. We also need to define some terms like the concept of a “gift” and how it affects people and the related concept of altruism, which can be considered as the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

Check out more of this discussion on RINGSIDE PREACHERS PODCAST with Tim Barkett “Sex and Money”:!4ce8c