Tithing From the Heart

The concept of giving away 10% of what we have stems from the Old Testament law that required that a tenth of all produce, flocks, and cattle be given to support the priestly class in ancient Israel. Then the Levites, in turn, were to give a tenth of that support to the high priest. Also, every three years, there was an additional tithe for foreigners, orphans and widows, and another to support festivals.

During the New Testament times came Jesus who made it clear that the old laws were now abolished and replaced with an obligation to be generous to those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). He didn’t specify how to be generous, but made it clear that we must be. Jesus further insinuates that because there is no limit to the Father’s generosity, we should not limit our generosity. However, many of us are not able to be as generous as our Father, so the 10% tithe continues to be the ideal goal for Christians.

tithingFast forward to today – how are we doing under the new law? The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a How America Gives section that allows you to explore philanthropy in America, and even drill down to state, city, and neighborhood.

We found the most generous states to be Utah and Mississippi where the typical household gives more than 7% of its income to charity, while Massachusetts and 3 other New England states give less than 3%. Ohio ranks 37 out of 51 states in percent of income given, just 4.1%. Visit the website to see how you compare to your own city and neighborhood.

The rich aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Americans give an average of 7.6% to charity, compared to 4.2% for people making $100,000 or more. Rich people who live in neighborhoods with other rich people give a smaller share of their income to charity, but if that rich person lives in a more diverse neighborhood, they give more. It would appear that keeping up with the Jones’ makes one less generous, but generosity can come from another source – our time.

There’s widespread belief that charities exist to help needy people and that’s why we give. However, we have found that “cheerful givers” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) prefer to support causes that mean something to them. The Stewardship Foundation can help you explore giving opportunities with charities that support these causes.