A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.Lev. 27:30 (NIV)
Since Old Testament times, God’s people have been commanded to give tithe – one tenth of their annual produce or earnings – to the Lord. There are many stories in the Bible that tell of the blessings received by those who faithfully gave their tithe, as well as the punishment received by those who did not.
Some church leaders have used the verse in Malachi 3:10 about blessings for those who return tithe to preach what has become known as the “Prosperity Gospel.” These leaders teach that when you give to the Lord, He will bless you. This teaching places a heavy emphasis on the financial blessing that the Lord gives those who return tithe to Him, inadvertently encouraging people to give tithe primarily for selfish purposes.
We should not return tithe out of the expectation that God will do something for us in return. Scripture is clear on the idea that God has given us everything we need to live on (2 Pet. 1:3); our tithe is simply returning back to Him what is already His.
In 2018, the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research published their Annual Statistical Report (also known as the ASR) that covers many different statistics within the Adventist Church, including membership statistics, church membership and attendance, member involvement, etc. Another area covered in this report is church giving and the report gives us insight into church giving trends from the earliest periods of our church’s history
Table 8 in the ASR shows us that in the 1870’s and 1880’s, it was not uncommon for approximately 85-90% of the money coming into the Church to be from tithes. However, this range of percentages would fluctuate significantly over the next century. Tithing reached an all-time low in the 1930’s (likely linked to the Great Depression); during this time, only 51% of Church funds came from tithe.
Since the 1970’s, however, the percentage of tithe coming into the church (when compared to other church money) has mainly been increasing.
In more recent years–specifically, from 2013 to the present year—the percentage of tithe coming into the Church has hovered between 70.4%-71.4%; most recently, in 2016, 71.0% of all money coming into the Adventist Church was from tithe. These percentages are the highest they have been since the early 1900’s! As we reflect on the many ways God has blessed us, we realize that all we have is actually His, which removes the sense of obligation towards returning tithe and turns this commitment into a joy. Praise God that we have been giving the opportunity and privilege of returning a piece of what He’s given us back to Him!
The 2018 Annual Statistical Report can be found here.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.