General Question

ninjacolin's avatar

Why do people like to give money to their churches?

Asked by ninjacolin (13684 points ) March 5th, 2012

Countrymen don’t enjoy paying taxes to their countries but church goers enjoy giving money to their church and they give lots!

What’s going on there? What makes monetary contribution to the church such a voluntary and generous action for church goers?

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59 Answers

chyna's avatar

It’s called tithing The bible instructs that christians should tithe 10 percent to the church.

ninjacolin's avatar

That doesn’t answer the question.
The law says you have to pay your taxes.
The store says bananas cost $3 a pound.

Saying something is a certain cost doesn’t seem to make people happy to pay. Instead, people wait for sales or clip coupons and try to pay as little as possible for everything else.

Church, on the other hand, no discounts are ever pursued.

marinelife's avatar

To support the church itself and the work of the church, which they believe in.

Sunny2's avatar

The church needs support from its parishioners in order to pay rent, salaries, expenses, etc. Members know this and that there wouldn’t be a church if they didn’t support it. It’s called loyalty to a cause they support. Most charitable causes are supported in this way. You might consider what causes are worthy of your support when you have the money to offer to support something.

Jeruba's avatar

To fulfill an obligation.

To enjoy a feeling of doing good—a nice swelling of virtuous feeling.

To take a positive action in support of their beliefs.

To help others by supporting the charitable arm of the institution.

To share what they have in emulation of the example of their religious models.

To influence the policies and actions of the particular institution.

In some cases, I suppose there may also be a sense of penance, atoning for sins and misdeeds, gaining points on some celestial balance sheet, but this is miguided.

whitecarnations's avatar

Well you pay the church to keep the pastors, reverends and just everyone who works there, there. The reason they pay for those junctions is to have a place to worship together. It’s just as simple as that.

Blackberry's avatar

What @Jeruba said. I’ll leave out the immature remark this time :)

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Jeruba's avatar

Yes. I have also known plenty of sincere believers who knew about the Rich Young Ruler and who had very little to spare but who tithed faithfully just the same.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I happen to agree that paying a tithe to a church and paying taxes to the government are essentially the same thing. I’m sure a lot of people who cry “Socialism!” when the government tries to apply their tax money pay their tithes faithfully (so to speak). But do all of them? Doubtful.

funkdaddy's avatar

I believe you answered your own question.

Donations to the church are voluntary, so there’s no drive to do it other than the desire to do it. You think there’s value there either for yourself or others.

If you don’t give taxes, or take the bananas without paying, someone comes to find you and take retribution of some sort. You can go to church all your life and never tithe, they don’t take anything from you and will hopefully still wish you well.

AshLeigh's avatar

The bible says you owe 10% of everything you have to God.
It’s called Tithing.
This is where Karma comes in. It says if you do this with a joyful heart, it will come back to you, shaken up, run over, and blah blah blah. (Can’t remember what my pastor says, but basically 100 fold.)

bkcunningham's avatar

Tithing is giving one tenth of what God has given you back to God as a covenant of blessings. It is a statement of faith. If you don’t pay your taxes you go to jail and/or pay a penalty and fines. I see no relationship whatsoever to paying taxes, budgeting your money, spending it wisely and tithing.

SmashTheState's avatar

Giving money to a church is essentially a purchase of immortal life for someone who believes the nonsense the church peddles. What terrestrial organization can provide value on the dollar compared to eternity eating pie in the sky when you die? You will note that governments procure more blind, fanatical suckers when they sell something immaterial like a flag or a patriotic fantasy. People will murder and sacrifice their own lives and the lives of their friends and family for high-sounding fantasies, whereas even a tiny cost attached to such mundane real things as sidewalks and health care make them howl with indignation.

wilma's avatar

They give money to support the actual building and people who work at the church.
They also give money to support the different charitable works that their church supports. These might include feeding and housing the poor, helping children and the elderly, etc.
They give because they want to. They don’t have to. Their money is going to the projects that they choose. It can be quite a different feeling than having to pay taxes for things, some of which you may not be in favor of supporting.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I’m agnostic and I give a little money to my local church. My children attend some classes and youth groups. I’ll admit, it was my ex-wife’s idea. The children enjoy the classes, and the people taking them on trips seem like kind volunteers.

dappled_leaves's avatar

To those who are describing what tithes do, and saying this has no bearing on taxes – consider what taxes are meant to pay for. To take @wilma‘s list as a starting point:

give money to support the actual building—> the country’s infrastructure
and people who work at the church—> government employees
give money to support the different charitable works—> welfare, subsidies, etc. (there are government programs for the poor, children, the elderly, and more besides)

As @bkcunningham noted, tithes are a responsibility of the faithful – they cannot really be said to be voluntary. The consequences of shirking are different, of course. As to the projects being “chosen” instead of legislated – the laws are made by those voted for by a majority of the people. So, they are perhaps more “chosen” than a church’s projects. I don’t remember ever being asked to vote in church about where my tithe goes.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Those who give to churches most likely do so because the bible says to tithe 10%. They either do it out of a sense of obligation, or because they actually desire to follow the bibles commands.

When I do go to church, which I haven’t done in quite some time, I will put money in the offering plate. Not necessarily 10%, but I give when I go.

chyna's avatar

The tithes in my church also pays for the missionaries that are in Africa helping build schools.

Also, when the two missionaries come in once a year to report to the church what they have accomplished, they will take up a separate collection to further help them.

dappled_leaves's avatar

^—> foreign aid.

ninjacolin's avatar

For the record, (and you guys have been doing well, thanks!) this isn’t at all a critique of giving to your church group. I’m more interested in the success of the system and exploring what motivates people to give as much as they do.

@SmashTheState that was really bang on. I know you tend to come across as a critic of religion in general but ignoring that stuff I really like what you had to say. Thanks.

On Tithing, I think that was somewhat of a “command” from the bible similar to a law from a country. But these days, I notice that people don’t view it as a law, rather, they view it more as @funkdaddy was saying.. as something you can volunteer to do.

Contrasting with @SmashTheState‘s ideas: I wonder.. if political parties operated more like churches about their affairs would a country earn more or less from it’s people?

YARNLADY's avatar

Some might actually believe they are buying their way into a great afterlife.

bkcunningham's avatar

Don’t confuse tithes and offerings. They are different things. Some churches even tithe. Tithing is done of the first fruit and the best you have and isn’t to be done reluctantly. Offerings are collections the church take to support the church’s infrastructure. Remember, “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

ninjacolin's avatar

^ thanks for the clarification. So, is tithing an optional TYPE of offer one might make?

bkcunningham's avatar

I’m not sure I understand what you mean, @ninjacolin.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Actually, churches INSIST that you give 10% of your income to the church. And they don’t want 10% of the NET, they want 10% of the GROSS. Ask any pastor & he will tell you that you must give 10% of the total that you receive – not 10% of what you have left after taxes are taken out. If you don’t have it to give, then a lot of churches will find ways to let you know that you are falling down on the job (so to speak). Churches are very accomplished at being able to inflict guilt in you, if you are not giving 10% of your income to the church.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Linda_Owl OK, I despise “The Church”... but I’ve never heard of a church doing that. They have no idea how much money I have anyway, so they’d have no way of knowing if I were giving 10% or not. That just sounds like paranoia.

Oh, and BTW, most pastors/deacons/church personnel, that I’ve discussed this with in the past, just tell you to give what you’re comfortable giving.

chyna's avatar

@Linda_Owl My church has no idea how much I make and no way to get to my tax returns.

bkcunningham's avatar

Really, @Linda_Owl? I went to a church in Daytona Beach, FL, years ago. Every Sunday, the pastor counted how many people were in the congregation that morning and gave each person money from his own pocket, (he had a job outside the church) based on 10 percent of his salary and the number of people there that morning. He explained you could keep the money if you needed it or give it back to the church as your offering. He said either way he was going to benefit from the promises and blessings of God.

EDIT: I wanted to add, there wasn’t a plate passed. There was a little box on a table in the foyer where you placed the money, offering or tithe.

I could give you other examples from my personal experiences, but I’ve never in my life heard a minister, pastor, teacher or a man or woman of God say what you just said, “you must give” “falling down on the job” or anything along those lines. If I do, I’ll run far, far away from that person.

It is very personal and it entirely up to you what you do in your relationship with God when tithing or making offerings to the church or anyone who you are helping.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I really hate it when I click to give someone a good answer by complete accident. <facepalm>

chyna's avatar

@bkcunningham We also have a little box in the back of the church. Our pastor hates to pass a plate making people “feel obligated” to give. He only asks that you give if you want to and if you can.

GracieT's avatar

Actually, then men who founded my church all agree to live on a low income, and no one is paid very much. We do have a relatively large budget, but we have free clinics, three schools and other ministries. We do support missionaries, but we support many that don’t act the way people usually expect missionaries to behave. They take care of the local residents, and only evangelize in ways that are not offensive to the local population.

bkcunningham's avatar

I always loved that practice, @chyna. I admire it to this day. I was so young and poor when I found that church years ago. It was a blessing for me. People in the community didn’t like the church in the upscale neighborhood because we helped the indigent with a soup kitchen and clothes pantry with showers. It was a real growing experience for me.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Linda_Owl as the son of a Pastor, I would like to respond to what you posted. My dad never told anyone how much they had to give to the church. Even those that asked him straight out would not get an answer in dollar amounts or percentages.

He would pray with them and point to some passages in the Bible, but in the end he said what you give the church is between you and God.

It has been my observation that people tend to give more when they are not obligated to pay a certain amount. When people have to pledge to give an amount to the church, that is all the church usually gets, even when they get a windfall.

The people that don’t pledge are more likely to round up and give more when they get an unexpected windfall.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ Why would they give more?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Many Christians give to the church, and/or give to missions, and/or give to charities for the same reason… they love God and want to follow his instructions.

Nullo's avatar

It’s voluntary, for one. Taxes, not so much. It’s also rather like how people will pay dues in a club; there are immediate and tangible results that impact people that you know and, hopefully like and trust.

@Linda_Owl The Bible recommends 10% of the “first fruits” – you are, after all, giving to God, through your church. It helps to fund church operations and missions, and serves as a symbol of your conscious choice to trust in God for your needs. No church that I’ve ever attended (and that’s quite a few) requires a tithe. It’s not uncommon for a person to split his tithe across several ministries, either. You might give one chunk to missions, another to your church, some to the Christian radio programs, that sort of thing.

2davidc8's avatar

Where in the Bible does it say that tithing means exactly 10 percent? Can anyone please cite the passage?

Also, where does it say that you must tithe or you might go to hell? Can anyone please cite the passage?

I would like to read the passages for myself.

Nullo's avatar

@2davidc8 Tithe means “a tenth.”
Tithing is a mark of a healthy Christian, but is not one of the requirements for salvation.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@ninjacolin you would have to ask them, not everyone gives for the same reason.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Tithing does not always have to be monetary. We had several people that would give produce from their farms and gardens. When someone butchered a beef or a pig we usually got some of it.

Nullo's avatar

More info on tithing here and here.

2davidc8's avatar

OK, I read the Bible a while back and I recall words like “giving”, but not “tithe” as such. Of course, it may be a matter of translation. I wonder if the original texts used a word that meant “one tenth”. I like the word “giving”, but I think tithing may be a matter of interpretation, or something pastors have made up.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the idea of “giving back to God” is a good thing, but only as a symbolic recognition that you are putting God first and that it all came from God anyway. “Symbolic” is the key. God doesn’t need the stuff, but wants to be first in your life. That’s how pastor explained it once.

Giving to support the works of a chuch is secondary.

Nullo's avatar

@2davidc8 Likely depends on the translation. The ESV uses “tithe” in Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5, possibly elsewhere. The early Church saw people committing their entire fortunes to the faith. Some people still do, mostly missionaries. Anne van der Bijl rather famously ran an entire ministry on donations.
Additionally, giving to a church answers the question of where to send the money that you’re giving symbolically.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The tithe is specifically mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, the Book of Numbers and also in the Book of Deuteronomy. The tithing system was organized in a 7 year cycle, corresponding to the Shemittah cycle. Every year, Bikkurim, Terumah, Ma’aser Rishon and Terumat Ma’aser were separated from the grain, wine and oil (as regards other fruit and produce, the Biblical requirement to tithe is a source of debate). Deuteronomy 14:22 Unlike other offerings which were restricted to consumption within the tabernacle, the yearly tithe to the Levites could be consumed anywhere (Numbers 18:31). On years one, two, four and five of the Shemittah cycle, God commanded the Children of Israel to take a second tithe that was to be brought to the city of Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 14:23 The owner of the produce was to separate and bring 1/10 of his finished produce to Jerusalem after separating Terumah and the first tithe, but if the family lived too far from Jerusalem, the tithe could be redeemed upon coins. Deuteronomy 14:23Then, the Bible required the owner of the redeemed coins to spend the tithe “to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish.” Deuteronomy 14:22–27 Implicit in the commandment was an obligation to spend the coins on items meant for human consumption. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the second tithe could be brought to Jerusalem any time of the year and there was no specific obligation to bring the second tithe to Jerusalem for the Festival of Sukkot. The only time restriction was a commandment to remove all the tithes from one’s house in the end of the third year. Deuteronomy 14:28

The third year was called “the year of tithing” Deuteronomy 26:12–14 in which the Israelites set aside 10% of the increase of the land, they were to give this tithe to the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. These tithes were in reality more like taxes for the people of Israel and were mandatory, not optional giving. This tithe was distributed locally “within thy gates” Deuteronomy 14:28 to support the Levites and assist the poor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe

2davidc8's avatar

Thank you @CaptainHarley and @Nullo for the links and references.

A lot of it seems to come from the Old Testament. But, please help me here, wasn’t the New Testament supposed to replace the Old Testament? Wasn’t there a prohibition against eating pork in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament (I think it was either Paul or Peter), it says that’s OK, and Christians can eat pork?

CaptainHarley's avatar

The New Testament is built on the Old Testament. You cannot understand either without the other one. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient.”

Nullo's avatar

@2davidc8 The short answer: no. Jesus came to Earth to fulfill the Law, not replace it. The long answer is more complicated. Nice analysis here.

The Old Testament, while no longer as immediately applicable, does serve to illustrate part of the character of God, the need for grace, and so on.

The prohibitions against pork, shellfish, and mixed fibers were initially to set the Israelites apart from their neighbors (though there are practical applications for most of those kinds of things – shellfish are scavengers and pigs will eat anything, so they may not be the healthiest food). That was part of laying the groundwork for the New Covenant.
It was Peter, and the message was also an explanation that salvation was for everyone. Clean animals were the Jews, given the Law, the unclean animals were the Gentiles.

2davidc8's avatar

OK, @Nullo GA! Thank you.

2davidc8's avatar

@ninjacolin I’m sorry, I seem to have hijacked your Q.

ninjacolin's avatar

haha, it was only a problem til you apologized. ;)
it was all relevant, no worries

jazmina88's avatar

to buy themselves into heaven.

I give to those in need. Not a church. I have given in the past, but feel it is better to help storm victims and to show compassion.

Nullo's avatar

@jazmina88 Dubious. It is explicitly stated that there is no buying of one’s way into heaven.

wilma's avatar

@dappled_leaves I don’t disagree with you that the money given to churches and the money paid in taxes sometimes goes to support the same things. I do disagree with you when you say, “tithes are a responsibility of the faithful – they cannot really be said to be voluntary”
They most certainly are voluntary. Even if a church says that you must give a certain amount to be a part of their church, you can walk away. You do not have to stay there. The laws of your country or community does not punish you if you don’t tithe to a church. They do punish you if you don’t pay your taxes.
As far as the church punishing you, so what? What can they do? If they are that kind of church, then of course you are probably better off finding a different church that accepts you and whatever have to offer, or not offer. As stated above by many people, there are plenty of churches out there that don’t make monetary demands.

@ninjacolin to get back to your question. I believe that many people are truly generous and giving of themselves and their time and money. I think they see giving to the less fortunate through a church as a way of helping others. Perhaps they see the church as better able to get the money where they intend for it to go, to the needy, rather than get lost in red tape and bureaucracy.
I see the results of this kind of thinking everyday.
I volunteer at a food pantry that is sponsored by all the churches in my community. It is also supported by groups who have no religious affiliation. There is no evangelizing or proselytizing happening at the food pantry. We simply feed the needy.
The food (and money to support the project) comes in the door from donations of people in the community, and goes back out the door, (sometimes on the same day) to folks who need help feeding their families. It is simple and efficient. When the government gets involved things don’t always work as smoothly. That probably cannot be helped, that is just the way it is when you are working with taxpayer funds. There are all kinds of regulations that need to be adhered to. People have to wait or may fall through the cracks.
People pay their taxes, they have limited control over the way that their tax money is spent.
As you say, “the laws are made by those voted for by a majority of the people. So, they are perhaps more “chosen” than a church’s projects” I don’t agree with that. We vote for politicians. Many politicians don’t have a very good reputation for following through with their promises. Most of us are skeptical of them at best.
When people want to also help with donations, they like to know where their hard earned money is going and they want it to go to projects that they feel are important.

wilma's avatar

I just realized that in the second part of my answer up there ^^^, I quoted @dappled_leaves again after I had referenced @ninjacolin. Sorry my mistake.

ninjacolin's avatar

i noticed that too but i still ga’d you.

GracieT's avatar

There are two other things about my church that I think are unusual also. One is the FST, or fiscal support team. They are people who have pledged to give at least 5% of their income to the church. Signing up is completely voluntary and there are no other requirements than your word. People on the FST are involved in voting how our money is used, what ministries we support. They even vote on things as mundane as when we buy new chairs for our main CT building. (Central Teaching) Once when they were becoming worn it was asked, and the members of the FST thought our money would do more good somewhere else, so they weren’t bought then. We do have a very large budget, but that way people feel that we have more control over how our money is used. We also are allowed to go in and look at the books of our church’s finances. Anytime, Anyone. If you aren’t sure if you trust our elders, you are free to go look, they have no secrets, and the treasurer will even go over them with you to make sure that you understand them. It was all set up the way it was on purpose so that we would feel like we were involved in EVERY aspect of our church. The two men that founded our church, Dennis and Gary, wanted transparency, and wanted all of us to feel like we were involved in everything.

mattbrowne's avatar

Donating money makes people feel good.

One can actually learn to view paying taxes as an important contribution to the greater good and an act of social responsibility, and this too will make people who can afford to pay taxes feel good.

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