Please welcome blogger Anum Yoon as she shares her thoughts on the personal and spiritual benefits of tithing.
Hidden Nuggets Series #86 – “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)
Giving away 10% of your income will lead to success and happiness. Sounds like the start of a scam, doesn’t it?
For centuries, Christians have committed to the counter-cultural practice of tithing (giving 10% of your money to the church, charity or missions). Although the secular world thought it crazy, Christians understood the true blessings that come from financial obedience to God.
In an unexpected turn of events, recent scientific studies have proven these blessings, showing empirically that tithing is linked to happiness and success.
Tithing Brings a Better Mood
Anyone who has ever given a gift, volunteered or otherwise “paid it forward” can attest that giving to others provides its own gifts in return. Bestowing a gift on a loved one brings us joy, while charitable work or donations makes us feel good about ourselves. Its value is two-fold: while helping others you can simultaneously improve your own physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
A 2008 Harvard study, “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness,” (.pdf) speculated that “how people spend their money may be at least as important as how much money they earn.” More specifically, the study hypothesized that spending money on others brought about greater happiness than spending money on oneself.
The end result? The hypothesis proved true, both for average spending habits and for “windfall” spending. Furthermore, “participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves.”
For Christians, happiness in tithing is not about scientific data. It is about the joy that comes from a personal relationship with God, and the pleasure of obediently giving a little back to the one who not only gave it all, but who continually meets our daily needs.
Social Benefits of Tithing
Science calls the money we spend on others “prosocial spending.” In the 2011 study “It’s the Receipt That Counts,” scientists asked study participants to recall times they had spent money on a “weak social tie” (less intimate, less frequent relationships) and times they had spent money on a “strong social tie” (intimate friends and family members). “Participants reported higher levels of positive affect after recalling a time they spent on a strong tie versus a weak tie.”
What does that mean? It means that although giving to others makes us feel good, giving to people we are close to brings even greater happiness.
What does that mean for tithing? Christians experience close ties to their church and church members, so tithing – giving to strong social ties – brings great happiness. In addition to happiness, tithing also helps bring about a communal sense of financial security. It’s a give-and-give-back situation. Members tithe to the church, which in turn takes care of members in need. Members who have fallen on hard times can once again find success thanks to the church’s support in their hour of need.
A 2008 Arthur C Brooks study found that monetary giving (like tithing) actually influences income. In fact, he found that giving and income have a circular relationship: the more we give, the more we prosper and the more we prosper, the more we give.
Christians understand that giving back to God isn’t so much a quid pro quo situation but, rather, more a reshuffling of priorities. Giving away 10% of our income helps remind us that all prosperity – financial or otherwise – comes from God. Furthermore, it is a reminder that prosperity is not limited to our income, that many of life’s blessings can be experienced with or without a Fortune 500 paygrade.
Tithing refocuses our priorities on the things that matter: our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
Ultimately, those who have experienced the joy and blessings that come from giving will neither need nor be surprised by this recent scientific validation. As for the skeptics, the results are in: tithing brings success and happiness.
Editor’s Questions: How does giving affect your attitude? Do you give 10% of your income to the church or other charitable organization? Do you sense that the more you give the more you prosper?
Anum Yoon is a blogger with a passion for Christ. Since her childhood, she was brought up to commit to the practice of tithing, and believes it to be part of the reason why she chose to become a personal finance writer. She firmly believes that volunteering to help others will help you find joy in life. You can find Anum on her personal blog, Current on Currency, and subscribe to her blog newsletter right here.