According to a recent survey, Christians donate less money to their religious bodies than either Jews or Muslims in America. A closer look, however, reveals that Protestants give more than Jews or Muslims, and only rank second to Mormons. Every faith falls far short of the traditional 10 percent tithe, however.
This may seem a damning indictment of people who claim to follow Jesus Christ. In the gospels, Jesus commanded His followers to give personally, both the poor and to the church. In the epistles, the Apostle Paul praised Christians who contributed to the church financially.
American Christians give only $817 in annual donations to their religion, while Muslims give $1,309 and Jews give $1,442, according to a survey by Lend Edu early this month.
A closer look at which Christian denominations proves quite revealing, however. While Christians in aggregate give less than Jews and Muslims, both Protestants and Mormons give more than members of the other Abrahamic faiths, $1,506 and $1,648 respectively.
Roman Catholics gave the least, $511 per year, while members of “other Christian” denominations give only $542 per year, on average.
The Lend Edu survey considered Mormons part of Christianity, while many Christians would disagree with that assessment. If the Mormon contribution were taken out, the Christian average would drop even further.
These numbers do not include charitable contributions outside of religion. Even so, it should concern Catholics and other Christian denominations that their contributions are so low. This may be explained by so-called “Chreaster” Catholics, who do not regularly take part in their faith but attend services on Christmas and Easter. It may also be explained by more secular Christians, often associated — fairly or unfairly — with mainline denominations, who may have a diminished level of commitment to their religion.
While Muslims and Jews do not financially contribute the most to their religions, they pay the most in order to participate in their faiths. Muslims spend $1,313 to participate in their religion annually, while Jews spend $1,182 every year.
There are fewer mosques and synagogues in America than there are churches, and travel cost may factor into this assessment. Furthermore, Orthodox Jews plan around not doing any physical labor on the Sabbath, and Muslims must travel to Mecca once in their lives and pray multiple times a day. All of these practices may drive up costs.
By contrast, American Christians spend only $335 per year to participate in their religion. Mormons pay the least of any religion, at $224, while “other Christians” pay only $257. Catholics pay $385, a number perhaps brought down by “Chreasters,” while Protestants pay $424.
The low cost for Mormons seems particularly striking, given the Mormon requirement of spending a year abroad, preaching their religion. This may be heavily subsidized by the church, however.
The Lend Edu survey also asked American believers whether or not they ever felt pressured to give, by peers or by religious leaders. Jews feel the most pressure, both from peers (41 percent) and religious leaders (37 percent). Muslims reported similar pressure levels from peers (36 percent) and leaders (33 percent).
Across the board, Christians said they experienced less pressure from peers (24 percent) and leaders (25 percent). Catholics reported feeling the most pressure (27 percent from peers, 28 percent from leaders), and Protestants said they felt the least (20 percent from peers, 25 percent from leaders).
Mormons reported particularly low levels of peer pressure (8 percent) and pressure from religious leaders (17 percent).
Protestants and members of “other Christian” denominations proved least likely to distance themselves from their religion (14 percent and 15 percent respectively) or consider switching their religion (7 percent and 6 percent respectively), due to the pressure to donate. Muslims (27 percent) and Jews (28 percent) are more likely to consider distancing themselves from their religion, and more likely to consider switching religions (23 percent and 25 percent respectively) for these reasons.
More Protestants (66 percent) and Jews (60 percent) budget for religious giving than Mormons (58 percent), Catholics (55 percent), Muslims (52 percent), and members of “other Christian” denominations (42 percent).
The survey’s results at first seem damning to all Christians, but Protestants actually helped drive up the giving average. The results did deliver particularly bad news for Catholics and Christians who do not consider their denominations either Catholic or Protestant, however. These Christians are either less wealthy or are likely not giving enough to honor Jesus’ commands.
Many Christians should learn from Mormons, Jews, and Muslims how to contribute financially to their faith. Pastors and believers should also learn from the high numbers of Jews and Muslims pushed away from their faith by high pressure to give, however.
In September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that real median household income was $59,039 in 2016. On average, Americans only reported giving $1,190.31 to their faith in the Lend Edu survey.
Even the Protestant average of $1,506 and the Mormon average of $1,648 are below the 10 percent traditionally considered the “tithe” of first fruits to God. Americans may be generous people, but it seems believers of every faith fall short of the demands of God, as traditionally understood in the Abrahamic religions.