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The average family will give roughly 3% of household income away by the end of the year to myriad causes that, in tight times, seem more pressing than ever. But about 5% do much better, giving at least a tithe, or 10%, often for religious reasons. Many people believe that the Bible prescribes tithing with the idea that the bulk of this giving should go to one's local church.
It's obvious why churches see an upside to people loading down the collection plate. But new insights from happiness research suggest that tithing could benefit the giver too, even if you don't believe it's a religious obligation. Indeed, given how much money people spend pursuing happiness, tithing might be a relative bargain.
While 10% sounds like a lot, tithing advocates note that it's only a lot in the context of giving. In the context of, say, housing, 10% sounds cheap. "I think 10% is enough that it hurts every paycheck but doesn't make me unable to live in the community," says Greg Rohlinger, pastor of the Palm Valley Community Church in Goodyear, Ariz. After all, "God could have said 90%. He can have whatever he wants. We can be thankful he said 10." As for whether this is 10% before or after taxes, Rohlinger says "that's between you and the Lord," but he asks "whether you want to be blessed off the gross or the net."
This idea of framing giving in terms of the blessing one receives from it sounds strange, but some people take that idea literally -- that if you tithe, God will give back to you. As the book of Malachi says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse ... and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it."
SOURCE: USA Today