Wealth from Worship? And Only 10% Return? Hah!

You may have heard of a recent study by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber linking church attendance to increased wealth. As the news story from Economist.com reports:

Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims that regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income and a lower chance of divorce. His results (based on data covering non-Hispanic white Americans of several Christian denominations, other faiths and none) imply that doubling church attendance raises someone’s income by almost 10%.

Many people look at this news and think of the 10% gain for church attendance – but isn’t it a 10% for each doubling of attendance? Compared to the average, Mormons not only go to church on many more Sundays, but also for much longer thanks to the 3-hour block. That’s double double double double . . . so are you all rich yet?

I hope the Gruber study, as interesting as it may be, doesn’t become part of our missionary pitch: “We offer you the highest return on your tithing of any Church.”

I find the possible reasons for the correlation to be especially interesting. I wonder if a similar study should be done to also include the effect of tithing coupled with active attendance. Most of us are familiar with a number of practical reasons why these two can correlate with temporal success – all of which is only of minor importance in the eternal scheme of things, but still interesting.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

8 thoughts on “Wealth from Worship? And Only 10% Return? Hah!

  1. I’ve heard personal anecdotes of this from a Lutheran friend and my Presbyterian grandfather. People who pay tithing cheerfully don’t seem to miss it, and have fewer financial problems.

    My life illustrates it too. Although I was a college drop-out, when I joined the church and started paying tithing, my career really took off, and I prospered financially. When I went inactive and stopped paying tithing, I lost my job and financially back-slid and had a negative net worth for a long time.

    When I came back to church, things took a turn for the better. Hmmmm, coincidence?

  2. True that. Though this isn’t a tithing story (it’s similar), one time I had gone on a date that didn’t turn out so swell. I went in good faith, and did everything I knew how to do to make it good. But it just didn’t fly. That night, a friend of mine comes to me and says: “Walker, I owe you $40 for such and such.” Now, this fellow hadn’t mentioned this expense for quite a while and frankly, I had let it slide for the time being. More interesting, 40 dollars (give or take a few dollars) was the amount I paid for the date. Father saw what I had put on the line to go on this date, so he arranged for a due compensation.

    One thing I like to look at though is that it doesn’t always work that way. I do believe that the Lord financially blesses his faithful. However, that does not mean riches in any sense. I’ve seen faithful tithe payers live in VERY humble circumstances. But they do not go hungry.

  3. I’ve had similar experiences with paying tithing. One month I ran completely out of money, and didn’t have enough money to pay for rent the next month, let alone tithing. I made out a check for tithing anyway, and about a week later, before the check went through, I started to receive little snippets of money from everywhere – my friend payed me for cleaning out her horse stalls, my grandparents gave me some money from an investment that they had made; the insurance company called me and told me that I had overpayed my premium and so I got a credit on my next payment, little things like that – I was able to pay all of my bills – as well as my tithing on time.

  4. The problem with this type of thinking is how do people stay faithful if they have financial problems? We’ve always paid tithing, and we’ve always made it, but there are others who don’t do as well.

    It’s like Family Home Evening–we always had that and family scripture study, but our kids left the church.

    There’s just no guarantee.

  5. Boy, how’s a feller supposed to do any sacrificing, if all that bread cast upon the waters keeps coming back?

    (See also Mosiah 2:24)

  6. annegb–

    I (almost) agree with you. I don’t believe to the slightest that tithing guarantees riches or even comfort.

    But I do believe, and have had my own experiences, where I know sacrifice is seen by the Lord and that (unless there is some grander reason) he won’t let his Saints starve.

  7. It’s a sticky wicket. My parents are in serious financial straits, and they have been for, well mostly always.

    On the other hand, they have always paid their tithing. Have they had vast, unimaginable riches? Well, their bank account will tell you no.

    However, if you went to their house, looked at how they live, and tried to guess thier income, you would highball it by at least 100%. Maybe 200%. Things have pretty much always been scary for them, but in many ways they have been able to enjoy a standard of living that their income should never have allowed.

    On top of that, my dad is quick to point out the non-fiscal riches that he has been blessed with in spades.

    As for me personally, I have seen that fast offerings seem to have the highest, fastest return of any investment I know of. Whenever things have gotten financially tricky for my wife and me, we dig deep and pay a fast offering we know we can’t afford, and we pay it in faith that Heavenly Father won’t let us down. He never has.

    Last week, our first baby was born. When we came home from the hospital and things got settled down, I looked around our home. We have an enitre room filled with baby furniture and assorted baby stuff. Not “a romm furnished with baby stuff,” but filled with it. Full. Still in boxes. We can’t even put up our crib until we move, because we’re simply out of room. Plus, we have gift card after gift card that we can’t even think about redeeming until we get a place with more square feet.

    I tried to put the meals that ward members brought us into our fridge, and even after throwing away a lot of older food, it was still hard to close the fridge.

    We’ve had a financially disastrous year in many ways. Things have been tighter than they’ve probably ever been for us. Nevertheless, we not only have everything we need, but we can’t fit everyhting we’ve been given into our little apartment.

    All of a sudden, I ran to the living room, opened up Malachi 3:10, and cried. And I get choked up about it right now while I’m writing this. We literally have received a blessing “that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” I know it’s because we’ve faithfully paid our tithing no matter what.

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