Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Practice Tithing?

from the JW.ORG article “Making Electronic Donations in View of COVID-19 Precautions”

What JW.ORG Says

No, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not practice tithing; our work is financed by voluntary donations. What is a tithe, and why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses practice tithing?

The commandment to tithe, or contribute a tenth of one’s belongings, was part of the Law given to the ancient nation of Israel. However, the Bible makes it clear that this Law​—including the “commandment to collect tithes”​—does not apply to Christians.​—Hebrews 7:​5, 18; Colossians 2:​13, 14.

Rather than giving required tithes and offerings, Jehovah’s Witnesses imitate the early Christians and support their ministry in two ways: by performing their personal ministerial work without pay and by making voluntary donations.

We thus follow the Bible’s direction to Christians: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”​—2 Corinthians 9:7.

The Truth

It is telling that the preview for the article on JW.ORG (pictured above) asks, “Are Jehovah’s Witnesses required to donate a specific amount of money?” While it is true that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not mandated to give “required tithes and offerings,” can it be said that Watchtower does not put its members “under compulsion”? Is donating purely voluntary, or are its members coerced?

Like most Churches, attending a worship service of Jehovah’s Witnesses is free. Witnesses also refrain from passing collection plates during congregation “meetings,” instead placing “contribution boxes” in the lobby of their Kingdom Halls. However, for congregation members, giving monetary donations is far from optional.

Part of [Israelite] worship at these festivals involved giving to Jehovah. The people were told not to “appear before Jehovah empty-handed.” (Deuteronomy 16:16) Today, too, an important part of our worship is unselfish giving. In this way, we show that we value and support the work of Jehovah’s organization.

The Watchtower—Study Edition (Simplified)  |  January 2018 Para. 5

The clear implication for members is that if one does not donate, they are not showing that they “value and support the work of Jehovah’s organization.” The concept of giving monetarily is set up in the introductory paragraphs of the cited article, where it is described as an expectation from Jehovah:

Jehovah can use anything he chooses in order to support his creation. Still, he invites his servants to give what they can to support the work of his organization. (Exodus 36:3-7; read Proverbs 3:9.) Why does Jehovah expect us to use our valuable things to give back to him?

The Watchtower—Study Edition (Simplified)  |  January 2018 Para. 3

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are the only true religion, and thus present the only way to serve God. Because of this, as seen above, the phrases “giving to Jehovah” and “giving to Jehovah’s organization” are used interchangeably. Donations, then, are not merely an expression of appreciation, but “an important part of [Witness] worship” and something God expects of them.

Jehovah dignifies us with the opportunity to support the grand work taking place today. He guarantees that we will receive blessings when we give in support of the Kingdom. (Mal. 3:10) Jehovah promises that the one who gives generously will prosper. (Read Proverbs 11:24, 25.)

The Watchtower—Study Edition  |  January 2018 Para. 18

Again, the clear implication is that if a member does not donate “generously,” they are being undignified, will not receive blessings, and will not prosper. Generously giving money to the organization is expected even if a member is in “deep poverty.”

Our brothers, even those who are in poor economic situations, are like the Macedonians who were in “deep poverty” and yet begged for the privilege to give and did so generously.​—2 Cor. 8:1-4.” w18 January pp. 17-21

w18 January pp. 17-21

The importance of giving money to the organization is stressed even to very young children, as seen in the Watchtower-produced animated short “Help Others.” In the video, Caleb and Sophia are shown the benefits of donating their allowance to the organization instead of spending it on ice cream.

Far from being a spontaneous expression of gratitude, Witnesses are encouraged to make specific plans to set aside income for “Jehovah’s Organization”:

“Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver,” said the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 9:7) Cheerful giving calls for good planning. Paul told the Corinthians: “Every first day of the week let each of you at his own house set something aside in store as he may be prospering, so that when I arrive collections will not take place then.” (1 Corinthians 16:2) Similarly, in a private and voluntary way, those wishing to make donations to further the Kingdom work today can set aside some of their income for that purpose.

w97 11/1 pp. 26-29

This is not merely a suggestion. Bodies of Elders worldwide are instructed by Jehovah’s Witness World Headquarters to send a monthly amount of money to the organization. In order to accomplish this, the Elders are asked to conduct an annual “financial survey” of congregation members to determine how much everyone can donate.

In practice, the financial survey amounts to passing out blank slips of paper to congregants during the midweek worship service and having them anonymously write down the amount of money they are able to donate to the organization monthly.

The above is an internal letter to the body of elders, not to be read to the congregation. Information on donating written for rank-and-file members is typically less transparent. In order to maintain the illusion of donations being truly voluntary, the organization will not outright tell members what to do, and instead imply what they should do by describing what “many are doing.”

Our brothers and sisters in many lands have been adapting their spiritual activities in the wake of the global health crisis. In many cases, attending meetings in person at a Kingdom Hall has temporarily been replaced with virtual meetings using videoconferencing apps. Because of this, many have also adjusted the way they support the worldwide preaching work by making their donations online.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in over 112 lands can use donate.jw.org to contribute electronically, such as by using a debit or credit card.

Because most publishers can no longer donate at their local Kingdom Hall, a number have set up a recurring donation on donate.jw.org. Sister Susan Cohen, a 74-year-old publisher from the United States, uses the recurring donation feature. She says: “It is so easy; if I can do it, anybody can do it. It makes me so happy to know my donation is taken care of.”

Brother Eduardo Paiva from Brazil previously considered the use of donate.jw.org as just a supplement to making donations in person. He states: “Recently, I realized that it is a perfect way to continue supporting the worldwide work in times of emergency and difficulties. We can use this way to keep expressing our gratitude and love in these last days.

JW.ORG > Making Electronic Donations in View of COVID-19 Precautions

In Summary

Jehovah’s Witnesses are…

  • asked to “resolve” to donate a specific amount of money each month
  • told that giving Jehovah expects them to give him their “valuable things”
  • told that donating is a vital part of their worship
  • expected to donate even when in deep poverty, or suffering from a global pandemic

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