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Religious tithing is a charitable option

People all over the world donate to charity. The National Center for Charitable Statistics indicates that individual giving in the United States amounted to $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1 percent from the previous year. In fact, donations by individuals comprises the vast majority of donations received by nonprofit organizations — making up a whopping 72 percent.

Individuals give to many worthy causes, but religious groups and charities are among the organizations that benefit the most from donors' generosity. According to data from the Philanthropy Roundtable, an organization that aims to foster excellence in philanthropy, protect philanthropic freedom and assist donors in achieving their philanthropic intent, 39 percent of individual giving goes to religious needs.

Religious causes are, and long have been, favorite charitable targets. Religious giving, or tithing, was once a compulsory effort. The word "tithe" is derivative of an Olde English word meaning "tenth." Tithes are one-tenth of something made payable to a religious organization or a tax to a government.

Tithing has long been connected to religions such as Judaism and Christianity. Traditional Jewish law and practice has incorporated forms of tithing since ancient times. The tithing system was designed to meet the needs of the economic and political system of ancient Israel. Ten percent of a person's income was given to a religious organization.

The Old Testament states that each of the twelve tribes of Israel, excluding the tribe of Levi, initially received an allotment of land in the promised land of Canaan. The Levites were assistants to Israel's priests and were supported by tithing from the other eleven tribes. All families were expected to give one-tenth of all produce, flocks and cattle to the Levites. In turn, the Levites gave one-tenth of that to support the priests. According to Leviticus 27:30-33,

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. Every tithe of the herd and flock — every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod — will be holy to the Lord. No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.

The concept of tithing is largely an Old Testament system, though it is mentioned in the New Testament in Luke 18:22, when Jesus Christ says, "I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income."

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also participate in tithing. Gordon B. Hinckley, a former president of the church, said, "Our major source of revenue is the ancient law of the tithe. Our people are expected to pay 10 percent of their income to move forward the work of the Church."

Tithing continues in modern times, but many religious followers do not offer 10 percent of their incomes to their respective religious organizations.