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Culture Beat / December 6, 2019

Memo to Secularists: Tithing Isn’t a New Idea

A profile on a generous man fails to mention where the 10% idea originated.

“Tithe: noun — "a tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution.”

“Tithe: verb — "to pay or give a tenth part of especially for the support of a religious establishment or organization.”

These definitions hearken back to the millennia-old biblical teaching of tithing to God. Christians are commanded (yes, commanded) by Scripture to give at least a tenth of their income (the fruits of their labor) to the Lord. Christians differ in principle on where that money should go, and the vast majority of Christians fail to fully obey this command. But that doesn’t mean it’s a new command.

But you wouldn’t know this by reading a recent article at the lefty news-splaining website Vox. The article, titled “This man has donated at least 10% of his salary to charity for 10 years running,” treats this as a novel concept. It’s a profile of Toby Ord, a “philosopher at Oxford” who “set up an organization called Giving What We Can,” an altruistic group meant to spur people to pledge donating to charitable causes. That’s great; more power to them.

The Vox writer says, “This commitment, from a not particularly well-paid research fellow, earned Ord profiles at the time from the likes of the BBC, the Telegraph, and the Wall Street Journal.” And Ord says that, over the last 10 years, “I’ve been able to give £106,000 to a variety of organizations, all focused on global poverty. That’s 28 percent of all the income I’ve ever earned.” Again, well done.

Yet it’s worth pondering how Vox managed to “explain” this news without ever mentioning the words “Bible,” “Christian,” or “faith.” No other religions are named, either.

The answer is that Ord seems to think this was largely his idea. His website claims he was “inspired by the ideas of ethicists such as Peter Singer.” But it’s worth noting that Singer is the atheist Princeton professor and infanticide proponent who once said that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth.

Regular Christians are, generally speaking, the most generous people around. While most don’t give away a full 10%, many do. Yet few of these regular Joes are profiled in major media outlets. To be clear, we hope Ord and his followers keep giving. We just also hope he also gives credit (and perhaps a little money) to the God who actually came up with the idea.

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