Members of the Church will often claim that they know they are blessed (financial or otherwise) because they pay their tithing. These claims seem shortsighted, or at least insufficiently demonstrated, for the following reasons:
No broad correlation between paying tithing and financial success: I am not aware of any statistical correlation between paying tithing and household income (or total wealth). For instance, Latter-day Saints seem pretty average in household income according to this Pew 2016 survey.
Correlation is not equal to causation: There may be other underlying factors that explain correlations. Even if there were a correlation between paying tithing and financial success, it would be difficult to demonstrate causation without some experimental design. Confounding factors include:
- The vast majority of U.S. families eventually “make it” (very few from the middle class are perpetually impoverished)
- Those financially capable of paying tithing consistently are most likely to be financially secure or have hope of family financial support if they pay their tithing. Hence, we might be able to explain “I paid tithing and was blessed” stories with reverse causality—those who were already financially stable enough (or felt they had family support they could fall back on) that they could pay tithing through difficult financial times are more likely to be well-off financially and have higher income-earning-potential than those who felt financially insecure enough that they felt unable to pay their tithing.
Non-tithe payers also have anecdotes about being “blessed” for not paying tithing: For every anecdote of a Church member being blessed for paying their tithing, a former member who does not pay tithing seems to have an equivalent anecdote.
For instance, my net earnings in the few years since I stopped paying tithing (after my faith transition—we always paid a full tithe as believing members) significantly exceed all my previous earnings. I don’t attribute this to stopping the payment of tithing, just that it is natural for earning potential to increase during a lifetime up to a certain age.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of “I did not pay tithing and was blessed” anecdotes from former members: