Tithing is a biblical imperative which is preached upon frequently. Giving 10 percent of your income – whether based on your net or your gross – is a stretch for many Christians. A study done by the Christian-based survey organization The Barna Group released last year revealed only 5 percent of Americans tithed.
That is not the case for retired professional boxer Evander Holyfield. The former four-time heavyweight champion had a chunk of his ear bit off in his most infamous bout against Mike Tyson in 1997. He received a $35 million payout for the fight. A flat 10 percent — $3.5 million – went to Atlanta’s World Changers Church.
The charitable giving of professional athletes, with a focus on Holyfield and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, was the subject of a piece run Sunday by ESPN’s Outside the Lines news magazine.
World Changers and Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries, which Warner is affiliated with, both preach the prosperity gospel. It states, in a nutshell, that God will bless those most who contribute substantially to the church.
When asked about Holyfield’s enormous contribution, World Changers Pastor Creflo Dollar said, “I’m as comfortable as I would be by someone whose tithe is five dollars.”
Pressed about Meyer’s recently sold $2 million home, Warner compared international ministry heads to corporate CEOs and wealthy athletes such as himself. “Does it mean I shouldn’t have (wealth) just because I’m a Christian?” he asked rhetorically.
ESPN goes on to examine Dollar, Meyer and fellow televangelist T.D. Jakes and their lifestyles. It airs critics’ points of view and points out that Meyer and Dollar are part of the “Grassley Six” under a Senate investigation led by Iowa Republican Charles Grassley. Meyer made recently made her financial records public at Grassley’s behest.
Regardless of your opinion of the prosperity gospel, ESPN wraps up with a telling statement by Holyfield, who is facing foreclosure on his mansion.
“I’m going to pay my tithe first,” he said when presented with the choice of paying it or his mortgage. “Me paying that tithe is going to better me in the long run.”