Tithing and fasting may be a factor in raising the standard of living for poor Dalit Indians, according to a study by Rebecca Shah of Georgetown University. The preliminary study, presented at the ASREC conference, studied the financial outcomes of Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and mixed-faith families of Dalits, or “untouchables”, in three slums in Bangalore, India.
Shah interviewed 300 female clients of a microfinance company and found that they engaged in different kinds of financial planning. In studying the different kinds of loans that were taken out by these clients, Shah found that those families that tithe to their churches on a weekly or monthly basis were more likely to use loans to send their children to private schools.
They were also more likely to use their loans to invest in business and in care for their children. Most of these Christians were Pentecostals who were more likely to fast than Muslims and fellow Christians. Shah noted that those who regularly tithed were not more financially well off than the others in the study; in fact, they earned less and were less educated than their Hindu and non-tithing Christian counterparts.
Shah argues that tithing and fasting are “future-oriented” practices that induce the poor to start saving their money rather than spending it on immediate gratification with the idea that “one must spend today because there will be little to spend in the future …. Seeing all of one’s money as a loan from God fosters self-restraint and limits over consumption …. Tithing means that there is hope in the future and that it is in God’s hands.”
Shah concludes that both practices exercise “voluntary self-control” that results in improved family