- The tenth part of agricultural produce or personal income set apart as an offering to God or for works of mercy, or the same amount regarded as an obligation or tax for the support of the church, priesthood, or the like.
- Any tax, levy or the like, especially of one-tenth.
- A tenth part or any indefinitely small part of anything.
- Something offered in worship or devotion, as to God.
- A contribution given to or through the church for a particular purpose, as at a religious service.
- Anything offered as a gift.
Where did this concept or belief begin?
- Tithing is 400 years older than the Law of Moses. Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, gave tithes to God through Melchizedek, the king-priest.
Genesis 14:18-20 – Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
- Jacob promised a tenth to God in return for His blessing.
Genesis 28:22 – And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-29 – You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
- When the temple was repaired and cleaned up to be used by Israel after a long period of decline under the reign of King Hezekiah, a storehouse was set up for depositing the tithes and offerings of the people.
2 Chronicles 31:11 – Now Hezekiah commanded them to prepare rooms in the house of the Lord, and they prepared them.
Why? What was the practical purpose for tithing?
- It was instituted by the Law as a way to support the priests who served in the tabernacle/temple of God.
Numbers 18:20-32 – Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’” Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”
- Tithes were mandatory – offerings were optional.
Are tithes necessary today for a Christian? If we are no longer under the law, but grace, then does the principles of paying a tenth still apply?
Let us take a look at what the New Testament says about giving.
- The Apostle Paul indicated that the church should function now by means of giving from His people.
1 Corinthians 9:1-14 – Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Whoever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
Galatians 6:6-10 – Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
So we give to help support those who labor in the ministry. Of course, having a church building also requires funds for practical needs such as:
- Building payment/insurance
- Telephone/electricity/gas/water/sewer/trash removal
- Snow removal/lawn maintenance
However, scripture indicates that our giving should also be to help those in our community in need.
2 Corinthians 9:10-15 – Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Hebrews 13:16 – And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
While the New Testament clearly indicates we should be generous and give of our financial means, it is not clear what percentage that should be.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians indicates that our giving should be from a willingness not because it is a duty. Some have suggested that to put a percentage on our giving is to make it just another law of man. There are those who God has blessed and they have become very successful in life. For them, God might desire more than ten percent. For others, ten percent might be a hardship.
I think Jesus showed this when he pointed out to his disciples the give of the poor widow.
Mark 12:41-43 – Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two small coins. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
I think the key in giving today is to recognize that all we have is a gift from God and that He desires to give so that the work of the church can be done and that those less fortunate can be helped. Giving should be an act of love and worship on our part. When it becomes just an obligation it has lost its true meaning.
Our ultimate example is Jesus.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Our God is a giving God. So his children should be givers.