Giving a tithe (a tenth) of one’s income to God’s work is an ancient tradition which is confirmed in Scripture. The Bible shows that:
Tithing didn’t start with the law of Moses
Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20) and Jacob vowed to tithe (Gen 28:32). Hence tithing is not a law or only for those subject to the law of Moses, it is intended to be a universal practice. See 1 Cor 16:2 “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
The tithe belongs to the Lord
Lev 27:30-33 ” ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD. He must not pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If he does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.’ “
Mal 3:8-9 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.
The tithe supports the Ministers
Num 18:21, 24, 26, 28 “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. ……. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’ ” …….. “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. …….. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD’s portion to Aaron the priest.
The tithe maintains congregational life
Deut 14:22-23 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. cf. 12:17-18.
The tithe supports the needy
Deut 14:28-29 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Matt 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Acts 4:34-35 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
The tithe expresses obedience
Amos 4:4, 6 “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years ……. “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Matt 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
In this passage Jesus condemns hypocritical tithing but says tithing should not be neglected.
The tithe is a minimum for giving
In the Bible the tithe is owed to God, like a divine tax, so it is not free will giving. On top of the tithe people gave free will offerings.
2 Cor 8:2-4, 7 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. …….. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving
2 Cor 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Matt 6:1-4 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
The tithe brings blessing
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Mal 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
God promises to provide for us and in Luke 6:38 Jesus promises to bless those who are generous. This teaching has been dealt with rather crudely in some Christian circles, which have reduced tithing almost to a level of financial investment. Nevertheless Jesus said what he said. As someone commented: “You can’t out-give God!”
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ . Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction