The Google Dictionary defines tithe as:
noun: tithe; plural noun: tithes
one tenth of annual produce or earnings, formerly taken as a tax for the support of the Church and clergy.
(in certain religious denominations) a tenth of an individual's income pledged to the Church.
verb: tithe; 3rd person present: tithes; past tense: tithed; past participle: tithed; gerund or present participle: tithing
pay or give as a tithe.
"he tithes 10 percent of his income to the church"
So, if we go with this definition, the word "tithe" means to give a one-tenth portion of your "increase" per year to the church. Now, Vocabulary.com says this:
Tithe comes from the Old English word "teogotha", which means "tenth". To tithe is to relinquish one-tenth of your personal income, either as a mandatory contribution, a voluntary donation, or as a levy. In ancient times farmers were required to tithe a portion of their crops. You may suspect that some of the wealthiest members of your church don't really tithe as expected.
So, according to this site, the word "tithe" means "one-tenth" of something and came from "Old English". Looking up "Old English", an article at Discovering Literature: Medieval defines this earliest form of the English languages as being spoken from 450 CE until about 1150 CE. However, the concept of giving one-tenth came at least as early as the time of Abram and Lot. So, though "tithing" came from Old English, giving one-tenth of something came from the Bible even before that. A search for "tithing in the bible" resulted in over 2 million hits with the first result showing 20 Bible verses about the significance of tithing. That site was Pushpay. Let's see what we find. Before Moses, we find a couple of mentions in the Bible about giving a tenth.
18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19and he blessed Abram, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Now, according to the account from Genesis 14, Abram gave Melchizedek one-tenth one time, as far as we know. There was no time period involved, such as yearly or monthly, so we need to do more research to see where this idea of continual giving to the "church" originated.
20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God 22and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."
Here, Jacob makes a vow to God that if He gives Jacob what he wants, he will give Him a tenth. Again, there is no time specified as to frequency, and this is based on a personal vow, not a command from God.
Next, we find a law from God.
30" '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. 31Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. 32Every tithe of the herd and flock - every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod - will be holy to the Lord. 33No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.' "
34These are the commands the Lord gave Moses at Mount Sinai for the Israelites.
Now, here there are several conditions described by God that cause confusion, interpretations, and outright avoidance by Christians. "A tithe of everything from the land" belongs to the Lord. How do we take this if we are not farmers? Most Christians will correctly assume that it refers to whatever we produce. If we have a job, we produce income. For the farmer, every time he produces a harvest, one-tenth of that harvest belongs to the Lord. For the worker, every time he gets paid, one-tenth belongs to the Lord. Looking at the statistics right below the definition above, we Christians are well below an acceptable level in giving the Lord what belongs to Him.
Verse 31 above mentions "redeeming", and is often misunderstood. Redeeming something is to take it back from its original fate or destination. Commonly understood is that we "Christians were "redeemed" by Jesus' sacrifice. This means that our original destination of the Lake of Fire has been changed, if we stay in the will of God. If counting of our flocks includes an animal that we want to keep, we have to determine its value and pay a fee of 20% more than that in order to redeem the animal. No substitution for that animal is allowed, or by that action they will both belong to the Lord. Also, that animal cannot be redeemed if it has been formally dedicated to the Lord (by vow or virtue of being firstborn). Now, when a "tithe" (usually monetary) is redeemed, there is this same "fee". Let's say that you are a poor person with a very limited income. You went out and bought something, but now you don't have enough to pay the rent. So, you "borrow" (redeem) a portion from your tithing to make the rent. That tithing was intended for the Lord, but you have "redeemed" it by using it for your own purpose instead of its original purpose. The cost to do that is one-fifth of it's value. If you borrowed $100, then your tithe value to replace it has increased to $120.
Another confusion is caused by thinking that this only applies to the Israelites. Many Christians grab verse 34 and feel confident that they are not required to follow these rules. These rules were given to the same person, by the same God, on the same mountain as the ten commandments. They apply to all those who follow God. We should consider the ramifications of denying what the Lord makes holy (firstborn, tithes, etc.) because we think we are not "His people". Notice that verse 30 above does not say "A tithe of everything from the land owned by Israelites". The whole earth belongs to the Lord.
21"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."
Here is a verse that is specifically for the Levites and pertains only to the tithes from Israel. These are dedicated to the support of their work in the "tent of meeting", or when it is up again, the Temple. Once again, many Christians deny that this relates to them in any way, yet all the churches pass the plate expecting tithes and offerings in order to support their church building and the pastor's salary. They usually use 1 Corinthians 16:2
2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
to justify their weekly collections, but fail to let their congregations know that this was a one-time collection for the saints in Jerusalem who were experiencing a severe famine (1 Corinthians 16:1
1Now about the collection for the Lord's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.
). There was no food to buy, so this was a collection of grains and foods, not money. That's why the collection was to be done on the first day of the week, a regular work day, so that they would not be working on the Sabbath day.
26"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."
This is actually a tithe on a tithe. The tithe from the Israelites goes to the Levites. The Levites were not given a section of land as was the rest of Israel, so Israel had to support their work for the Lord. This tithe to the Levites was then subjected to another tithe which went to those Levite priests who worked in the "tent of meeting" or the Temple every day. This was their only income and sustenance - hence, the LORD's offering.
5But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.
This is not so much a command to tithe, but one to make sure that the tithing was done in accordance with His commands and in the right place. The only place to do this was where He told them to do it. In the wilderness where Moses was leading them, each new "campsite" required a designation from the Lord as to where they should offer their sacrifices, tithings, and offerings. The same thing is true today. We have only a vague idea why God has not specified the rebuilding of the Temple by the Israelites to replace the one torn down in 70 A.D. Likely, it has to do with the disobedience and outright paganism that Jesus found when He was on the earth. How do you instruct people in the right thing to do when they are no longer listening? We know from prophecy in Daniel, Zechariah, and others that the temple will be rebuilt, just not when it will happen.
22Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive 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. 24But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. 26Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. 27And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
28At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, 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.
This speaks of the Festivals of God and methods of taking your tithes and offerings with you when you have to travel to the designated place of worship. There is also a mention of a tithe for the poor every three years to make sure no one goes hungry.
2 Chronicles 31:4-10
4He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the Lord. 5As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. 6The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them in heaps. 7They began doing this in the third month and finished in the seventh month. 8When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw the heaps, they praised the Lord and blessed his people Israel.
9Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; 10and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over."
The point here is that the people gave the portion due of their prosperity to the priests and the Levites and the Lord blessed them with plenty.
35"We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
36"As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.
37"Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work."
To better understand this one, read Nehemiah 10, better yet, both 9 and 10 to get a feel for what was happening. The people, after coming back from exile and rebuilding Jerusalem, were confessing their sins before God, and getting back on the narrow path. They were committing to God, rededicating themselves to Him after 70 years of captivity, and promising to follow His commands. Tithing was a huge part of this commitment.
9Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Follow His decrees and you will be blessed to overflowing.
4"Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years.
5Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings -
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,"
declares the Sovereign Lord.
God is saying that even if you are sacrificing, tithing, and offering as though you are still righteous, but keep sinning against the word of God like today's churches are doing, then you are wasting your time by tithing and praying. These verses are a sarcastic recognition of Israel's defiant disobedience. Read the whole chapter to see how upset He is with "His people".
A comment on the Pushpay sight explains these verses this way:
The Lord is angry at Israel, and Amos has come to proclaim God's judgment against her. It doesn't matter if the nation of Israel is dependable and exacting in the giving of their tithes and offerings if their behavior negates God's laws.
In a passage that is thematically echoed by Jesus in Matt. 23:23, God makes it clear that stringent attention to the law in one area isn't an excuse for license in others.
8Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How are we robbing you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9You are under a curse - your whole nation - because you are robbing me."
Going back to the comment at the top of this page that says the average Christian is only tithing 2.5% of their increase, I'm sure that is not the way that God looks at it. He gauges our love for money by the individual, not the group. One way to calculate that average is that 1 out of four Christians is giving 10%, and the rest give nothing. That would mean that only one in four Christians are being obedient, not that four are being partially obedient, as implied by the comment.
Another way to get to that average is that two Christians give 5%, and two give nothing. In that case, no one is obedient. Another way is that one Christian gives 20% and 7 others give nothing. Only the one who gives one-tenth or more is being obedient. This is not something you can "average" in order to measure obedience. You either are obedient or you are not.
However, this verse blames the whole nation, not the individual. The same goes for all of God's laws. Think about it. If God is blaming all of America because most are not giving a full tithe, even those who do so will be punished. If most of America's Christians are not obedient to the laws of God, will we all be punished as a nation? How can we change that?
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 there will not be room enough to store it. 11I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe," says the Lord Almighty. 12"Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty.
God is forgiving, but He still requires obedience. These verses immediately follow the Malachi verses 8 and 9 above. He is offering a chance for a disobedient nation to return and do the right thing. All we have to do is convince everyone in America to start obeying God - love each other, obey His laws and give a full tithe. Easy, right?
Well, if that's the case, we are in trouble. However, listening to Paul, it is those who believe the truth who are counted as children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7
7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
). That makes believers the real (spiritual) Israel (Galatians 3:28
28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
). That's the nation we have to convince. But, who are those believers? How do we find them?
They are not the myriad of churches that exist today who ignore His Sabbath, celebrate pagan "holidays" in their worship of Him, and eat things He calls detestable, mind you. However, they may be in those churches, not knowing how to find the true God or the real Jesus because of pastors leading them down the wrong path.
Only those who seek the truth, love the real God, and obey all His commands (John 14:15
15"If you love me, keep my commands."
or from the ESV:
15"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.") are the ones we have to convince. They are the nation He seeks to return to Him. You will know them because they are true seekers. When you have "the discussion" with them, they will check the Scriptures to see if you are telling the Truth. If they see the errors of today's churches, they will be eager to correct them. And, no, there will not be many of them (Matthew 7:14
14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
1"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2"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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
This one is self-explanatory. Elevating your social status by telling everyone how generous you are defeats the personal benefits gained by giving. If your social status is that important, it doesn't matter how big the gift is, God is not impressed. Giving on the down-low means you are more concerned about the welfare of the receiver than your own status.
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. 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."
Here, Jesus is commenting on the Pharisee's tendency to strain very hard at keeping one part of the law, and while doing so failing to do much more important things. Like many of today's denominations, they follow their traditions instead of following commands that say directly not to keep those same traditions. In another place Jesus actually accused them of ignoring God's command while following their own traditions meticulously (Mark 7:9
9And he continued, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"
41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on."
Again, it's not the size of the tithe that matters, but the amount of "sacrifice" required to keep the promise. For those on limited income, making the daily sacrifices necessary to be able to pay the tithe shows the dedication to the promise. Many spend the extra on something they want and shorten the amount of their giving. This puts their will before that of the Lord. It is better to shorten the amount spent on our pleasure in recognition of His will. He notices those sacrifices, or the lack thereof, and the blessings will be proportional.
42"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone."
Another passage where Jesus is criticizing the actions of strictly keeping a part of the law and abandoning other parts.
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Your impression of yourself matters in the final judgment. The more accurate it is, the better.
1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace."
This New Testament verse takes us back to the first verses of this page, but we learn in Hebrews 7:3, the very next verse:
3Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
that Melchizedek was really Jesus, and the tithe went to the right place. This was not a gift to a man, but a tithe to God.
A contrary opinion
To be thorough on this issue, there is a site at The Gospel Coalition that presents 7 Reasons Christians Are Not Required to Tithe.
I will not go through the reasoning of Thomas Schreiner, the author, other than to say that he uses the standard "We don't have to do anything Jewish because the New Covenant gives us freedom to sin without penalty." argument. He does not use those words, but refers to the Mosaic covenant as "no longer in force for believers".
By this view, none of the laws of God apply to Gentiles, so tithing is not necessary. If you need support for the practices of the modern Sunday-keeping churches that ignore the holy Sabbath day, put women in church offices against the advice of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34
34Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
and 1 Timothy 2:12
12I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
, ignore the commands regarding tithing, and believe that there are no longer any priests to be supported by the tithes (ignoring 1 Peter 2:9
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
), then go to this site for support of your beliefs. They even pose the question, "If tithing is required today, how much should we give?", ignoring the definition of the word, "tithe" (one-tenth).
Their site gives the typical reasoning for the "everyone is saved if they claim to believe in Jesus, regardless of any disobedience." stand, using twisted versions of verses from the Bible. But, please investigate beyond the misinterpreted passages and concepts he uses to support his view.
We are a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:9
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession , that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
As we saw earlier, it is this nation of priests, God's special possession, that is supported by these offerings in their missionary efforts to spread the gospel to the world. That world, by the way is our neighbors right around us as well as those we spend millions to convert foreigners to the false message of the modern church. We send people year after year to the same mission fields. We should be able to make the true message strong enough for these people to start their own local missions rather than go back to convince the same people every year.
Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:14
14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
says something that few seem to grasp. In a world of over 7 billion people, 2.5 billion claim to be Christian. There is no way that you can call one-third of something so large "a few". Jesus was concerned that, on His return, he would not find anyone who truly believed in His Father's will (Luke 18:8
8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
). Knowing how many would make the claim of believing at the end times, why would He be so concerned about finding real faith? Maybe, because He knows our hearts and greed. He knows the real depth of our love for our neighbor. When the average Christian gives only 2.5%, how closely are they following the will of the Father as expressed in the 20 verses we examined above? And, what about the rest of His commands?
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at email@example.com and give us your view.