Since the first church was started, there have been arguments about the topic of giving tithes to the church. Tithe simply means increase. One argues that tithes are given based upon your gross pay and the other says you tithe a tenth of your take-home pay. A few would argue that tithing is an Old Testament idea, no longer valid for today. Where in the bible does it mention tithing and who decided it would be a tenth of what you have?
We first see the concept of tithing in Genesis 4:3-5a, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not to respect.”
Here we see a desire from the brothers to give unto the Lord an offering from the increase of their toil and labor. God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but not with the offering that Cain brought. Although it isn’t said why God was displeased with Cain’s offering, it may have been that Cain had more valuable things he could have offered, but held them back for himself. It may also have been that Cain did not bring his offering to God with a cheerful heart. No one, especially God, wants a gift from someone who resents giving it.
Tithing is mentioned 40 times in the entire bible. There is an instance in Genesis 14:20 where Abram fought a battle with the enemies of the King of Sodom for the release of his nephew Lot. The spoils of war were offered to Abram by King Sodom, but Abram refused to take anything for himself. King Melchizedek gave Abram bread and wine as a gift of hospitality to a man far from his own house. Melchizedek, also a priest of the ‘most high God,’ was someone that Abram felt compelled to offer a tenth of the spoils of war, to be used in God’s service. This instance is not mentioned in the Bible concordance, probably because the meaning of the word was different in this case.
Tithes are mentioned again in Leviticus 27: 30-34, “And all the tithe of the land, whether the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, it is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord. And if a man redeems ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whosoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it at all, then both it and the change shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed. These are the commandants that the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.”
Everything upon the earth already belongs to the Lord.
By asking for a tenth of the increase for the year, the Lord can tell whether the person gives out of gratitude for all that he has been blessed with or if the tenth is given with a reluctant heart, out of obligation or from rejoicing deep within.
The tithes were brought into the storehouse and used to support the priests of the tribe of Levi. This tribe did not work the fields or own land. They were charged by God to lead the people spiritually. The tithes were given an estimated value by the priests. If a man gave land to be used by the Lord but needed to buy it back for some reason, the Lord said that he should give a fifth part of the value of the land as interest.
Tithes are an obligation and should not be confused with offerings.
There were many types of offerings brought to the Lord, such as the sin offering and the peace offering. The tithe was used to support the tribe of Levi because their work would not have given them the means to buy food, clothes or a place to live. Today, the tithes are used to support the church and provide for the preacher as he ministers to the church.
The tithes were also to be used to provide for the widows, strangers traveling through and orphans, as found in Deuteronomy 14:22-29. The Levites are mentioned again in these verses as having no inheritance or a means to provide for themselves. A tenth part of the first tithe was to the Levites, the second tithe was to go to the Levites and the poor in the third year.
Again in Deuteronomy chapter 26, the Lord speaks about the tithes being for the fatherless, the stranger, widow, and Levi Priests. The most noted verses on tithing appear in the book of Malachi 3: 8-11, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
The one thing God wanted his children to understand about tithing was this: Man can not give away anything that he owns faster than God will replace it, but only if he gives with a willing heart, without worry about his own needs. This is where faith should step in, reassuring the giver that his own needs will be met as he gives to those in dire need.
Tithes are mentioned in the New Testament as well, in Hebrews: 7.
In Luke, the Pharisee tries to redeem himself by listing his attributes. He says that he tithes of all that he owns. The only problem with this is the fact that he gave so men would see and think him to be a good and pious man, when, in fact, he did not give out of the love of his heart.
Some say that only Jews are commanded to tithe. Christians are adopted Jews, so we are also commanded to tithe. In the bible, the people gave their tithes at the end of the year. If a man bought ten cows and saw them multiply by five, five cows would have been his increase for the year. He would have given a tenth part of his increase of five cows as his tithe. It had to be the healthiest cow he owned, not a sick, weakly cow. If a man had twenty goats as his increase for the year, he gave two goats as his tithe. Poor people were allowed to give a dove if they had no animals or crops to give.
Some people want to know the letter of the law on tithing so they can be sure not to tithe over and above what they are required to give. Others want to know so they can be sure and give all that God requires because they love God. Calculating the exact increase from year to year and adding the second tithe for the poor may get complicated for some people. God is not concerned that you give to the exact penny. He desires our tithes as a way of showing our respect to Him for all He has blessed us with. God also wants to know our hearts in relationship to those who are needy.
A tithe was based on the increase of all possessions, not just cattle, seeds or crops. If a man worked for another, his increase would be the increase he received in wages for the year. If his increase was $1,000.00, his tithe would be $100.00. If his money earning interest in the bank was $200.00 for the year, his tithe on this money would be $20.
After we tithe, we should make offerings to the Lord by giving to those we see in need.
How much God expects from us depends on how much of an increase we have realized for the year. If the value of a home goes up, the increase in value must be considered. If the value goes down, the difference in value from year to year can be subtracted from tithes owed, or we can trust God to take care of us and give from the heart.