If your church is like mine every Sunday we pass shiny, over-sized bowls around the auditorium. We call this the giving or our “tithes and offerings.” But what does “tithe” even mean?
Old Testament and Tithing
Quite literally tithe means “tenth.” The Bible’s first mention of tithing is in Genesis 14 when Abraham gives Melchizedek, a priest of God, a tenth of the spoils from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Under the OT law it was mainly agricultural products that were tithed. Leviticus 27:30 says, “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.” In a few instances animals are also indicated as part of the tithe (Leviticus 27:32), though not in every instance. There is clear evidence that currency also existed during these days but money is never mentioned as a tithe requirement in the OT.
The OT also speaks of firstfruits (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Leviticus 2:14) . Firstfruits seem to be different than a tithe. The giving of firstfruits was a practice required to remind the people that everything they had came from God.
The tithe is mentioned in Hezekiah, Malachi, and other places throughout the OT. A tithe was a requirement given under the law of God. The people of God were to recognize God as the owner and provider.
New Testament and Tithing
The tithe is only mentioned three times in the NT. During Jesus ministry he corrects the Pharisees who tithe but neglect justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). The only other mention is in a Hebrews 5 in a recap of Abraham’s life.
While a literal tithe (10%) is rarely mentioned, giving is mentioned often in the NT.
So What Is Required Now
I believe tithing (10%) is no longer a requirement of God and the Bible. Instead giving is a heart issue. We are to give out of a response to the overwhelming grace provided through Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the OT law. That said, Jesus did not come to lower the giving bar. He didn’t die on a cross so we could give less. Instead he gave EVERYTHING and our response should be to do the same.
The tithe (10%) is a good barometer. It doesn’t all have to be given to your church, but the whole of scripture would indicate your church should be the priority. Some of us should be giving much more than 10%, others of us are in situations where it will be much less. No one should feel guilty if we can’t give 10%, but all of us should feel guilty if we are not giving generously, even sacrificially.
If you want more of a guide on HOW to responsibly plan your giving, check out my recent post on Preparing to Give.
Do you interpret tithing differently? Do believe your church should be the priority in giving?