How Do I Tithe?
Giving back to God has always been a part of following the God who created the Heavens and the Earth. After the Israelites left Egypt, they began to give 10 percent of what they had back to God through a gift to the Temple and the Levitical priests. This money was to be used for God’s glory and the benefit of the priests first, and then the broader community.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the temple system was no longer needed, but Christians continued the practice of giving to their local church and using that money to support missionaries, the church, their ministers, and the poor. The basis of tithing, in both its original form in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament church age practice, is that everything belongs to God and comes from Him, and so it is appropriate to give back to Him for His purposes.
In order to tithe, one must give willingly of what God has given that person, usually in the form of money, but it can come in other forms.
What Is a Tithe?
A tithe is a type of offering. An offering is any gift made to God, usually through a religious institution like a church or synagogue. A tithe is an offering of one tenth an earning. Its history goes all the way back to Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. While it was not a formal thing called a tithe, they did give back to God through an offering.
“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).
Even in this early offering, there is a lot to be learned about giving back to God. God accepted Abel’s offering, not because He wanted sheep and didn’t want Cain’s gift of produce, but because of the quality given and the heart posture with which it was given. When the Law was instituted, there were offerings of meat and of grain, so God accepted both. Abel brought God the first and the best and sincerely offered it up to the Lord. The Bible indicates that Cain did not bring his first or his best, and Cain harbored evil in his heart.
Even in the beginning of human history, when people pursued a relationship with God, they gave back to him.
Where Does the Bible Mention the Tithe?
The tithe as an offering type was instituted in the days of Moses. After God brought the Hebrew people out of Egypt, He took time to establish them as a nation that would follow Him. He instituted the Levitical priesthood, the ten Commandments, the Law, and the Tabernacle. Part of creating this system included the formal institute of the tithe. It was not the only sacrifice or offering expected under the covenants God made with Israel. It was also more substantial than just giving 10 percent of one’s annual income.
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses…At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do” (Deuteronomy 14:22-29).
The tithe included produce or money that was set aside for a person to spend time meditating on the Lord, so it was not always given back to the temple or the town. Select tithes from select years were used to support the Levites, who did not receive land in Israel as part of their inheritance, but served as priests, and also for the poor.
How Should We Tithe?
The church today should continue to give of their finances, their time, their talents, and their heart as an offering to the Lord. However, the tithe itself was a part of the Levitical Law established by God with the nation of Israel. The Church does not live under the restrictions of the Law, nor its covenants. The tithe was a way for people to spend time with God, which Christians can do anytime they want because the Holy Spirit indwells them when they are saved.
It also existed to help take care of the priests and the poor. Offerings to the church can still be used that way, but people are not under the obligation to give 10 percent of their finances. Many Christians use that percentage as a benchmark for their giving. There is nothing wrong with using this number as a way to ensure the practice of giving, but Christians should not feel obligated to do so.
Offerings can also come in many forms, not just monetarily. Someone can give of their time, volunteering in their church or using their gifts or expertise to bless other people. Worship and prayer can be offerings as well. While it is important to give monetarily, there are many other ways to worship and give back to God that Christians should pursue.
Most churches also acknowledge that for some people experiencing financial hardships, they should not feel they must give a certain amount, especially if it would place undue hardship on the person or their family. There are other ways to give to God in those circumstances.
Why Should We Tithe?
As believers today, there are several reasons to give back to the church.
1. Everything belongs to God, and what is ours is His. When He blesses us with something, He is giving out of His storehouses, and being willing to give a portion of it back is acknowledging that it was always His.
2. The church can have paid staff. God will always call people to His service in the ministry, and often they will not be paid for their work. Those people are more available to do service for God and for the church if they are compensated by the church for that work. Paul stated of elders (another word for leaders and ministers in the church), “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17-18). While it is not always possible, when a church body can pay the people in their church called to ministry, they should do so through their tithes and offerings.
3. The church can support missionaries. Not everyone will be called to go to the ends of the earth to share the Gospel abroad, and churches should support the people who are called to do so. This example was set by the Church in Phillippi, who regularly sent money to Paul to support His missions and church-planting.
4. The church can do evangelism and outreach. For people who are not called to overseas missions, they can still be missionaries at home. One of the ways churches can do that is by using money from the tithe to host outreach events, purchase tracts for people to hand out, and doing other things that can reach people nearby for Christ.
5. Tithing allows the church to care for the poor and needy, both within the church body and those outside the church. From the beginning of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel, the responsibility to help provide for the widows and the orphans has been important. The church can provide for the widows and orphans within their membership with tithe money, and can then use it to help others outside of the church as a method of showing the love of God.
Why Should We NOT Tithe?
The Bible says that God looks at the heart, which can be seen even when comparing the offerings of Cain and Abel. To Cain, God said, “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?’” (Genesis 4:6a).
Cain was giving because He felt obligated, not because he loved the Lord. God wants people to willingly enter into a relationship with Him, and to pursue that relationship sincerely. He knows when someone is doing something with the wrong intentions; “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10). God is pleased by the gifts of people who do it for the right reasons. He knows when people give it to show off, because they want acknowledgement, because they want to manipulate the pastor, or because they feel forced. Christians should not give tithes and offerings begrudgingly, or with a bad spirit. It should be done with love and joy.
Paul wrote, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Before writing a check, volunteering to help with an event, or participating in worship, Christians should always evaluate their heart, and if they find a bad spirit, go to God in prayer and ask for help.
A Prayer to Say before Tithing
Praying over tithes and offerings is a good way to keep the focus on where it should be when giving, which is on the Lord.
Thank you for Your infinite blessings. Thank you for everything You have given me. It is amazing that You would give so much to a sinner like myself, from forgiveness and my salvation, to my home, to the people in my life. Lord, please accept this tithe and offering as a sincere gift. I want to give this small portion of my blessings back to You to be used for Your glory. I pray that it will be used to help bring other people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, to bless people who need it more than I do, and to take care of Your church.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray,
Everyone has been blessed by God, and giving back through tithes and offerings is an important way of being a part of the family of God, obeying Him, and becoming sanctified to be more like Jesus Christ.
Babbs, Arthur. The Law of the Tithe as Set Forth by the Old Testament. 2nd edition. London: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1912.
Easton, Matthew George. The Ultimate Bible Dictionary. Altenmünster: Jazzybee Verlag, 2012.
Reumann, John. Stewardship & the Economy of God. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1992.
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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.