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Statement oN Giving

What is a tithe?

Literally, the word means “a tenth”. The main passages that teach about the tithe are Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21-32, and Deuteronomy 12:5-19, 14:22-29. From these and other passages, we learn the following:

  • A tithe was supposed to be given on all sources of income (Leviticus 27:30).
  • The tithe was used to support God’s work (Numbers 18:21), fellowship in the body (Deuteronomy 14:26), and to help the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
  • God considered it stealing for his people not to give a tithe (Malachi 3:8-10).
  • The tithe was supposed to come from the first part of someone’s income, not the leftover (Proverbs 3:9-10)
  • Giving a tithe was supposed to be a reflection of a positive heart attitude, not a legalistic obligation (Deuteronomy 14:26, 2 Corinthians 9:7).
  • The tithe was only one form of giving (Deuteronomy 12:5-6).

When was the tithe started?

The concept of the tithe goes back at least as far as Abraham. In Genesis 14:18-20, when Abraham defeated five kings who kidnapped his nephew Lot, he acknowledged God’s role in his victory by giving a tenth of the spoils to God’s priest.

When Jacob was ready to go on a journey and needed God’s protection (Genesis 28:20-22), he agreed to give God a tenth of all he had when he returned safely. It is interesting to note that both of these references to a tithe (Genesis 14:20 and here) are made before any formal “law” of such practice was made. This would indicate that the concept of the tithe came from God to man very early on in history as a way to acknowledge that God himself was the real owner of all that existed and it was his to do with as he pleased. Returning a portion of what he had given was a way of honoring Him.

How important is the tithe to my relationship with God?

While it is true that God considered the lack of tithing to be the equivalent of stealing from him (Malachi 3:8), he is more interested in your heart than your money. He knows that people rightly related to him and in fellowship with him will want to tithe. When the Israelites were tithing without the right attitude, God called it sin (Amos 4:4) and when the Pharisees were proud of their tithing but were neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness, Jesus admonished them by saying, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).

Does the New Testament teach the tithing principle?

According to the New Testament, the totality of one’s possessions belongs to God – not just the tithe (Matthew 6:19-34, 19:16-30, 25:14-30; Luke 2:23-25, 12:13-34, 16:1-13, 18:18-30, 21:1-4; Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37).


The New Testament teaches Christians to keep the portion of their income which is necessary to provide for them and their dependents so that they do not become a burden on society (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:6-10). But the balance of their income is to be used for God’s work and for deeds of charity (2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:16-18).


The tithe is mentioned in a negative light in Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, and Luke 18:12. However, it is negative because of the way it was legalized and the attitude in which it was done. Jesus actually said they should continue the practice of tithing but also clean up their act in other areas. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul encourages believers to give with a “cheerful heart”. This was not a new idea to replace the giving of the law. Even the Old Testament taught giving with a joyful attitude (Deuteronomy 12:7, 11f; 14:26). The author of Hebrews addresses Abraham tithing in chapter 7. It is interesting to note that while he specifically mentions the end of the sacrificial system with the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, nowhere does he allude to the demise of the tithe. There is no evidence that the tithe was abolished.  However, there is evidence that people who saw the capability of the church to change lives and society went way beyond the tithe in their giving (Acts 4:32-36). Those under the law were to give a tithe with a joyful heart (Deuteronomy 14:26). The attitude present in the New Testament was that those who know Christ and have been touched by the giving of His life consider it a privilege not only to tithe, but to give as much as possible to allow others to have the same relationship.

What about supporting ministries outside of the church?

This is certainly to be encouraged as part of freewill offering. If we are committed to helping as much as we can, we need to structure our spending and our budgets in such a way that allows us to give above the tithe as the Holy Spirit prompts.

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