The Tithe Belongs to God

Via Flickr, by user RikkisRefugeOther. Used under Creative Commons License.

Ten percent doesn’t seem like much; offer me a 10% discount as enticement to eat at your restaurant or shop at your store, and I’ll probably just shrug. But when it comes to parting with our hard-earned money, many Christians see 10 percent as an insurmountable obstacle.

God’s Master Plan for your money begins with providing for your family. And though we all have ways in which we can improve as workers, planners and budget-makers, the priority of providing comes fairly naturally to us. It’s instinctual and innate; even animals in the wild know to provide for themselves and their young.

The second step in God’s plan, though, can be much more difficult than the first. In our human nature, we would love to think that we can provide for our families, and then use the rest of our money to have fun. But it is not so. God earmarks some of your money as belonging to Him, and He has specific ideas about what you should do with it.

Enter the tithe. This is a sort of “Christian-ese” word that you don’t hear outside of church circles very often, but it basically refers to 10 percent of our income that is set apart for God. We first encounter this idea in the Law of Moses, when God commands the Israelites to give a tenth of their increase to Him. Leviticus 27:30 makes it fairly clear:

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.

I don’t know that God could have said it more plainly — He considers the tithe as His own. We must remember that God owns everything, and that by His sovereignty He gives us everything that we have. So if He says that part of our income belongs to Him, who are we to argue with Him? It’s almost as if He believes that He’s in control, and that He gets to set the rules.

Unfortunately, many churchgoers today struggle with the idea of tithing. Some receive blessing and ministry from the church, but give nothing in return; other give sparingly or infrequently. It’s a sad fact that many modern churches struggle today because their members fail to tithe.

How important is tithing? God speaks about it with important words in the text. It says that the tithe “belongs to the LORD,” and that it is “holy unto the LORD.” Another way to say this would be that the tithe is consecrated — though money may seem earthly and mundane to us, God sets a portion of our income aside as having a special, spiritual significance.

Think about the other things that are consecrated. God says that our very lives are consecrated, set aside for Him, bought with the blood of His son. We consecrate other parts of our lives, setting aside daily devotional time to spend with God in the Bible and in prayer, as well as weekly time that we set aside to spend with His people, the Church. Many of us make professional, family and social decisions based on our lifetime dedication to the cause of Christ.

So why should our money be any different? It shouldn’t be. If our lives are set apart to Christ, that includes our money. If we hold our finances back from God’s claim on them, then we’re rebelling against what He wants in our lives. That’s not just a bad habit or a philosophical difference — it’s a heart problem.

There are lots of great reasons for Christians to tithe: It supports the work of the local church, and allows God to pour blessings into our lives. We’ll deal with those ideas in greater detail in coming articles.

For the time being, though, ask yourself this question: God gave His son for us when we didn’t deserve it. Who are we to withhold from Him something that isn’t even ours to begin with?

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Comments

  1. Hey Brian! I like your site! Agree with this…it ALL belongs to God, so why do we think that we get to hold anything back? It’s all about perspective, and if we know that we are merely stewards of God’s resources, it changes everything!

  2. In all honesty, the New Testament church has not been given the command to tithe. And the general consensus in today’s church on what the tithe is falls completely short of the biblical definition.

    We have altered and repurposed the tithe to suit ourselves in today’s church and have ended up with a doctrine far removed from the bible. The biblical tithe was always the tenth part of agricultural produce and livestock alone. Thus only the farmers in the land of Israel were commanded to tithe, others who received wages and engaged in occupations other than farming where exempt from tithing.

    Many assume that the reason the OT tithe was on agricultural produce was because money was absent; that is incorrect. Money was present even before this time. Joseph was sold for money and his brothers came with money to Egypt to buy food. Even at the time God commanded the children of Israel to tithe, money was available as God commanded those who wanted to redeem their tithe to pay the monetary value of the tithe plus 20% of this value. Kind of pointless if money could be tithed.

    God also commanded those who lived far from the venue of the tithing banquet to convert their tithes into money and then spend every single penny on wine or strong drink or on anything they liked. Again this would have been pointless if money could be tithed.

    The bible encourages us of the New Testament to give as we are able and does not impose a 10% guide or lower limit. God gave us His son and was not expecting us to pay Him back by tithing and no amount of tithes can compensate for a life anyway.

    God bless.

    • Interesting thoughts, Tony. I’d love to see some scriptural references that help make your point. I’m especially unfamiliar with any scriptural evidence that suggests that non-farmer Israelites were exempt from the requirement of the tithe.

      You’re right, the New Testament doesn’t explicitly address the tithe. But the lack of a New Testament commentary doesn’t void the Old Testament command. Plus, there are some New Testament references that can help steer our course. In Matt. 22:21, when talking about money and taxes, Jesus tells His Disciples to give “to God what is God’s.” Since God earmarked the tithe as His own in the OT, this statement can be read as Jesus’ re-affirmation of the tithing commandment.

      Perhaps more compelling than that, though, is Paul’s teaching on giving and generosity in 2 Cor. 9. He tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver,” and that “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

      I think it’s always dangerous to try to reason our way out of OT teachings simply because they don’t appear in the NT. Remember that Jesus said that He didn’t come to take away from the law, but rather to fulfill it. He raised the standard — don’t commit adultery, or even lust; don’t murder or even hate — and accomplishes in us through internal heart change what the law was unable to do. Given Jesus and Paul’s teaching, I believe that if anything, God asks for more generosity from His church than the simple tithe.

      It’s not a matter of paying God back for our salvation; rather, it’s an acknowledgement that God owns everything to begin with, and that all we have is a gift from Him. When we use our money to fund the work of the Kingdom, we’re aligning our hearts with His. Remember, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

      More articles on this theme to come… stay tuned!

      • THE FIRST TITHE
        Leviticus 27:30-33 defines this tithe as a tenth of crops and animals in herds and flocks.
        Numbers 18 gives the ordinances, or instructions, for this tithe, and commands this tithe be taken to the Levites.
        Purpose of this tithe: to support the Levitical Priesthood.

        SECOND TITHE
        Deuteronomy 14:22-27: aka The Festival Tithe – a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.
        Purpose of this tithe: “that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always”

        THIRD TITHE
        Deuteronomy 14:28-29: aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe – a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.
        Purpose of this tithe: to feed the poor.

        The ONLY people in the Old Testament that were commanded to tithe were those who INHERITED THE PROMISED LAND WITH EVERYTHING ON IT. They got the land, house, animals, crops, etc. ALL FREE AND CLEAR. No mortgage payment or rent to pay. And THEY were commanded to tithe on the crops and animals and take it to the Levites who INHERITED the tithe INSTEAD OF the promised land with everything on it. No one else tithed. Wage earners did not tithe. Jesus did not tithe as a carpenter. Paul did not tithe as a tent maker. Peter did not tithe as a fisherman.

        When God gave the Israelites the promised land, He RESERVED, for Himself, a tenth of the crops and every tenth animal. They NEVER did belong to the Israelites. In other words, the tithe was from God’s increase of FOOD, not from man’s income. It was a way to distribute FOOD to the Levites and priests who did NOT inherit any land.

        No one, not even the farmers, tithed on their income.

        The farmers made their income by SELLING and/or barter-exchanging their crops and animals but did NOT tithe on that income.

        Today, ALL born-again believers are priests. ALL of us are called to be deciples of the Lord. No one of us is higher than another. Our bodies are the Temple where the Spirit dwells. According to the scriptures, priests do not tithe.

      • Bnjewell,
        I think you are being rather presumptions in your interpretation of certain portions of scripture. More importantly you seem to equate tithing to giving; they are 2 very different things.

        The tithe was a form of tax and this was compulsory while giving on the other is voluntary and has no lower or upper limit. So Paul’s call to generosity in 2 Cor 9 said nothing about tithing. The context was simple; everyone should give as they are able and it will be accepted as long as it has been given willingly and cheerfully.

        You have made another tremendous leap in your interpretation of Matthew 22: 21; Jesus never referred to tithing here at all. He was referring to us giving ourselves to God because we bear God’s image. His first question was “whose image is this on the coin?” Since it was Caesar’s then it belonged to Caesar and since we bear God’s image, we belong to God. Romans 12: 1 – 2 leans weight to this thought.

        Again, it is so convenient for pro-tithers to always argue that God raised the standard in the New Testament. The fact is when He addresses those aspects of the law such as adultery, murder etc. His audience was always the Jews. Jesus was exposing the Pharisees and Sadducees misinterpreting of the law. He was not in any way “raising the standard” for the New Testament church as it (the church) was not even in existence until after His death.

        Your misconception of the tithe is that it was some form of giving standard in scripture; it was not. It was a system of taxation on agricultural produce alone. And I find it quite surprising that you have never seen scriptures which show non-farmers where exempt from tithing, it makes me wonder where you have sourced you thoughts on tithing. The apostles never taught or demanded it neither did the early church practise it. And as such the bible never stipulates that God set “10%” as a gauge to measure generosity. And Gary has highlighted the scriptures that show that tithing was limited to agricultural produce alone.

        It seems to me that you are conforming scriptures to fit your ideas instead of the other way round.

  3. Gary Arnold,

    I wonder if you can help me out here. According to you there are three separate tithes, whilst this sounds reasonable, I am a little bit confused and I wonder if what I have been stating is incorrect or not. The following portions of scripture from Leviticus and Numbers would imply that an annual tithe of the land into perpetuity was to be given to the Levites.

    Lev 27
    30And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD. 31And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. 33He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

    Num 18
    21And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.

    24But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

    On the face of it these verses would suggest that all the tithe of the Land year by year would be gathered and donated to the Levites. But Deut 26:12 confounds this view because it says here that the third year is the year of tithing.

    Deut 26
    12When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;

    Why does this verse emphasize the third year as the year of tithing if Israel were to give an annual tithe perpetually to the Levites? This would mean that the Levites would get the tenth annually, doubled every three years.

    This idea of an annual tithe to the Levites gets even more questionable when we consider the instructions in Lev 25:

    2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. 3Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; 4But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. 6And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, 7And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.

    Similar to the Sabbath year was the Jubile year in which Israel were commanded not to sow nor reap but the farmer was to eat what grew naturally in that year.

    11A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. 12For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.

    So the question here then is this: How can you tithe in the Sabbath and Jubile years if you are commanded not to sow nor REAP. Note also that verse 7 makes clear that the increase of cattle and beasts was to be meat for the farmer and his household so these verses would throw Lev 27 out of context if it meant an annual perpetual tithe of the land was to be given to the Levites. If you haven’t gathered the harvest of the fields in the Sabbath and Jubile years then you can’t determine a tithe anyway. This problem is resolved however if Deut 26:12 was the key indicator for what Lev 27 and Num 18 were saying – i.e., that only the third year (every three years) was to be the year of tithing when all the tithe of the Land in that year is given to the Levites.

    This takes us nicely into Deut 14:22-29. In this passage God commanded Israel to tithe everything (separate a tenth part of the increase of the field, the herds etc) and eat it before the Lord at the place where He sets His name. God said in verse 27 however that (whilst they are eating their tithes and rejoicing) they should not forsake the Levites because they have no inheritance with them (the rest of Israel). Now if an annual tithe (the first tenth if you like) was already set aside as provision for the Levites why would God then say here that whilst Israel are enjoying the annual tithe feast that they should not forsake the Levites because they have no inheritance with them? Verse 28 therefore tells us since the Levites have no inheritance all the tithe at the end of every three years should go to the Levites. Again this would make no sense if an annual tithe was already separated for them out of all the land. If we therefore take all the aforementioned scriptures together we are left with the conclusion that the third year (every three years) was the year of tithing when the Levites et al were given all the tithes that year. No tithing was done in the Sabbath year and in the Jubile year.

    I am therefore curious as to your interpretation which results in 3 separate tithes. I would venture to suggest that there was only one tithe – It was eaten year by year but all the tithe of the third year (or every three years) was given to the Levites et al. The Sabbath and Jubile years were not subject to a tithe. Correct me if I am wrong.

  4. Hi Brian
    I was an avid and devout tither for 20 years and was opposed to anyone who challenged me on it until the Lord provided the best teaching I had ever read on tithing. Many have had a revelation, not just on tithing from this book but about the real freedom that comes with being a child of Christ. Can I encourage you to read it. I think this humble and thorough teaching on the subject is difficult to refute. However I’m always in the position to have my viewpoint changed as we always should as Christians. I would be interested in your review of it. Perhaps I could learn something from you on its contents. Its called “Eating Sacred Cows” by Graeme Carle. It’s easy to find on Google and its a free .PDF book. Its also reviewed on http://www.goodreads.com

    God Bless
    Simon Davies

  5. Your business should probably hand in a payment inquire with netmail, two or three previous to all
    of your timeline.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] It’s a tried-and-true system that dates back to the time of Moses. God requires His people to tithe, and directs us to use those tithes to support the people that labor in His service. Numbers [...]

  2. [...] of the money that you make as His. Ten percent of everything you earn — the tithe — belongs to God. In our modern world, that money is given to support the work of the local church; without tithing, [...]

  3. [...] percent of your income to God — in various posts. We teach, according to scripture, that the tithe belongs to God, that tithing is necessary to fund the work of the kingdom, and that God attaches a promise of [...]

  4. [...] lot of our budget items, like housing, utilities and tithes, are fixed. The amounts are the same each month, we pay them monthly, and they’re easy to [...]

  5. [...] a master plan for your financial success, and that tithing is part of that plan. God says that the tithe belongs to Him, that it supports the work of the ministry, and that He will bless those who are faithful to tithe. [...]

  6. [...] already discussed the importance of the first two steps, working to support our families and tithing to support the church. But it’s in this third step where things really start to get [...]

  7. [...] has a plan for our finances, and giving plays a big role in it. In addition to tithing to our local churches, God wants us to give abundantly to those in need, and to ministries and organizations that advance [...]

  8. [...] best that we can with the things that He has given us. That means working hard, budgeting well, tithing faithfully, giving generously and saving [...]

  9. [...] three of the pillars of that plan already — God wants us to provide for our families, tithe faithfully to our local churches, and give generously to help the poor and build the Kingdom. But the fourth [...]

  10. [...] with money, and can even make us slaves. On the other hand, good habits like budgeting, saving, tithing and giving help us to stay out of trouble, and set us up to succeed in the long term. You may not [...]

  11. [...] also tells us in other places to keep careful account of our money, to give to the poor, to tithe, to plan for our futures and to build wealth for future generations. To do those things well, we [...]

  12. [...] requires His people to tithe, and He also intends for us to be generous in giving to the poor and supporting ministries that [...]

  13. [...] life. In fact, it shows up twice in God’s Master Plan for your money — God wants us to tithe faithfully to our churches and to give generously to people in need around us. There are rewards attached to [...]

  14. […] things that He requires of you. God makes it very clear throughout scripture that he wants to to tithe to your church, provide for your family, give to the poor and store up an inheritance for future […]

  15. […] we go any further, let’s define our terms. The tithe is the practice of giving 10 percent of your income to God (via the church), based on patterns […]

  16. […] idea also helps us to understand the principle of the tithe. God asks His people to give 10 percent of their income to Him and His work. If you’re on a tight budget, it can be downright scary to part with a tenth of your money […]

  17. […] you wanted to get out of debt, build up an emergency fund, save money to buy a house or start tithing and giving more generously. Now that we’re well into the year, do you know how well […]

  18. […] you’re a Christian, I hope you believe in tithing and giving. God wants us to do both. But if you’re trying to live frugally, it’s easy […]

  19. […] are a lot of reasons to tithe that we’ve covered here at God, Money & Me. Tithing is commanded by God in the Old Testament and re-enforced in the New Testament. Our tithing is important because the money we give serves as the primary financial resources for […]

  20. […] introduced in the Old Testament, and then confirmed by Jesus in the New Testament. Tithing is a command from God, but it comes with a promise of blessing if we’re faithful to […]

  21. […] certainly believe that God wants us to tithe: Scripture makes it clear that the tithe belongs to God, and that He promises to bless us if we are faithful to tithe to […]

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