The concept of tithing money to one’s church has biblical roots. But even though there’s tithing in the Bible, there’s also a debate today over what church tithes should look like and how much people should give.
We’ll take a look at the issue from a broad perspective, explore some tithing scriptures and look at how tithing in the Bible can be put into practice.
Merriam-Webster defines “tithe” as “a tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment.” But from a Christian perspective, let’s look at church tithes and tithing scriptures more specifically to see what we can learn and discern.
Tithing in the Bible: What Does It Say?
As Pure Flix Insider has noted, tithing is an Old Testament construct, with the law commanding the Israelites to give 10 percent of their crops and livestock to the temple and tabernacle. So, let’s review some tithing scriptures in the Old Testament that cover these issues:
The Bible Discusses Giving One-Tenth
“Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering. Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the Lord from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest. You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’” - Numbers 18:26-29 (NIV)
Numbers 18 discusses giving 10 percent, and refers to these “tithes” as “the Lord’s portion.” This is one of the areas of scripture where modern Christians see a need to similarly give from their own earnings.
Tithing in the Bible: Giving Firstfruits
“As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.” - 2 Chronicles 31:5 (NIV)
When it comes to tithing in the Bible, some Christians see the importance of church tithes being the “firstfruits” of one’s earnings. So, before doing anything else with one’s money, many people first give to their church or chosen ministry.
Tithing Scriptures: A Tithe from Everything
“‘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.’” - Leviticus 27:30 (NIV)
Leviticus 27:30 is another scripture where believers see tithing in the Bible. This verse proclaims that a tithe from everything that is grown on the land belongs to God. If this was the case in the Old Testament, many Christians believe it is still the case today.
Church Tithes: Honoring God
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” - Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)
Even if one disagrees with a modern-day commandment that Christians should give 10 percent of their earnings, the Bible is clear that believers should help those in need. Proverbs 3:9-10 proclaims that one must honor God with his or her wealth — and again mentions firstfruits.
So, Is Tithing Required of Modern Christians?
As we look at tithing scriptures and discussions surrounding church tithes, it’s important to explore what’s actually required of contemporary Christians.
Financial guru Dave Ramsey calls tithing a “biblical mandate” and explains that giving “softens the heart of the giver and frees their soul from dependence on money.” Here’s how Ramsey differentiates between tithing in the Bible and giving offerings:
“A tithe is an amount (a percentage of your income) and an offering is anything given beyond that, but not in place of the tithe.
After you’ve tithed, you can give in other ways: Giving a cash offering to your church above and beyond the tithe; giving money to a charity you support; giving to a friend or neighbor in need; or giving of your time or talents. Not only does giving of your money or other resources generate good in the lives of others, it also generates contentment in your heart.”
READ ALSO: How to Teach Your Child to be Charitable
It’s important to understand these differences when it comes to church tithing. But not everyone agrees with Ramsey. Others would argue that the tithe isn’t required of contemporary Christians.
Thomas Schreiner penned a piece for The Gospel Coalition about tithing scriptures and church tithing. And though he argued that tithing isn’t required today, here’s what he said about giving:
“Even though tithing isn’t required today, it does not follow that believers should hoard their possessions. We are commanded to support those who preach the gospel (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:6–14; 1 Tim. 5:17–18). And while we should enjoy the good things God gives us, we are also called to be generous to those in need (1 Tim. 6:17–19; 2 Cor. 8–9). Wealth can so easily become an idol, leading us to abandon the Lord.
Since God is to be our treasure, believers are to give generously and freely. For many in the West, this will mean giving more than 10 percent.”
The late evangelist Billy Graham offered some powerful comments about his belief in church tithing, adding that one-tenth of one’s income should be given to the church and Christian organizations.
“We have found in our own home, as have thousands of others, that God’s blessing upon the nine-tenths, when we tithe, helps it to go farther than ten-tenths without His blessing,” he once said of the results of living out tithing in the Bible.
Want to read more about the tithing discussion? You can go more in-depth here. And for even more about tithing be sure to watch “Wealth & The Word” (episode 2) featuring financial experts Bob Katz and Mike Storms as they teach you how to use a balance sheet and income statement to assess your financial health.
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