According to some, tithing is an Old Testament law, so Christians should not tithe. Others, however, assert that tithing is an enduring command applicable for modern believers. But what is biblical tithing?

Various kinds of contributions appear in the Torah (cf. Num 18:21-32; Deut 14:22-7). Even before tithing, every Israelite was to give a gift to the priests known as terumah (תְּרוּמָה), meaning “a gift which one lifts up” (Exod 25:2-3; 30:13-14; Lev 7:32; Deut 12:11). According to the Mishnah, the amount for this offering was flexible, around 1/30 to 1/50 of the harvest (m. Terumot 4:3). Then the first tithe (מַעֲשֵׂר; maaser) could be set aside — a tenth of the harvest given to local Levites (Num 18:24), who then gave a tenth to priests (cf. Num 18:26; Neh 10:39). But then a second tithe was taken. It was used for the expenses and food while the farmer’s family worshipped in Jerusalem (Deut 14:24-26). Every third and sixth year of a seven-year cycle this second tithe was given to the poor (Deut 26:12).

Technically, the laws of the tithe apply only to grain, wine, and oil (Deut 14:22; Neh 13:12). Early on, biblical tradition expanded tithing to fruit and other agricultural produce (cf. Lev 27:30; 2 Chron 31:5; Matt 23:23). More, tithe laws apply only to produce grown in Israel — “God’s own land” (Lev 20:24; 25:23). Tithes were always crops, as opposed to money.

In light of all these verses, the common modern practice of giving 10% of one’s income is not exactly what the Bible means by a “tithe.” In our day, fewer people make their living in farming than in biblical times. There is no functioning Temple in Jerusalem, and there is no priesthood to accept one’s tithed goods. But while our livelihood may have changed, God’s commands in the Torah have not. Jewish tradition maintains that giving to the needy, benevolence, and charitable contributions are prominent in Torah and should be practiced today. While we cannot practice precise biblical tithing today, by supporting institutions and people who serve God, we imitate our Maker who, in his goodness, feeds the whole earth (Ps 126:35).

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109 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting article about tithing. I was taught early on that a tenth of one’s gross income was to be given in support of the clergy. I had never thought that monetary tithe can be used to alleviate dire human needs like food, clothing, and shelter.

    • In ancient Israel, priests were not allowed to have jobs or run businesses. Tribe of Levi had no land of their own to farm. Their only job was to serve God! So in order for them to live the tithe was an absolute necessity. Which is why Mal 3 is so pointed. It literally fed their families and they had no other means by which they could live. Unlike Kohanim, the modern clergy do not have such limitations. No passage in NT forbids pastors to have livelihood outside of charitable donations.

    • I too thought tithing was for the clergy, and they own a car/house nicer than mine. I also had never thought that monetary tithe can be used to alleviate dire human needs like food, clothing, and shelter. I would work at the Soup Kitchen, and donate clothes, that’s my 10%.

  2. Thank you Prof for the information. Wow I am learning so much here. There are lots of church debates with regards the Tithe. It is so enlightening to receive this knowledge. Some pastors did not explain enough why should we pay Tithe.

  3. Great lesson about tithing. My family has always given to anyone that needs clothes or food we have even taken in strangers if need be. My mothers training was we are all family through God and Jesus and we must help when needed that is Gods way and Jesus”s compassion for others.

  4. In Genesis 28:22 Jacob makes a vow including a promise to give God a tenth (tithe) of whatever God gives to Jacob. But how was Jacob to give a tithe to God since there were no priests yet in his day?

  5. I was raised to believe that everything belongs to GOD and he requires us to give him 10% back in Tithes so the Church can pay bills and function, so that is what I have done all of my life, the Church I am in now gives 15% to homeless.

  6. I found the article is very interesting. I am not sure to agree with the explanation. I have some questions: “No passage in NT forbids pastors to have livelihood outside of charitable donations.” What if does the clergy devote his total time in serving a congregation? How does he live?

  7. Just asking, and do you provided manuscrispt or writen outline for every lecture or topics, for the student as an handouts?

    • We include detailed notes for all classed as PDFs. Anything you see on the screen, we provide as lecture notes. But of course, teachers go “off notes” as they feel necessary.

  8. I have to agree with you Prof. Shir. When the subject of tithes comes up in one of my sermons or my blog I am reminded of Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians chapter nine. Giving comes from the heart and is not dictated as a specific amount each time.

  9. As I am a believer, do not have a church home. I have gotten away from tithing and after listening to a preacher on the radio, want to start again but didn’t know where. Her good article and Wii lace to research honest foundations especially for Israel. Thank you.

    • Becky, if you take some time to pray and ask God to show you specifically how and where (details) I believe Hashem will lead you (over time) and show exactly what to do. Just keep your heart open.

  10. Wow! Great information. What would be proper tithe of today’s working man who has no land other than a lot for his house?

  11. Thank you for this awesome teaching. It seems some churches today use the 10% as either a whipping post or a promise of prosperity. Giving to the poor and needy is essential, I believe; but lining the pockets of rich pastors is not Scriptural. The widow gave what she could.

    • Susan, you are quite right. The prosperity angle tied to the tithe solicitations is sacrilegious and twists the intention of those words. Sad, but true.

  12. Great article; so in essence tithing then can be seen as our service to God, when we put Him first in our lives and honour Him before anything else the rest just follows on. So we don’t “have” to tithe, we “get” to tithe out of our love for Him.

    • Bingo Nicholas! That is the attitude we all should have. Rather than focus on the “obligation” and 10%, let’s realize that giving to the Lord and to his servants is a privilege, honor and a way to show our devotion, whether it be 10% or not! Giving is worship!

  13. Tithe in our church is gathered and sent to the conference to be divided among the pastors. We give ten percent plus offerings.sometimes it is hard, but there is a promise in Malachi 3 that we can claim.

    • Dear Kathy, as I showed you in my article the actual biblical tithe is not 10%. Sorry if that was not clear. And sorry to disappoint, but you can’t really claim the blessing mentioned in Mal 3. I know the TV preachers tell you that you can… It is a part of the Sinai covenant and that is a rather large package which includes many blessings and curses too. You can’t have this one blessing alone. If you want the blessing, you must accept the responsibilities as well. This is what Israel did at the foot of Sinai. But the good news is… you can worship God by giving because you love him and he has already done so much for you!

  14. You appear to have cut in from somewhere without mentioning Abraham with whom a tenth giving was first mentioned. Can you tell us that Christ abolished, discountenanced tithing?

    • I deliberately did not mention Abraham’ example, because the tithe he gave was quite different. In my opinion, no one abolished anything. Tithing to the Aaronic priests/temple is a stipulation of the Sinai covenant, which was never meant to be literally binding on all citizens of the world but on Israel and the land which God gave them. The principle is valid anywhere, but the form was given to ancient Israel.

  15. The first time I see tithing in the Bible, is when Abraham met Melchizedek.
    he was a priest of God Most High. 19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

  16. The first time I see tithing in the Bible, is when Abraham met Melchizedek and recognized.
    he was a priest of God Most High. 19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

    • Yes, and he gave him the spoils of war, not money 🙂 In antiquity, people with lesser rights (foreigners like Abraham) paid such taxes to those who were landowners (local rulers).

  17. Tithing is a big problem in today churches as it is not explained the same, especially that it concerns money, can you explain how we should tithe with money please prof.

    • As I showed you the “biblical tithe” is not currency and not even a 10%. But even non-farmers can give an offering, and we can be as generous as we choose to be because the bigger principle behind the tithing commandment is worshiping God by supporting those who dedicate themselves wholly to the work of God.

  18. Thanks and God bless. What about after giving to the needy and the downtrodden around us and supporting the work of the church, do I need to still pay tithe? Thanks

  19. Finally someone making sense. Our family was called to the priesthood 15 years ago we left all behind as both firstborns to follow Yehsua Hamasiach. You are a priest foreva acc 2 the order of Melchizedek. Id love to share the comments & learn more from prof Pinchas?

  20. What? No comments on Malachi about a man robbing God? Nothing confusing there… and Malachi 3:10? What about accepting God’s challenge to prove him?

  21. Thank you very much prof. for the concise explanations given about the tithe in the modern context and all the bible references associated with it. However, i would like if you throw more light on Hebrew chapters 7 and 8 as it relates to the new covenant in Christ.

    • As you can see from the article the biblical tithe is much more than 10%, plus its always in crops, not money, meant to be eaten. Giving is commendable, but let’s not full ourseves, most of us do not practice giving in “biblical proportions”

  22. Christians have no business paying tithe. We are obliged to give freewill offerings of what we have to the Church to be used as deemed fit including care and support of Ministers. There’s nowhere, absolutely nowhere Christians in the New Testament were asked to pay tithe even routine offerings.

  23. Thank you for this great information. For myself, I feel called to follow in the footsteps of Abraham who is the father of our Faith. He tithed to Melchizedek before the law was established. Now I tithe to the eternal High Priest. God has blessed me amazingly. He’s faithful!

    • Abraham did tithe the spoils of war, as a one-time act to Melchizedek, in recognition of his victory. It was a social custom in his day, not a commandment.

  24. There are verses about tithing gold and silver. Jesus said tithing shouldn’t be left undone. It’s a picture. As the Terumah was lifted high and placed in the hands of the priest, Jesus was lifted up and given to the hands of his Father (both Firstfruits). We should tithe.

    • There is no mention of tithing there. In 1 Cor 16:2 Paul calls the collection a “gift” – χάρις. He also mentions setting aside IF (ἐὰν) one has prospered in v.2. And this gift is delivered to Jerusalem. It is for the holy ones (τοὺς ἁγίους) v.1. i.e. for the Jewish believers in Israel, for the poor, not a temple tithe.

    • I can see the logic, but there is no priesthood to give it to… For Israel, the tithe was a matter of covenant faithfulness and it is tied to the covenant promises.

  25. Thanks for your knowledge & insight. What do you think about tax deductible giving? Do do you think this violates Jesus’ s teaching in Matt. 6: 3-4. “…let not thy left hand know what thy right hand does. 4. That thy alms may be in secret and thy Father ….

    • Not a tithe, but charity or benevolence for sure. Helping anyone in a tangible way would be considered giving, but not a tithe, really.

  26. Thank you sir for taking time to explain biblical tithing in details.
    My local church requires everyone to give 1/10 of their monthly income as tithe, and it is preached that whoever fails to pay is rather robbing God.
    Do you have any word for my church?

    • I could say a few words, but I probably should not. It is not my place to judge the leaders of the church that use Mal 3 this way. There is nothing wrong with giving to a worthy cause. Sorry, brother, but my job is not to criticize people, but rather help those who want to learn God’s wisdom to understand God’s instructions better. I hope you understand my hesitation.

  27. Hi Prof. Gen 28:20-22 is used by Christians as a reason for tithing. This happened before Num 18, where God instructed Israel to support Levites. What is your take?

  28. Many things in Scripture were meant from God to Israel and have nothing to do with the Church,including the Sabbath. We are to give out of a pure heart,not begrudgingly….

    • Well, if the church wants to accept the Bible, then I guess all these things do have “something” to do with them. The commandments Almighty gave to Israel are quite useful to all who worship the God of Israel, at least in principle. These are all good things and God does not change, even if we do.

  29. Tithing is not applicable to the New Testament church simply because there is none assigned to give and take tithe. In the OT Levites were not given any piece of land when it was given out to the remaining 11 tribes. It became the responsibility of them to take care

  30. the Levites. When Jesus assign the mission, they were told that freely you received freely you give. However, church is not free from giving. We are asked to share one to the none even if we have only two. I.e 50% is to be shared.

  31. I think that in giving one tenth of our total income we acknowledge that everything belongs to the Lord and in giving one tenth of our total income to God, we trust and honor Him. I then ask Him to show me how He wants me to give His money.

  32. I have been through very tight circumstances with my two children, but always my Father has helped me out.
    If I am still alive when my money runs out, I have to wait and see how He takes care of me. I am 90 now.

    • Wow, the Lord blessed you with 90 years. I pray he will give you health and strength as you continue to bear witness to his goodness.

  33. One scripture confuses me re tithing. Deuteronomy 14:22-26. If you live too far away, exchange produce for money and when you get to Jerusalem, spend it on what your heart desires and eat it there. Did they eat their own tithe?

    • Yes, Diane, the second tithe (not the first) is used for the benefit of the worshiper and his family, to facilitate participation in corporate worship in Jerusalem. I know no one teaches in the church these days that tithes can be used for the worshiper’s benefit, but then no one teaches about the second tithe either. 🙂

  34. My understanding has recently become to view the heart behind it as with all of Jesus’ “third way” teachings. So then I would consider a terumah to bless my spiritual oversight (pastor/priest), 10% to support my community (church or local fellowship) and 10% in savings for my family as another form of worship/obedience.

    Then if tzedakah is “righteousness displayed”, generosity for the poor should come about morr than just every 3rd tithe to myself/family but the heart of it being a lifestyle of generosity; which I should try to do as often as is wise to do and are directed by the Spirit.

    Also, I’ve always understood the levitical tithe was of produce and never money, but have observed the (mishnah’s?) flexibility for far off diaspora Jews who could not make it in time to give appropriate tithes/offerings (or food might spoil on the journey) so they could give the monetary value instead?

    Is this perhaps the guiding principle where tithing has transmuted into more of a financial form to support your church community in modern times? Or would you consider it closer to a “temple tax” in its modern forms?

    I would also be interested in comments around the concepts of “eye of darkness/light” in antiquity that supposedly referred to those electing the lesser 1/50th terumah showing less light (generosity) than those electing the 1/30th….Was it a Hillel vs Shammei argument? I haven’t yet gone that deep into the study but am interested to hear other commentary on it.

    • I like you thinking, Shaun. Very reasoned. I will start with your last comment. As far as the eye (dark/light) goes I do not think this is about the terumah, I think that is a reference to overall charity and benevolence, a human disposition, period. And you are right with times the concept of tithing produce has changed into “general support of worship institution and its servants”, which is still within the spirit of what the Torah teaches. Third year tithe could be spread out over time. I do not think it happened once per 3 years.

      • Thank you for your considered reply and the time it took to prepare, write and respond to this thread!

        I had meant to include the broader context for eye of darkness/light too, but was trying to keep it on topic haha But absolutely agree and am glad to hear the concept validated as I’ve not heard much on the topic.

        As for the tzedakah, my understanding was it could be applied to as often as you tithed….so if a weekly wage, you’d give to charitable causes at least once a month and if a monthly wage then you’d probably give quarterly in line with tradition?

        But I’d purposed in my heart to do always do greater than that wherever possible anyways. My asking isn’t for justification of my own practice, but more to ensure accurate language when teaching others. Thank you again for your time professor. Grace and peace.

  35. I am often convicted of not giving my full 10%. I always give regardless but since my husband took his life fnd finances always tight due to bad spending. George Muller also confuses me as claims we need to be financially free to tithe or am i looking for excuses

    • I cannon comment on George Muller. But I do know that you should listen to the Lord and pay attention when you are convicted by him (not by people). Please do not be guided by peer pressure or guilt, but by his Spirit, self-control, and a sound mind. My advice is to be sensitive and sensible.

  36. shalom prof. Pinchas Shir. wonderful revelation from The Father and His Word . Nobody should confuse you. Keep the light on.Luke 7:28 do we know the will of our Father in His kingdom? why do Gods children want to keep back a ninth when we are called to love, share,serve,care

  37. I am a pastor for 13years now, and dont take money from church to survive, but encourage church to pay tigh, like you said the levites exchanged harvest again for money, you must pay tigh cause only your way of earnings changed, how must those full time pastors survive?

  38. It is very sad that some churches remove persons from positions or prevent them from actively participating in services when they dont tithe.

  39. This has always been an interesting topic for discussion. As was stated, it referred to agricultural produce giving. It is difficult, or impossible, to directly translate this to money, especially in a non-agrarian society. Tithe is translated: tenth. I believe in our modern context of giving to the Lord this can be a principle for our giving, usually to support a local assembly/church (ekklesia). We must give out of a joyful heart and a tenth of our income is also a reminder that all our assets and income belong to the Lord! Giving above this level, in my opinion, is an offering to the Lord.

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