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).

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

217 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.

      + More answers (15)
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Stories of the Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 and . Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
    • 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%.

      + More answers (1)
  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?
    • Simple - sacrifice. Just as his ancestors sacrificed to God, so would he, since there are no priests or the temple yet.

      + More answers (2)
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Stories of the Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 and The First Commandment: Deuteronomy in the Gospels. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
    • Thandu Go back . reread. God didn't ask Jacob for anything. Jacob offered God a bargain Increase my flock and protect me and I will pay once. Abraham didn't. Abram did once and not on his own goods. We need to support those who teach truth. So many don't
    • If you look at a pastor as a vocation/profession (just like a doctor, electrician or a college professor) - why should they not get paid for their expertise and efforts? All other professionals earn a living. Pastors have families and expenses too.

      + More answers (4)
    • Alma, both my pastor and his wife work probably double the hours ministering to the people of our church than most people do in a job setting. Should they not be compensated when they "spend" themselves for the people of the church? Works out to far less than minimum wage.

      + More answers (2)
  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?
    • Naturally, the congregation should support the pastor in this case. There is nothing wrong with that! But pastors are not forbidden from outside employment, while the priests in ancient Israel were forbidden. All I am saying the situation is not exactly the same to make a direct analogy.

      + More answers (3)
    • We are glad that you are finding our articles enlightening. You’ve already started your path into Scripture, but there’s so much more that awaits you! Consider enrolling in our immersive online courses: The Stories of the Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or . We guarantee that they will deepen your understanding of Scripture and enrich your faith experience.
Load more comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here
Words left: 50
Please enter your comment!