What can we learn about tithing in the Bible? Stewardship is one of Scripture’s key principles. It challenges us to recognize that everything was created by God and is ultimately owned by God. Humans exist as the managers of these resources.
Our finances are one of the key areas where Christians practice stewardship. Our ability to acquire wealth is a gift given to us by God, and we need to be mindful of how we use these resources to fulfill God’s work to further His kingdom and take care of others.
Tithes and offerings have been the chief way financial stewardship has been practiced by God’s people throughout Scripture.
What is Tithing?
Despite the fact that many people use the word “tithe” synonymously with any church-related giving, the word tithe literally means “tenth.”
The tithe was an obligatory offering from the law of Moses requiring 10 percent of an Israelite’s firstfruits. Because God provided the harvest, this first part was returned to Him. It was a reminder to Israel that all things we have are His. It was a show of thankfulness for His provision. It also provided for the Levitical priesthood, festivals, and the needy.
DO MOST CHRISTIANS TITHE?
A lot of the confusion around the topic of whether Christians tithe comes from the terminology. Throughout the Old Testament, Israelites were expected to give 10 percent of their resources to God. That tithe or “tenth part” was a requirement of the law. And that’s already a little misleading, because when you factor in all of their required giving, Israelites actually gave around 23 percent of their income.
Today, many Christians would say that tithing was part of the law that Christians are no longer required to participate in. This doesn’t mean that they don’t believe that generous giving isn’t necessary; it means that they don’t believe that Christians are required to give a specific percentage. In fact, some of these people would say that given the model of the early Christians, a tithe asks far too little of us.
The conversation gets a little messy when many Christians use the word “tithing” to denote any sort of giving. Christians who have grown accustomed to thinking of all giving as tithing can struggle with this biblical concept. So it’s essential that we’re clear in our terminology.
We can give 3 percent, 5 percent, or 8 percent of our income to the church, but we can’t tithe it. To tithe is to give 10 percent. The statistics around tithing indicate that fewer than one-quarter of any congregation tithes. And on average, Christians give around 2.5 percent of their income to churches. So in that sense, no, most Christians do not tithe.
Fortunately, many church giving tools are now available to create a seamless digital tithing experience for your congregation. These tools can drastically alter the way your church gives and grows. With Pushpay’s tithing software, churches are better equipped to provide church members with online tithing options that best suite the needs and practices of their church community.
WHAT ARE OFFERINGS
Offerings, on the other hand, are considered gifts given outside of (or in addition to) a tithe. While tithes and offerings are technically two different practices in generosity, they’re often spoken about hand-in-hand.
TITHING IN THE BIBLE
One major value of having giving-related Scripture in one place is to see just how much God focuses on the fact that our resources are an extension of our faith. When we see this information pulled together, it’s hard to downplay the significance of how we use our resources.
This information can be used to put together sermons, Bible studies, or stewardship classes.
TITHING SCRIPTURES TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on any of the links below to jump to the following sections:
- Tithing before Moses
- What Moses said about tithing
- How Israelites tithed
- What Jesus said about tithing
- More note-worthy bible verses about tithing
Tithing before Moses
1. THE FIRST TITHE
And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Abram had just returned from defeating the armies of the four kings, rescuing his nephew Lot, and reclaiming his possessions, and he’s met by an enigmatic priest of God Most High named Melchizedek. The priest attributes Abram’s victory to God—possessor of heaven and earth—and he blesses Abram.
In gratitude to God’s authority and blessing, Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of his possessions. He doesn’t do it to invoke God’s blessing; he does it in response to God’s blessing.
The free ebook, Start With Generosity, has been an excellent resource for others hoping to learn more about how God approaches generosity. These real-life stories are written by and for people just like you, and it’s amazing to see what God does through them. Click here to download it today and learn how giving tools have helped these churches grow a more generous culture.
2. JACOB OFFERS A TITHE
And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Jacob responds to a dream he has received from God by building an altar and vowing that, in exchange for God’s care and provision, he would give God a tenth of his belongings.
What Moses Said about Tithing
In the second year of the Exodus, Moses informed the Israelites that they would be giving a tenth of their seed crops, fruit trees, and every tenth animal to the new Tabernacle. These instructions were God’s commands and not just suggestions or best practices.
It’s critical to recognize that tithing was central to God’s law. Israelites didn’t wait to feel inspired to tithe, they were expected to tithe—and on top of that, they were encouraged to give freewill offerings.
3. THE TITHE IS INTRODUCED AS LAW
Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
Here we see Moses giving the tithe as a law. The first 10 percent is called “holy,” or set apart, as belonging to God. The Israelites were to return to God what was already his, and in doing so, recognize the Almighty’s provision.
If for some reason someone needed to “redeem” or keep all or a portion of the goods he was to tithe, he could just give money instead. However, the cash would need to be equal to the tithe’s value, plus an extra fifth. In other words, Israelites could give 10 percent in produce, or 12 percent in cash.
When it came to livestock, a shepherd had to set aside every tenth for God. It was decided by simply counting the animals and consecrating every tenth. The shepherd was not to be deciding based on the quality of the animal.
4. TITHES ESTABLISHED FOR THE LEVITES
To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting
The Levites served a special function in Israel; they ministered before God as Israel’s priests. At God’s command, the Levites didn’t share in the other tribes’ inheritance. The Lord was their portion and inheritance (v. 21).
Here we see the Lord establishing that Israel’s tithe would operate as payment to the levitical priests for their services.
5. THE LEVITE’S TITHE
Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, “When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.”
From the income that the Levites received from the tithe, they were still responsible for giving 10 percent off the top to God.
6. OFFERINGS AND TITHES
But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.
The tithe was not a volitional offering. The 10 percent off the top belonged to God and the Israelites simply repaid it. But this wasn’t the only obligatory tithe. They also tithed to support a special jubilee festival (Deut. 12) and took a third tithe every three years to take care of orphans, widows, and the poor (Deut. 14). These mandatory offerings averaged out to about 23 percent a year.
On top of these compulsory tithes, there were regular opportunities for freewill offerings. These were generous gifts that expressed the Israelites’ gratefulness through voluntary giving in response to their devotion.
At a bare minimum, they gave 23 percent a year, but there was no ceiling on their generosity. They could—and frequently would—give exorbitantly out of their excess. In response to Moses’ call for contributions to the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites literally gave so much that Moses had to command them to stop giving (Ex. 36:2–7).
7. TITHING FOR FESTIVALS
“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.”
By God’s design, the Israelites were a celebratory people. Part of their tithe went to preparing for festivals and celebrations!
8. TITHING FOR ORPHANS, WIDOWS, AND SOJOURNERS
At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
The first tithe taken annually was used to support the Levites. Every third year a special tithe was taken for the distinct purpose of supporting orphans, widows, and strangers. Baked into God’s law was a special provision to take care of the most vulnerable citizens. Interestingly enough, this included caring for people from outside of their community.
How Israelites Tithed
The Israelites didn’t think about the tithe as a gift they offered God. Rather, it was a payment they owed to the Creator of all things. These tithes were given as “firstfruits,” meaning God was given the best of what they had. Whatever they had, 10 percent went to God right off the top.
On top of that, Israelites were encouraged to give voluntary offerings. These were an expression of thankfulness and gratitude. So, we can think of the tithe as a tax that Israel paid to God, and they were also encouraged to give above and beyond that out of their own willingness.
9. BRINGING IN THE TITHE
And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the Lord. As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.
(2 CHRON. 31:4–5)
Because we trade almost exclusively in currency, it’s fascinating to consider what it would be like in a largely cashless society. How do you tithe when tithing means setting aside 10 percent of your grain, wine, oil, honey, and produce?
Bringing in your tithe is quite an affair when you realize that it entails exacting division of actual goods and livestock, and then the responsibility of bringing them to the storehouse.
10. NEHEMIAH REESTABLISHES THE TITHE (NEH. 10:35–37)
We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor.
Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem as part of God’s plan to restore Israel after a 70-year captivity. Preparing God’s people for temple worship in their homeland required a reorientation to the worship rhythms in the life of an Israelite.
At this point, many Israelites had lived their entire lives in captivity. And while the stories and traditions were kept alive verbally, they no longer knew what it was like to live under the law. Here we have the reestablishment of the Law in regards to offerings and tithes.
Even with this preparation, Nehemiah finds that the Levites aren’t receiving the portion of the tithes that are to be sustaining them (Neh. 13:10).
11. THE PRINCIPLES OF PLENTY
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
If the world and everything in it truly belong to the Lord, why wouldn’t this principle be true? This isn’t the only time that the Lord promises Israel that he’ll reward generosity with plenty (Deut. 15:10; Prov. 11:25; Malachi 3:8–12).
The challenge is that one must have the faith to give sacrificially to see if the Lord keeps his word.
12. THE LORD REQUIRES MORE THAN REGULAR TITHES
“Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” declares the Lord God.
The Lord is angry at Israel, and Amos has come to proclaim God’s judgment against her. It doesn’t matter if the nation of Israel is dependable and exacting in the giving of their tithes and offerings if their behavior negates God’s laws.
In a passage that is thematically echoed by Jesus in Matt. 23:23, God makes it clear that stringent attention to the law in one area isn’t an excuse for license in others.
13. THE ROBBING OF GOD
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, “How have we robbed you?” In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
Throughout the Old Testament, an offering was something you gave, but the tithe was something you owed. It belonged to the Lord and it was repaid—it wasn’t a gift. On top of the importance of recognizing God’s sovereignty in the tithe, the whole priestly system relied on the tithe to stay functional.
Of particular interest here is the how the withholding of some in Israel put the whole nation at risk of God’s judgment.
14. TESTING GOD IN THE TITHE
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.
In his mercy, God desperately wants to use the carrot rather than the stick. If he can, he’ll try to get his people to respond to promises of blessing for their obedience instead of having to bring the hammer of judgement down.
In verse 10, the Lord reiterates the problem; the storehouses are empty. If they would only be compliant, there would not only be a full larder, but they would experience an overabundance of provision and freedom from want. Their abundance would also be proof that God was in Israel, making them the envy of nations.
What Jesus Said about Tithing
Jesus set Himself at odds with the religious establishment. A lot of this tension revolved around the tendency to follow the law but to ignore its spirit. They ignored justice and mercy, and their idea of faithfulness revolved around an extreme focus on the minutiae of the law.
So when Jesus specifically talks about the tithe, He focuses on being rigid in following the tithe while ignoring the weightier matters of what it means to follow God. But when He brings the topic up, His instruction is not that they should have neglected tithing, but rather that they should have also focused on what was really important.
Throughout Jesus’ teaching on giving, He doesn’t seek to undermine the principle of the tithe but encourages people to practice their giving in meaningful ways.
15. GIVING IN SECRET
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The terrible thing about our acts of devotion is how easy they are to twist in order to put our faithfulness on display. Once we’ve made ourselves the object and focus of our generosity, we have undermined the act.
God has always promised reward for the faithfulness of his saint, but Jesus tells us that when you draw attention to your giving, the respect and awe you’ve inspired becomes your reward—invalidating further blessing.
16. DON’T NEGLECT THE WEIGHTIER ISSUES
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
The picture here of the religious person carefully measuring out their spices to ensure that their tithe is exact while ignoring justice and mercy is powerful. To show concern for tithing your smallest crops while ignoring the law’s weightier concerns is shortsighted.
17. THE FAITHFUL GIVER
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Obviously, the point of this passage is in the faith of the widow to give what she had out of poverty. This is a beautiful picture of trust in God’s provision, and Christ’s response to this act of faith demonstrates God’s feelings toward our sacrifice and generosity.
What is also interesting here is the fact that Jesus went out of his way to sit and watch people give their offerings. God’s interest in our giving isn’t cursory. He recognizes more than we do how our faith is revealed in our habits of giving.
18. TITHING AND JUSTICE
But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
There isn’t parity between Matthew and Luke in everything Jesus says. But this is one of the instances where Luke also records Jesus’ words on a matter. Even to a gentile like Luke, Jesus words that we need to give and be mindful of expressing God’s love and justice is important.
19. TITHING AND PRIDE
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Pharisee in this parable finds his value and justification in his devotional acts. He holds up his fasting and tithes up to God like a badge and thanks God that he isn’t like this lowly tax gatherer. As we have seen, the tithe tied Israel together. It was an offering that was common to all and was used to take care of the nation’s priests, widows, orphans, and transients. It wasn’t intended to make the giver self-righteous and prideful.
20. TITHING TO MELCHIZEDEK
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.
With this discussion on Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek, we’ve come full circle. Moses first tells us of this tithe in Genesis, and the author of Hebrews readdresses it as he compares Christ’s ministry to the priest Melchizedek.
The author of Hebrews argues that, although the tithe was supposed to be paid to the Levites, Abraham gave a tenth of his spoils to the priest Melchizedek. And that, through this act, the Levites also metaphorically tithed to Melchizedek. Not only did the priest take a tithe from Abraham, he blessed him. Hebrew’s author says, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. (v. 7)” The whole chapter compares the priesthood of Christ to this mysterious Old Testament character.
It’s only appropriate that the last place the tithe is mentioned it’s being used to point to Christ’s preeminence.
MORE NOTE-WORTHY BIBLE VERSES ABOUT TITHING AND OFFERINGS
- (Exodus 35:5) From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering.
- (Exodus 35:21–22) And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord.
- (Exodus 36:3–6) And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.”
- (Deuteronomy 8:18) You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
- (Deuteronomy 16:10) Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.
- (Deuteronomy 16:16–17) “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.
- (1 Chronicles 29:2–3) So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony, colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble. Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God.
- (1 Chronicles 29:9–12) Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly. Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
- (2 Chronicles 31:12) God’s people faithfully brought in the contributions, tithes and dedicated gifts.
- (Nehemiah 10:35–37) We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor.
- (Nehemiah 12:43–44) (God’s people) offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing…could be heard far away. Men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, first fruits and tithes.
- (Nehemiah 13:11–12) So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
- (Haggai 1:1–11) In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
- (Psalm 50:10) For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
- (Proverbs 11:24–25) One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
- (Proverbs 28:22) A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
- (Proverbs 28:27) Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
- (Matthew 6:19–21) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- (Matthew 6:26–33) Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- (Luke 6:38) If you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give–large or small–will be used to measure what is given back to you.
- (Acts 2:42–45) And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
- (Romans 12:13) Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
- (1 Corinthians 16:2) On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
- (2 Corinthians 8:10–12) And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
- (2 Corinthians 9:6–8) The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
- (1 Timothy 6:6–9) But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
- (1 Timothy 6:17–19) Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
- (Hebrews 6:10) For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
- (Hebrews 13:16) Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
- (1 John 3:17) But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
So What’s This Mean for Us?
In the end, tithing wasn’t something Israel did in the same way we mindlessly toss a gratuity down with our bill at a restaurant. It was an intentional practice that God used to teach Israel about his sovereign ownership of everything. Instead of being consumers of their blessings, they had to stop and think through just how much blessing they had.
HOW TO DECIDE IF YOU SHOULD TITHE
When people think about tithing today, they tend to focus on its legalistic aspects—and they’re right to. It’s easy to religiously go through the motions but never have your behavior impact your heart. This was the issue that Jesus took with tithing (and other empty spiritual practices). But that doesn’t make the practices irrelevant.
For instance, Jesus took issue with the way people handled fasting and prayer. He called people out for using these practices as a performance to draw attention to how spiritual they were. They’d loudly pray in public or look as miserable as possible when fasting. Their bodies and actions were like a billboard for their religious superiority. Jesus even had to call out how they made a big deal about their giving in order to show off.
But these abuses didn’t negate the importance of these practices. Throughout the New Testament, we still see people still practicing these disciplines. Jesus wasn’t dismissing the value of these practices, only their misuse.
When it comes to tithing (the giving of 10 percent of one’s income), we need to ask ourselves some tough questions. For instance, we might come to the conclusion that we’re no longer under the law that would dictate 10 percent, but it’s clear that we’re still expected to be generous. So how much should we give? And when should we give?
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to say that under grace God’s people should be less generous than they were under the law. But too often, in a reaction to legalism, people swing in the opposite direction. Giving under grace becomes something that’s done emotionally, haphazardly, and periodically.
The question about whether Christians should tithe becomes troubling when it leads to an outcome where God’s people are less faithful in their giving. It would be a mistake to assume that it was easier for God’s people to give in the Old Testament. It’s just not true. Being a steward is difficult and there is always a temptation to hold onto what we have. God often chastised the Israelites for neglecting their responsibility to give (Malachi 3:8–9).
The question of whether or not we should tithe is really a question of whether we should give. And the answer is an unequivocal “yes!” How much? We should really think of 10 percent as entry-level giving. There’s no reason to assume that our giving should fall short of a tithe. As our income increases, so should our giving. If you’re blessed with a billion-dollar income, 10 percent is
But do you really need $900 million? You could easily give 90 percent away and live off the remaining 10 percent. But to do that, you have to have a real strong sense that what you own ultimately belongs to God.
The real key is to make an intentional decision about how much you intend to give and stick to it. Don’t leave it up to inspiration because—more often than not—you’ll end up giving significantly less than if you sat down and decided upon a giving strategy.
HOW CHURCH LEADERS SHOULD TACKLE TITHING WITH THEIR CHURCHES
Teaching about giving is critical. A lot of Christians don’t give consistently because they haven’t been taught about its importance. And not only do people tend to hoard more than they share, but every generation gives less. There’s no question that we’re more prosperous than Depression-era Christians, yet Christians today give less.
Jesus taught about money all the time in a culture full of people who didn’t have a whole lot to spare. Why? Because he knew that nothing demonstrated the truth about our faith better than how we used our resources. When we trust God to provide and we’re passionate about expanding His kingdom, we bring everything we have to the table.
When Jesus talked about money, he compared it to “mammon,” an alternative god that competes for people’s allegiance. He was very clear that one couldn’t serve them both (Matthew 6:24), but there is always a temptation to try. Clergy need to risk the ire of congregations by discussing this problem and helping people understand that consistent, sustained giving is one of the most significant ways Christians can combat the temptation to put our finances first.
Here are a few tips for clergy to consider when dealing with this difficult topic:
- Get your leadership on board
Ultimately, the whole purpose of leadership is to model your church’s vision and mission. If you want people to get on board, then the church leaders and staff need to be committed to the ideal. So whatever amount you encourage your members to give, people in leadership need to demonstrate.
- Be clear about your expectations
Because talking to people about their finances always feels so high stakes, churches occasionally talk about giving in vague ways. The nice thing about opting for the tithe (10 percent) is that it’s clear and simple to understand. People tend to rise to the occasion when you’re clear about your expectations. Whatever entry-level percentage you land on, make sure your church knows it.
- Talk about giving regularly
People get uncomfortable hearing pastors talk about their money, so pastors often shy away from the topic. But the best practice here is a little more counterintuitive than that. What they need to do is talk about it more often. That’s how you get people comfortable with thinking about their finances is an extension of their faith. Create a rhythm where you talk about money, and start with one that borders on feeling like you’re talking about it too often.
- Make giving easy
Imagine working your way through a four-week series about giving that inspires some of your church’s irregular givers—but then you hand them a basket to put cash or checks in. Most people aren’t carrying these forms of currency. If you want people to give regularly, then meet them where they are. Make sure you offer a simple, fast, mobile option that makes giving a snap.
- Share giving stories
Information needs to be delivered in a way that inspires—and that’s where testimonies come in. People know they should give, but they can’t imagine how it will affect them. They need to hear from people who made the decision to give regularly and about the positive impact it had on their lives.
- Offer financial classes
There are a lot of people who would love to give, but they just don’t understand how to manage their finances—so they always feel like they’re struggling just to make ends meet. If you want them to give, it could be that the first step is teaching them how to budget and why it’s vital to stay out of debt.
Encouraging your church to give isn’t an insurmountable task. You just need to create a strategic plan for explaining why generosity is so critical, what your expectations are, and a 21st-century giving method that makes sense for people who are ready to give. When you’re able to do those things effectively, you’ll find onboarding your congregation will get a lot easier.
Online Tithing Tools
According to Nonprofits Source, churches that accept tithing online increase overall donations by 32%. Additionally, according to some of our research at Pushpay, digital givers are more generous than non-digital givers and, on average, give 24% more in a month.
Provide your congregation with an effortless digital giving experience that allows them to easily tithe anytime, anywhere. Here at Pushpay, we offer tithing software that drives recurring giving and makes administration simple.