It is popular in Christian churches to teach that we must tithe 10% of our paycheck to the church, but is this really what the Bible teaches? I find it quite ironic (and hypocritical) that the churches who teach that the Law is abolished are the same ones who teach that you must pay them a tithe from your income. This teaching is quite popular because it ensures a steady income for the pastors, but is it Biblical?
What does the Bible actually tell us about tithing? The Torah instructions concerning the tithe are always about produce, grain, and livestock.
“And 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 to the Lord… And concerning the tithe of the HERD or the FLOCK, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.”
– Leviticus 27:30-32
Notice it is the tenth animal that you tithe on. This means if you only have 9 cows, you do not give a tithe of your cows, and if you have 19 sheep, you are required to give only one of them as a tithe.
Some people will argue that the tithe was only produce and animals at that time because they did not have money, but that is completely untrue. We see in Genesis that money was commonly used. Abraham had gold and silver, and he purchased a plot of land to bury Sarah when she died.
“and he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, “If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there.”
– Genesis 23:13
Also, when Joseph was working for Pharaoh, he sold food for money, and when his brothers came to buy food, he had the money placed back into their bags.
“Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them.”
– Genesis 42:25
We also know that when the census was taken, it was required that each person give one half-shekel as an offering to the Lord, and it was not based on how much wealth a person had, but it was a flat tax that everyone paid.
“When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
– Exodus 30:12-15
So, we see in this particular instance, God specifically asked for money, but this was not a tithe. This was a specific case in which money was requested by God for taking a census. However, money was not to be taken for tithe. In fact, there is an exception that is made that specifically mentions money and how it is to be used concerning the tithe.
“But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.”
– Deuteronomy 14:24-26
So, we see that the only time money can be used in connection with tithes is when the journey is too far to carry your produce and cattle, then you can sell your tithes for money, and take the money on your journey so that you can buy food and beverages for your tithe. Notice also that this tithe is to be eaten by you, because it is for you to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord, such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
Even in the New Testament, when it mentions tithe, it is always in the context of produce (not money).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of MINT and ANISE and CUMMIN, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
– Matthew 23:23
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe MINT and RUE and all manner of HERBS, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
– Luke 11:42
So, if your preacher asks you for your tithe, I guess you can give him a salad because the only tithe mentioned in the New Testament was items from a garden.
So, what is the purpose of the Tithe? Why did God tell Israel to tithe, and who was the tithe for? The Bible explains that the tithe was given to the Levites to eat because they did not receive a land inheritance. All of the other tribes were given land, so they could grow crops and raise livestock, but the Levites were appointed to serve in the Temple and did not have any land to grow their own food. So, God set up the tithes as a way to provide food for the Levites.
“Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe… You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting.”
– Numbers 18:26-31
The tithe was for the Levites. It was not given to the rabbis or teachers unless of course, they were Levites. In fact, Yeshua never received tithes from anyone, because He was not a Levite. Even today, Jewish rabbis do not collect tithes, because they understand that the tithes are for the Levites serving in the Temple, not the rabbis.
So, why do so many preachers impose and require tithes from their congregations? There are two main reasons that I have found.
In most cases, the preacher has inherited lies too, and he does not realize that he is taking illegal tithes. He does it because that is the way it has been done for centuries. These preachers need to have their eyes opened to the truth.
However, in some cases, the preacher is greedy and deceptive, deliberately twisting the Scriptures to their advantage, and manipulating people into giving them 10% of their income. These men are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
They prey on the poor, telling them “if you give from your poverty, God will bless you with wealth.” They also like to prey on the emotions of the people by twisting the words of Malachi concerning tithes. However, when we look at the context of what Malachi was saying, we see that he was talking about tithes of produce and grain in the storehouse.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
– Malachi 3:8-10
Malachi is not talking about blessing us with money as the prosperity preachers claim. He is talking about God blessing us with an abundance of produce and livestock. I talk about this more in my video titled the “Biblical truth about blessings and curses”.
The Biblical tithe is part of the Temple service and is meant for the Levites and the poor. The tithe was never given to rabbis or teachers. However, there is a need for financial support for ministry, and the Bible does speak about this type of giving.
“Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:6-14
If there is a ministry that you like, that is helping you to grow in your faith, then you should support that ministry because without adequate support that ministry will not be able to sustain itself. However, this type of support is not a “tithe”. If someone is dedicating their life to teaching and spreading the truth of the Bible, is it too much to ask for those who have benefited from their ministry to give a donation to help support the work of that ministry?
We should be people who are willing to give and help others in need, especially if they are doing God’s work. But, you are not obligated to give 10% of your income. Any gift you give to support a ministry is a love gift, and you are free to give any amount you desire. This type of giving is not compulsory but is done out of a desire to help support the ministry.
I hope this teaching has helped to clear up the subject of tithing and has given you a new perspective on giving to support a ministry.