Question: Should we tithe today?
“Could you help me study from the Scriptures if gifts that we receive should be tithed?”
This is an excellent question, one which we have not yet touched on in this newsletter. In order to have a good understanding of this we must first find out whether we should return tithes at all.
The first record in the Bible of anyone paying tithes is found in the book of Genesis. “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” (Genesis 14:18-20) God had blessed Abraham with many earthly possessions and He felt compelled to give God a tenth. The Hebrew word that was translated “tithe” literally means “a tenth.” A tithe of $100 is $10.
Later, Abraham’s grandson followed the same example. Jacob said to God, “And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Genesis 28:22)
Jacob recognized that all the possessions he had or ever would acquire, ultimately came from God, and he promised to return to God a tenth of all his increase. This alone would answer your question regarding gifts being tithed because all that we have we have received from God, whether it was given as a gift from someone or we worked for it. David acknowledged this fact when he prayed to God, “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” (1 Chronicles 29:14) Even the strength we have to work to supply the necessities of life for our families was given to us by God. “Thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.”(Deuteronomy 8:18)
The next time we read about tithes in the Bible is in the book of Leviticus. It reads, “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 unto the LORD. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” (Leviticus 27:30-33)
According to these texts the tithe is to be returned to God for all the increase, whether it be of the land or of livestock, which were the primary sources of income in those days.
The next time we read about tithes in the Bible is found in Numbers, chapter 18. Notice what it says here:
“And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.… But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress. Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD’s heave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress. And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.” (Numbers 18:21, 24-31)
The descendants of Jacob’s son, Levi, were chosen by God to do the service of the tabernacle. God designed that the sole income for the Levites was to come from the tithes of the children of Israel. There were many duties that were required relating to the service of the tabernacle, besides the work of the priests. Most of the Levites were not priests, but they were involved in doing the work relating to the service of the sanctuary. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. Yet all Levites were to live off the tithe as their sole income.
Some people get confused on this issue when they read Deuteronomy chapters 12 and 14 where tithe is mentioned. The confusion comes in where it says,
“Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there,the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.… At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” (Deuteronomy 14:22, 23, 28, 29)
Again we read, “When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled.” (Deuteronomy 26:12)
The Bible is saying here that all the people are to take their tithe, every third year, to a chosen place and have a big feast and invite the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow to partake in the feast of the tithe. Some people have concluded from this that the tithe was designed to help the poor and be consumed in a feast rather than to be given solely to those who work in the service of the Lord. However, to come to this conclusion you would have to overlook the fact that after the Israelites gave a tenth (tithe) to the Levites there were still nine tenths left over. To assume that the tenth that is to go for a feast and to feed the poor is the same tenth that was to be given to the Levites is certainly stretching things.
Let me give another example. When the Israelites stubbornly clamored for a king to rule over them Samuel warned them what would be the result. He cautioned, “He will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.” (1 Samuel 8:15-17) The same Hebrew word that was translated “tenth” in these verses was translated “tithe” in Deuteronomy 14:22. If anyone would conclude that since the king was going to take a tenth the Israelites would not have to return a tithe to the Lord, we could easily see the error of such a conclusion. Let us be just as reasonable when we read Deuteronomy chapters 12 and 14. The tithe that was to be used for feeding the poor was not the same tithe that was to be given to the Levites, and it was distinguished from it by pointing out that the tithe for the poor was to be given every third year. The third year tithe would be like an offering we would donate to help feed the poor, while the tithe for the Levites would be like the tithe we give to the church to support the ministers and their families.
God says, “Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” (Deuteronomy 12:19) In the days of Nehemiah the Levites had been forsaken. Nehemiah wrote,“And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.” (Nehemiah 13:10-12)
God is displeased when His people neglect to return a tithe for the support of the ministry. God said, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10) It is a serious thing to rob God, yet God says that is what we do if we neglect to return tithes and give offerings. God promises that if we do this He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings beyond what we can receive.
Tithe does not belong to us. God has intrusted it into our hands, yet if we neglect to return it to God, we have robbed Him, and He will hold us accountable. Offerings, on the other hand, are to be given willingly. When Moses was about to build the temple, God told Him, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering.” (Exodus 25:2) After David gathered the material for a permanent temple He exclaimed, “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” (1 Chronicles 29:14) David acknowledged that God owns, not only the tithes and offerings, but all things.
Paul wrote, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) This is speaking of free will offerings. When we return tithe to God we are not giving anything, but rather returning to God what belongs to Him. When we give beyond the tithe, then we are giving offerings to the Lord.
There are some who believe that tithing ended at the time of Christ, and that Christians are not obligated to pay tithes. Is this what the Bible says? Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23) According to Jesus we should not leave paying tithe undone.
When Jesus sent forth workers into the ministry He said, “Carry neither purse, nor scrip… And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke 10:4, 7) Jesus intended from the beginning for the ministry of the gospel to be supported by tithes and offerings. He could miraculously withhold 10% of our income, but instead, He allows us to have a part in this as a way to eradicate selfishness and keep before our minds the fact that God owns all things. Paul wrote,
“Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:7-14)
Peter and the other apostles said, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4) The apostles could not have done this if they had to continually support themselves and their families without the support of tithes and offerings.
A good method of returning tithe is to support a local minister who is serving the local community by preaching the true gospel, with any excess going to support ministers in need. To knowingly support falsehood with your tithe money is not pleasing to God. Some people may be in an area where there is no minister to serve them, yet they are not exempt from returning the tithe to God. They can send their tithe to a minister who is preaching the true gospel and pray that the Lord will call a minister to work in their local community.
After examining the Bible I have found that tithe is to be used to support ministers and their families, while offerings are to be used for erecting buildings, feeding the poor, producing literature, etc.
The work of the ministry has always been supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people. If God had intended for it to be otherwise, He would have told us. Tithing is still required by God. The tithe is to be returned on our increase, whether it be in our garden, at our job, or a gift from others.
I hope this helps to answer your question.