Tithing is the name given to the practise of giving a proportion of one's
income to God. This is generally understood as at least a tenth of earnings.
Is it biblical?
If by this one means is it written about in the scripture, yes.
If by this the question really is: is it for all believers to practise
today? Then, yes and no.
Hence the need for some pointers and expansion of this topic here.
The first mention of a gift to God out of one's belongings is in Genesis 4.
This is where Cain and Abel the first 2 brothers are seen offering to God what
they were involved in working with. The main thing I wish to bring out of this
passage is that your attitude and heart matters to God when you give. The record
shows that Abel and his offering were accepted by God but not Cain and his
. . . the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but
He did not respect Cain and his offering. . .
Abel offered lambs and Cain offered produce of the ground. This was the
currency of the day since there were no coins, paper and plastic money at that
time. But, irrespective of the offering the person's life-style out of the heart
from which it is produced matters to God when you give. This is clearly shown
He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who
sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck; he who offers a grain offering,
as if he offers swine's blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their
And why is this?
This is because 'The sacrifice of the wicked is an
abomination to the LORD' (Proverbs 15:8). So, if you are aware of
wrongdoing in your life and are not willing to stop that, then better deal with
it before you give to God. This is what God said to Cain: 'If
you do well, will you not be accepted?' (Genesis 4:7). If you stop the
wrong you know you are involved with and do the opposite then your gift is
valuable to God.
Where does the tenth of income come in?
It comes from the Hebrew which the first section of the Bible was first
written in and, from the practise of this type of giving to God and His servants
as recorded in the first books of the Bible.
The Hebrew word for a tenth is exchangeable in several places for the word
for tithe. The core part of the word tithe is the root word for a tenth hence
the clear link in the Hebrew language.
The first mention regards a gift Abraham gave to the servant of God who was
king of the city of Salem. His name was Melchizedek and known as the priest of
God Most High. Following a victory over enemies Abraham who was known as Abram
at that point gave a tenth of all the spoils to Melchizedek. The first tithe
mentioned involves giving to a clear servant of God and also concerns income
from a non- regular source. A windfall, a large amount received out of the norm.
This is significant in that before 'the law' was given to Moses there is a
clear mention of the practise of giving a tithe (a tenth) from your income back
to God. The event with Abraham did not involve a regular income. The first
mention of this activity concerns Jacob, Abraham's grandson.
Jacob was on his way East from his homeland and at a place he would call
Bethel (literally meaning: House of God) he met with God in a dream. Following
this visitation he vowed:
If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that
I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back
to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone
which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and all that You give me I
will surely give a tenth to you.
This is the first mention of tithing out of a regular income and is directly
linked to the material blessing he received from God. It is also important to
note that this was a private arrangement out of a personal relationship with
God. This was nothing imposed by another, but a free response to a personal
contact and continuing relationship with God. Now, just as with Abraham before,
this occurred prior to the 'law' and commands relating to tithing as given to
Israel as a nation.
There is therefore a principle relating to regular giving which can be seen
in scripture irrespective of the 'law' of Moses. It is well summed up in
Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the
firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and
your vats will overflow with new wine.
If all you own you do not treat as just your own, but with respect to what
is placed before you to do and you return to God a first portion of all that you
receive then there is a clear link to a promise of blessing. An example of
honouring the Lord with your possessions involves things like being hospitable
and willingness to share as occasion arises. A tenth of your increase, as the
above mentions have shown is a good example for the amount of a firstfruit. A
firstfruit means it is given before the rest of the increase is used for
What about the New Testament?
Jesus told the Pharisees not to leave the act of tithing undone, but this is
as a part of the law given to Israel. Paul makes clear that the Christian is not
under law, but under grace and no believer is subject to the writing of the law
(Colossians 2:16). But, he goes on to encourage believers to put aside regularly
for the purposes of meeting other's needs. And, as we saw above there is a
principle prevalent in the Bible irrespective of the law. This is done out of a
personal arrangement with the Lord which the individual makes. Hence Paul's
words 'let each one give as he purposes in his heart'
(2 Corinthians 9:7). He also affirms that there is a linked blessing 'he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows
bountifully will also reap bountifully'. (2 Cor. 9:6).
Is the law not relevant at all?
On the contrary. It offers much wisdom and guidelines which help show that
various things sometimes said to believers about giving goes beyond the desire
of God. The law is part of the scripture which Paul advocated we use to learn
from: 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness' (2 Timothy 3:16). If this freedom as you are about to read
is in 'the law' of Moses should a believer impose stricter upon a fellow
believer? And that in 'the age of grace'?
If for example in 'the law' there is freedom to not give for a time by
arrangement, then no condemnation should be placed on a believer who does this
when they have a clear commitment to give this at a later time. Remember as with
all giving it is part of a personal walk with God. It is not robbing God when He
If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he
shall add one-fifth to it.
If someone is on welfare receiving social benefit should they be giving?
There are 2 main issues here. The issue of the individual and their God and,
the issue of the church to look out for the believer in this present position.
Just as Israel had to look out for the poor and the stranger. Not forgetting
that he who does not work should not eat (2 thessalonians 3:10). Work need not
be paid, but productive in the kingdom. This is talking about those who rely on
others without desire to make any effort of their own.
Now the Father provided for Jesus out of the social security, the welfare of
his day, for a season. When this was going on, since it related to pure
sustenance only, there is no record of an expectation to tithe this 'increase'.
This is also under the law. If the welfare received involves more than pure
sustenance then the individual decides within the principles mentioned. We can
see about Jesus' use of this welfare as follows:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not
wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any
gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the
stranger: I am the LORD your God.
Jesus and the disciples made use of this provision for the poor and the
Now it happened that He went through the grainfields
on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of
It is of note that the Pharisees had a go at Jesus for permitting this on
the Sabbath. No thought of stealing was involved. No thought that perhaps it was
not for them to use this social security benefit in that season - welfare. Since
this was during the time of harvest the length of time for this provision was
There is a technical responsibility and a living one upon the church. By
technical I am referring to the fact that if tithing is being placed as a rule
in the assembly then, to be even handed, the things which tithing provided for
is the rule this assembly should put itself under. By 'living' I refer to the
act of loving your neighbour as yourself. In the law tithing is shown as
providing for various needs of the poor and the stranger in the midst.
At the end of every third year you shall bring out
the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And
the levite . . . and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are
within your gates, may come and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless
you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Deuteronomy 14:28- 29
Gross or Net?
As shown there is in the law various instructions about tithing which
involve the use of that tithe by the giver or by those in need in the vicinity
of the giver.
Today this would mean that some of the tithe be allocated for those
purposes. If these needs are already being met by other means then there is no
obligation to provide these again through the tithe (if the law is used as a
guide). For example for about a century now the basic needs of the stranger, the
fatherless, the widow are met by the state in most 'western' nations. This is
done through the social security or, welfare systems in place. These are largely
paid for by the individual's taxes or National Insurance contributions (in the
UK). This means that any claim to the tithe being paid out of one's gross income
(i.e. pre-tax) is false when those needs are catered for elsewhere.
Tithing is the regular giving of a tenth of one's income to God. It is a
private and personal arrangement between the individual and their God. Any known
wrong needs to be dealt with before giving is acceptable. This form of giving
has a direct link with a blessing on the provision of one's material needs and
much more. The giving needs to be put before any other of that increase or, put
aside before other spending thus demonstrating to the Heavens that the Lord
comes first. Is it for all believers? You are free to do so, but not to impose
it on others to do. You are free to give as Paul stated 'let
each one give as he purposes in his heart'. Tithing is a good personal
guideline on this matter.